Versatile Creations was was the name of a screen-printing business in the Indian city of Pune, Maharashtra. But under the ownership of Russell Newby (foreground) and Fred Miller (right), it became a popular place for artists and musicians to collaborate and practice, while also partying at all hours.
Versatile Creations was was the name of a screen-printing business in the Indian city of Pune, Maharashtra. But under the ownership of Russell Newby (foreground) and Fred Miller (right), it became a popular place for artists and musicians to collaborate and practice, while also partying at all hours. Fred Miller
On Aug. 15, 1947, Great Britain granted India independence after nearly 200 years of colonial rule. But Britain's cultural influences remained as the English governors departed; many British nationals and the English companies — such as recording behemoth RCA/HMV/EMI — that had established Indian subsidiaries to cater to this "emerging" market and an Anglo-Indian clientele remained and flourished in this "new" India.
As the swing and lounge acts of the early '50s gave way to rock bands in the late '50s and early '60s in cities such as Bombay and Calcutta (now known as Mumbai and Kolkata), the emerging scene found inspiration in the broadcasts of All India Radio, which featured Western pop in its programming. RCA/HMV/EMI also pressed records from Western rock acts — and even those of some pioneering Indian rock bands, albeit in limited quantities.
From the mid-'60s through 1970, India's Western-influenced garage scene flourished, even as the Western acts that were inspiring it looked eastward for their influences. By 1967, when The Velvet Underground released its Indian-influenced masterpiece The Velvet Underground and Nico and The Beatles released Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, there was a thrilling garage-rock scene cropping up in college towns such as Madras, now known as Chennai. Strengthened by the founding of the rock zine Junior Statesman and the Battles of the Bands held by the Simla cigarette company at Shanmukhananda Hall in Mumbai, this largely underground scene — the first to spawn psychedelic music in India — inspired film composers like the brothers known as Kalyanji Anandji and the maestro R.D. Burman to take the psychedelic plunge in their landmark Bollywood recordings of the '70s.
Following the demise of the Simla Beat contests in the early '70s, Junior Statesman teamed up with clothing manufacturer Cordel to host the JS-Cordel Beat Contest, which served as inspiration for the second wave of Indian psychedelic bands, to whose ranks Atomic Forest belongs. The fuzz pedal beneath the guitar of frequent R.D. Burman collaborator Bhupinder Singh owes a tremendous amount to the influence of these groundbreaking underground bands; unfortunately, most have wallowed in obscurity, their contributions to India's psychedelic scenes floating as ghost notes within the commercial Bollywood scene of the '70s.