Sixteen years since Hard Rock Cafe travelled to India, and five years since it became a hangout on Kolkata’s Park Street, the iconic chain has now come up with ‘Regional Nights’ featuring artistes performing in the regional language across genres and styles.
This makes the iconic chain’s 50th birthday even more special, spreading love and hope through music, the universal language that needs no translation.
Capturing the musical movements and the zeitgeist of the decades that they coursed through, Hard Rock Cafe has been more than just a relic. It has been an active space that blends the two elements that satiate the soul — music and food. Over the last five decades Hard Rock Cafe has cemented its legacy, having hosted performers, enthusiasts and rock ’n roll lovers with uncompromised energy and warmth.
The Telegraph chatted with a few musicians who are a part of the initiative on what Hard Rock Cafe’s ‘Regional Nights’ mean for music makers and lovers.
On Hard Rock Cafe and ‘Regional Nights’: It is of utmost importance to promote our local music, of the language that defines us, in Kolkata and little towns around West Bengal. It is important to listen to music of all sorts, and expand our bases, but also be rooted to our tradition, culture and music. There are very few places in the city that promote Bengali music at the moment. We used to have a number of places that were dedicated to this cause, but the pandemic has propelled the closure of many. Few places have been at it, giving the artistes the opportunity to perform, giving local Bengali independent music the platform to bloom.
There is immense quality in the regional music being produced and we need to be immensely proud of the culture and language that defines us, just like Bangladesh. And I think, Hard Rock Cafe’s ‘Regional Nights’ is one step in that direction. It is a wonderful opportunity for musicians across genres to perform at this iconic venue that has always given a stage for music of different genres. HRC has completed 50 years globally and with an initiative like ‘Regional Nights’, it becomes intrinsic to Kolkata’s musical and cultural milieu. It’s a brilliant effort where a prime Park Street venue is opening its doors to audiences who are keen on listening to quality Bengali music.
I think, it is a very significant initiative on HRC’s part and also for Kolkata, where numerous artistes through the evolution of the scene, have established and cemented the legacy of Bengali independent music.
Coming back to the groove of live performances: It’s been an absolute blessing for artistes and technicians to come to live performances after the pandemic. The businesses that are attached to this space have come to bloom again. Hopefully we have left the dark days behind, now that we can come back to entertain the people, which is always an exhilarating feeling.
On Hard Rock Cafe and ‘Regional Nights’: The scope for live performances at pubs and bars is increasing. Standing at this juncture, Hard Rock which is such an incredible international brand and a space, and to have the opportunity to perform there is always something immensely prestigious. It was way back in 2008, when we had clicked a picture at the iconic Hard Rock Cafe, in New York. When we heard that HRC was coming to our very own, Kolkata, it was an extremely surreal and exciting moment. This is a city where music spaces have existed parallelly — film and non-film. This coexistence has always been an enriching dynamic. It is extremely important to keep this parallel independent space going strong. We have the power in our music to sustain this space peopled with independent artistes and bands, which still resonates with the audience.
A number of young musicians are performing at the venue, getting an exposure of such magnitude, and thus, HRC with their initiative of ‘Regional Nights’ has walked a very important path of providing the very essential boost to keep this going. Hard Rock Cafe has an extremely open space which gives artistes and music across genres an important platform to breathe and continue flowing.
Coming back to the groove of life performances: It is extremely important, considering both the cultural and the social aspect. Live performances have always been extremely dear to our culture... and for us performers and the crew, it is bread and butter. The pandemic has had a terrible effect on performers, especially more so, in the rural areas, where live gigs are extremely important.
I have heard of instances where people had to sell off instruments, to sustain their household. I think, this is why coming back to the groove of live performances was extremely important for people of all strata. On the other hand, our fans were missing us and I can see it in their eyes, the hunger for energy whenever we perform, now that we have inched back towards normalcy. This response and this craving has always sustained the rich musical scene and coming back really brings us, performers and backstage technicians back to life.
On Hard Rock Cafe and ‘Regional Nights’: Considering the evolution of live performances and the music scene, I do not think it has evolved in that direction. Things were much better in the early 2000s, even till 2015-16, I would say. There were quite a few beautiful venues promoting and celebrating regional music like Princeton, Basement et al, to name a few but things have changed in the last couple of years. Most of the venues have stopped promoting Bangla music to be specific. It is important to promote regional music as it has a lot of potential which has already been proven for years now among many other aspects — representing the socio-cultural situation of a particular state or city. So in these trying times, HRC’s ‘Regional Nights’ is indeed a great initiative taken by HRC Kolkata to give regional music a very necessary platform. It is an absolute honour to be able to become associated with an international brand like HRC. Having completed 50 years, I hope the legendary space continues to carry on the charm.
Coming back to the groove of live performances: Live performances are the oxygen to us musicians. It feels great to be back since we are born to do this — live to perform, perform to live .