The biggest problem that everybody, including some of my band-mates, had about this music was: 'This is not rock and this is not commercial enough.' Here are the two questions: 'Who decides what rock is?' And who decides what is commercial?'
Pune based artist and author Ashish Kate's biography of Dr Palash Sen of the band Euphoria is a lyrical insight into the life of the man behind one of India's most popular bands, the seamless fusion of Western and Hindi rock and the possibilities of counterculture music.
Written in a conversation format, the 'rockumentary' chronicles Sen's journey from his early childhood days in Jammu with his grandparents to his latest work, the story of the band and 90s music revolution through mass media.
In Sen's own words the book is a catharsis and a chance to analyse his life. Sen, who is trained in medicine, derived the name of the band from a psychological state that literally translates into a state of high, which, as he explains to Kate, is a pre-requisite for all painters, artistes, poets and songwriters for creating great art.
When the Euphoria burst into the music scene in the late 90s with one chartbusting album after another, the men behind Dhoom, Phir Dhoom and Maaeri and the melancholy Gham-e-rooh were experimenting with a genre no one has dabbled in before. They were the first to successfully mix and commercialise Hindi blues.
Religious mysticism is a recurring theme throughout the book, in the songs that the band members write and in the beliefs of their piper. "There are three themes you see in all my songs. One is Love, one id God and one is always death," Sen tells Kate. But Mehfuz remains close to Sen's heart as the best song they could have ever done.
Sen speaks about music of the 50s, rock n roll, blues and R&B and his favourite influences. Some of the best bands came out of the 60s. Sen, through Kate, not only looks at explosion of soul music and infusion of rock and counterculture in the Indian space but discusses at length the greatest influences of the 60s and 70s. It lays the landscape of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and in the late 60s Led Zeppelin, The Who, The Doors, Jimmy Hendrix and Pink Floyd and the effects of war on music.
The 90s, when the Euphoria were playing some of their best fusions, was also the time for alternate music. Sen talks about the artists that took the next step; Michael Jackson, REM, Pearl Jam and Green Day. Often provocative, the soul of the book lies in the introspection of the man who brought salt-of-the-earth songs, mixed it with a genre musicians of his time referred to as the Hindi Rock and created soul-stirring music bands today are struggling to replicate.
Never abrasive but with a fluency of style, Kate puts together a book that is a surprisingly honest attempt at getting under the skin of a man credited with reviving a group that made great music over a decade and half. For those who grew up with the Euphoria and the 90s brand of reflective music, this is a book that will strike a chord with you.
Book: Euphoria - The Story of Palash Sen; Conversations With Palash Sen; Publisher: Harper Collins publishers; Pages: 249; Price: Rs 499; Author: Ashish Kate