Glash: Odisha’s rendezvous with rock music


Glash was not a melodic night but a rock band – the group of passionate and courageous young people often pleaded. The dogmatic environment could not see the difference between the two. Odisha and in particular Cuttack have organized melodic evenings (orchestral groups) promoted by music professionals from Odia, giving public performances during Puja and other social celebrations. These melodic evenings played Odia and Hindi films and non-film acts.

EDM, Techno, Trance and Indie music hadn’t entered our lives in the 1980s and Odisha was timidly dabbling in the pop and rock genre. Only a few mainly from privileged backgrounds with an English education flaunted their knowledge of global rock groups. The Khati usually had a minority boasting of having access to English vinyl records and cassettes while the rest were speechless and many followed blindly for fear of being left out. But almost all in the Khati never understood the lyrics and obviously never followed the diction. But the urban Odisha, concentrated in Cuttack and Bhubaneswar, had an undercurrent of English rock and pop music, confined to listening.

With the dizzying rise of classic rock with Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Eagles, AC / DC, Santana, The Police and many more, their posters have flooded the market. Hairstyle and dresses changed but especially for boys. There wasn’t much the girls could do. Some part of society could stand out and experiment, but prudishness was still the norm. It was also the time when videos were gradually coming in and in addition to listening, you could watch icons for the first time (live or recorded). Video and audio have had a profound impact on young minds. Music has always had the ability to create magic. Bhubaneswar was beginning to grow, expand and become cosmopolitan. Cuttack put himself in an archive atmosphere. Video libraries sprang up everywhere, renting out “musicals and blue films”. Odisha was in flux, both urban and rural. Young people found channels to drain their energies. After 1991 (economic reforms), the transformation took a more brazen turn and was in the face. But since the mid-1980s, you could feel the tidal wave.

Glash happened in the early 1980s and it was an idea whose timing was right. The urban youth wanted to live the evenings in frenzy, drunkenness and gay abandon. Television and videos exposed them to the world where so much was happening. The energy of rock bands made them hungry for action closer to home. Four skinny, reckless boys who performed Hindi numbers in small group musical performances, decided to embrace the western because they didn’t have cut in Hindi music. Glash ushered in the frenzy, the madness that has never been seen in Odisha. Round table 54 Puri; Spring Festival in REC, Rourkela; IIT Kharagpur; MKCG, Berhampur; SCB Medical College, Cuttack; XIMB, Bhubaneswar; Indo-German Club, Rourkela; and Joda Club were the chosen places where they performed quite regularly. They were not meant to compete with the traditional melodic evenings, which entertained the common mass. Dido, Lalu, Babuli, Baboo Panigrahi started the group and trained at Baboo. The quartet has rocked fans of Western music across Odisha and certainly in professional institutions like engineering and medical schools. They performed pure rock music and songs from RCE, Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, Genesis, Queen. The technical and medical qualification of the children was then the ultimate trophy of Odia’s parents. In the limited world of the urban middle class of Odisha in the 1980s and early 1990s, Glash for the children, it was liberation. Young professionals from the Rourkela or Joda steelworks have found their icons in Glash. In 1986, Shiva, the famous Kolkata-based rock band, and Glash carried out at Rourkela Engineering College, Rourkela. Glash got a standing ovation, thunderous applause and the intoxicating nickname of a rock band. Shiva was considered a pop group. Even today the Glash veterans speak of it with the pride of a start-up that is experiencing immediate success. Glash was a unique start-up for Odisha that immediately caught on. Drummers like Cassius Joseph and Hobert Norris from other states joined the group. Although the age of video has begun, the irony is that Glash could never catch up with the rapidly changing music industry or rather the format.

The 1980s showed the first signs, then came the intoxicating 1990s. Liberalization took off, the tech boom was sowing, and young people were waking up to more choices than ever before, in everything. It was the time when indie rock bands were gaining momentum, supported by platforms like MTV, the Great Indian Rock Festival, and the Rock Street Journal. Sonam Sherpa founded Parikrama with Subir Malik in Delhi in 1991. The Indian rock scene was ready to explode. By this time the quartet was firmly established, people were getting to know them, they had composed the background music for Odia’s film “Jor Jar Mulaka Tara” and the initial impulsiveness set in and subsided. The group flirted with fusion and folk rock, blending classic and rock ragas and creating their own music. As the band went through the musical journey and transformation, the band members also grew and realized the realities of the band’s need for commercial sustainability and business development. Local and immediate distinctions often distract from a greater vision.

Sanjukta Panigrahi, the famous dancer from Odissi, supported the group and literally mothered them. She died in 1997 and the Glash concert at IIT Kharagpur in 1995 was the swan song of the first and famous Odisha rock band. The raw fanatics had played with honesty and enthusiasm but weren’t sure how to take the group to higher orbits. Businesses can keep art alive. Indian Ocean was born in 1990, Euphoria in 1988, Indus Creed in 1993, Pentagram 1996 and the list goes on. They were contemporary but they worked hard to catch up with the television bandwagon and then travel with the trends. Glash become relic. The current flavor is indie pop and most of them have taken old Hindi movie numbers to suit the club or vehicle vibe.

In about 12 years, a promising rookie turned slick rock band from the silent state of Odisha has gone silent. Babuli Bhai, who was the guardian of conscience and the manager of the group, says: “It is important to always make an effort to maintain the friendship and the chemistry of a rock band. Think of it as a relationship. The last thing we wanted was a breakup, well, unless you didn’t want a relationship at all. But this is another story. When I watched a movie in Hindi Rock On, i remembered Glash and its disappearance.

The quartet played with their life, gave preference to their passion over their friends and family, and obviously wanted the best music to come from them. I wish they had thought early on about making their own music, spending more time promoting the brand and the band, and engaging with changing trends in the entertainment industry (read the television).

When they celebrated 30 years of Glash on January 9, 2016, I was moved and nostalgic for the dissolution. Hope to see another quartet prepare backstage Burst again. It is also an idea whose time is here and now. Glash means “very cool” and therefore should never be doubted.

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