Leaving your band behind to go solo?

One of the very few progressive facets of our country is the music fraternity. Be it pop, rock, jazz or ethnic, music and musicians have come a long way and can now finally boost of an industry that they have established. Although we have been fortunate in terms of talent since historic times, the direction and channelizing of talent through different means is what makes it a prominent icon on the international entertainment map.

But to conclude that all the music we churn out is worth listening to would be an exaggeration. Recently I came across some tracks by a band called Circle of Trust from their debut album-All Night Long. By no means do I intend to demean anyone’s effort but theirs was not something I could even categorize as an attempt. Cliché lyrics, unoriginal beats, immature composition…the list can go on and on.

So, keeping in view the varying nature of music we make, let’s move on to the main focus of this article-musicians. Late 70s and early 80s mark the musical revolution in our part of the world. We had legends like Khan Sahb around before that but you could only enter mainstream music industry if you belonged to a musical gharana. Moreover, ethnic and regional music was a common choice and pop was a definite outcast. Young boys in school would have low-key jamming sessions that would be limited to college cafes and never even mentioned beyond those carefree boundaries.

At a time when music, which turns out to be a part of subcontinent tradition, was considered taboo, venturing out alone to seek your fame and fortune in the world of music was a far fetched dream. A few passionate boys got together and tried to penetrate the shell created by gharanas with beats and music composition that was alien in our region. Junoon, Vital Sign, Jazba, etc lurched against the storm of disapproval and forced our orthodox society to look beyond the veil of conservatism and accept the positive energy they brought along.

This disapproval formed as the main reason for musicians entering the industry in groups instead of solo. Also, financial constraints and lack of proper channels made the journey a little too difficult for a person alone to endure. Thus, musicians strong and confident enough of their talent kept threading the thorny path and today enjoy the iconic status in the industry.

Once the path was defined and established, we saw a major influx of artistes but solo attempts were still handful. The bands would enter with a lot of energy and enthusiasm and fame would drive them to their limits but sometimes it wasn’t enough. This meant that the burnout and constant struggle would discourage them enough to leave the industry and profession. Some were subjected to controversies and other constraints and were left with no other option but to step down the pedestal. Jazba was one such famous group and despite their popularity, they gave up the struggle. Even strings started with four members but after their second album, the group broke up, leaving Faisal and Bilal to continue the journey alone.

To make a definite statement about a group’s success versus solo success stories would be inappropriate but we can form a general opinion on the basis of prevailing trends and empirical evidence. Before forming an opinion, let’s skim through the reasons for break up amongst bands. As was mentioned earlier, it’s not easy to take pressure and deal with constant disapproval. Other than that, when I asked for estimates for production of one song, the figures came up to around Rs.50,000 for audio only. So, at least a minimum of a million is required for one album on low budget. Therefore, financial constraints could act as a hurdle in continuation.

Like team work, performing in a group requires discipline and compromise. Irrespective of your role in the band, your good looks can get you fame and fan following. This would not sit well with the lead singer. At one end where fame drives musicians to their limit, it is also responsible for creating a rift between them. And yes, Jal would obviously be one of the first few bands to validate this claim.

If we consider bands which not only survived the struggle, but also had heaps of talent between them, yet separated ways at the end of the tunnel, we will come across another interesting reason for break ups. When two or more musicians go through a rough time together, battle obstacles and strive to make a mark down the lane, they are also develop as human beings and more importantly, musicians. And once the battle is over and both are equally strong, harmony jumps out of the window. Existence of two or more strong and in their own respect correct opinions with synchronization is a feat. Consider Junoon-exceptional musicians yet after a while, personal preferences and musical aspirations demanded the trio to break up.

Thus, the reasons are endless and so are motives. The next important question is-How risky is it and how benefits in the end? From now on, I shall take the liberty to exclude unprofessional and untalented pseudo musicians from the fraternity and will only refer to musicians who pay due respect to this form of art and genuinely strive for more than just commercial jungles. Anyway, if you are talented and can brave the move, the risk will be worth it. But circumstances are not so ideal always.

A friend of mine has been a part of underground band and their music is actually good. Every one of them is talented in his own right but I am certain if they had ventured out alone instead of sticking to each other, their story would have concluded long time back. Therefore it all comes down to how strong and firm are you-in terms of talent, contacts, finance and channels. Considering our own industry, we can conclude that if you are the face of the band, for example the lead singer, the journey is relatively easier for you compared to one in the background. The scale is not talent here but recognition. Fans and listeners are acquainted with your presence and even if you come solo, you are accepted readily. It’s not so easy for a new face, regardless of talent.

Moreover, if you are in the initial stages of your career with music, you need all the support and resources you can get. And this certainly advocates the benefits a group brings along. So if you are talented with enough resources to launch yourself and your music independently, solo career is the right choice for you.

On a closing note, success of a musician in the long run does not depend on how many people tag along him but how talented is he in his own capacity. Forming a group to enter and then separating paths is a norm that works for many and leaves some in lurch as well. There is no definite formula for success but it can be concluded that after years of hard work and struggle, the artists who venture out alone are met with fame and fortune eventually.

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