Parikrama’s Subir Malik is still hung up on classic rock-n-roll. When not performing, he promotes other artists to keep the music scene buzzing
Classic memorabilia on the wall. A fancy collection of alcohol arraigned on an old mahogany table. Wall hanging of a handwritten song by Jim Morrison. This is what welcomes visitors to the living room of Subir Malik, founder, manager and keyboardist of rock-n-roll band Parikrama.
That’s not all. The main wall flaunts a hand-signed guitar by the late John Lennon. In the middle of the wall, protected by glass, are photographs depicting Lennon’s many styles. Malik bought this while he was in US some years ago for a whopping but confidential amount.
Another guitar on display is hand-signed by all four members of Pink Floyd, no less. Malik enters wearing a Pink Floyd t-shirt which has ‘Another Brick on the Wall’ written on it, the title of one their best albums. Are they his favourite band? “Yes, love them, all the classic rock acts,” he instantly replies.
At the age of 48, Subir Malik is fun, still passionate and humble. His voice is husky but not very, and there’s a warm touch with each sentence he speaks. He used the word “buddy” a lot, and when not managing about 70-80 artists, he wears his BMW motorsport shoes and drives his jeep to a place far, far away.
His love for music dates back to his childhood when he was in sixth standard and the song ‘Saara Zamaana’ from the movie Yaarana came up. Malik liked it so much he started playing it on his Casio VL-Tone keyboard.
As a child, he used to listen to artists like The Beatles, Peter Gabriel and Tracy Chapman. It was a 1984 album by Van Halen that woke him up to the power of rock guitars. He started listening more to rock music, and explored the works of bands like Megadeth, Metallica.
Malik used to look for cassettes (that pre-dated CDs), sometimes from a friend coming from Pakistan or by scouring the lanes of Lajpat Rai market.
His parents acknowledged his newfound interest, and got him a better keyboard. He also practised other instruments in the music room at his cousin’s place along with his brother Nitin, the lead vocalist of Parikrama. Who knew that he would form a band with his own brother in college?
If Malik had not been steering Parikrama to the rock’s stratosphere in India since 1991, he would have joined his family business and sold motor parts. That would have been boring for him. In Class 12, he had a chance to join his school’s (St. Xavier’s) music team, and thought of giving it a shot.
He says earlier the team never had any electronic instruments and focused majorly on instrumentals. They wanted to form a band and asked Malik to play the bass guitar. “I didn’t know how to play it but I learned in 3-4 days. I didn’t even know the bass guitar has four strings — so I used to play only the first three strings,” he recalls amusingly.
Being a die-hard Eddie Van Halen fan, he got his first guitar custom-made from a shop in West Delhi. The skin of the guitar was similar to the famous red and white guitar called ‘The Frankenstrat’.
Before forming Parikrama, Malik played in many bands in his college, Kirori Mal of Delhi University, as a bass guitarist: Eclipse, Kingsloth, Bliss Creak and Nirvana. As they were not exactly playing classic rock or rock-n-roll, he had a good four months to experiment with live music or say goodbye to it forever, he says, sitting comfortably on the brown sofa. “My love for classic rock prevailed.”
Although Parikrama went through a few changes in the beginning, as members kept on coming and going, it never disbanded, as new age bands tend to. He remembers the year 1993 when they were featured in a daily, exciting because that was the first time a newspaper was covering a band — often confused by the lay public with an orchestra.
Throughout the 1990s till this day, Parikrama continues to perform at least 50-60 shows a year. For their first show, the organiser paid them Rs 500 each. “We could think of the biggest party possible with that money during that time,” he says, nostalgic for the old days.
Malik not only became the keyboardist and manager of the band, but also started being more aggressive while marketing it. Ever since he got his number listed in the yellow pages, several requests also were for bhajan parties or to play at weddings as an orchestra. He believes that Hindi film Rock On made the public aware about the rock scene in the country. “After that I started saying that what they did in Rock On is precisely what Parikrama does,” says Malik.
He says even today rock bands cannot afford to rely on shows as the first source of income. He resorted to managing other artists at a time when people did not understand the business of managing an artist/band. He formed Parikrama Inc right after forming the band in 1991 to manage other artists and the vision was to make it a business entity in the music space. Today the company manages about 100+ artists. To name a few in the kitty: Mohit Chauhan, Hari and Sukhmani, Faridkot, Delhi Indie Project, Jasleen Royal, Bandish, Bobby Cash and Groove Adda.
As technology evolves, so did the ways in which Malik records the works of his artists — from cassettes to CDs to digital formats. Some of the artists he managed went on to do greater things in Bollywood like Mohit Chauhan, for whose earlier band Silk Route, Malik provided 50-60 shows a year. By virtue of being in the mainstream rock scene, it took him a lot of time and effort to convince the promoters and organisers that Parikrama Inc’s portfolio is just not Hindi music artists.
There are times, he says, when someone will request one artist but then ask for another. So he has made a strict policy of offering that one artist and no alternatives. He tries to promote one band and get the deal sealed before promoting another.
About the current live music scene in the country, he says, “The market is pretty down for everyone. I don’t know where the money is flowing. Artists are struggling. People have tight budgets.” He says clubs went downhill ever since demonetisation happened.
When he was asked about an alter ego, which many artists develop for their onstage persona, he has no idea what that is. “I have fun on stage and that’s my style,” says Malik.
Parikrama reached its highest point on the live performance scene, when in 2007, English heavy metal band Iron Maiden came to India, and the organiser asked Malik to open for them. He agreed in a jiffy. While performing onstage during the concert, Malik remembers members of Iron Maiden headbanging and enjoying their set. “We were pumped after performing to meet the Iron Maiden members. But it turned out the other way round,” says Malik. They came to meet Parikrama in the green room.
Today he tries to stay positive, the word ‘hate’ not being part of his vocabulary. He recently got his new home in the hills of Uttarakhand, and makes almost 40-50 trips a year to his hideaway because “I’m a mountain guy.”