Talking to Independent Artists in India

The start of a calendar year usually translates into fresh opportunities, new beginnings and incorporating changes in our behaviour and mindset. While we wait for 2018, let’s look back on the experiences of a few artists and cultural stakeholders, working with the independent art and music scene in India.

Here are some excerpts from interviews with creative professionals that we had the opportunity to engage with, courtesy our column ‘Mind your own business’ or as we like to call it, MYOB. We hope that these extracts give you something to think about, while you take your next steps into the new year.

“In a developing country like India, with so many other priorities for the state to consider, probably everything you mentioned is a challenge for an artist, especially a young one!

We have inherited a pretty unique social system with some high walls built in. I think one of the big challenges for artists here is crossing over those walls.”

(While discussing the challenges that face artists working in India today)

– Toto Funds the Arts,
August 28, 2017
(Read the full interview here.)

“I think one is this internal question that each artist has to ask himself/herself — what is my identity, and how do I bring where I’m from into my art somehow, not seeing myself as living in a bubble existence, just happening to be born in India but having no connection to it. That’s not healthy — it breeds a strange kind of angularity which can be interesting; if pointed, it can have its own texture and aesthetic and can even be quite oppositional and intense — but it’s not wholesome. So for the industry to be vibrant and healthy I think it has to be wholesome on this level.”

(When asked how the Indian independent music scene could be improved)

-Nishad Pandey
March 17, 2017
(Read the full interview here.)

“That there is talent aplenty here is something we knew but couldn’t visualize until it came to our crazy programming schedule. I only feel bad that the industry is broken up into small groups. Many musicians with similar bents of mind, who live and work in the same small circuit don’t network… in fact, don’t even know each other. The industry needs a revamp.”

(When discussing the challenges he faces, working with the independent music scene in India)

– Arjun Sagar Gupta, The Piano Man
October 23, 2016
(Read the full interview here.)


“There is a greater awareness of the need for formal arrangements—for contracts—but having said that, many publishers still have very informal ways of working, and most authors do not read their contracts before they sign, which is a real pity. They would not hire an apartment without reading the lease but they seem to think they can hand over their writing without reading the contract. We need much more professionalism here. As for ethics, I don’t think we can make generalizations about the industry; there are many different practices in it, some good, some bad. There are ethical publishers and there are those who don’t bother with ethics. In that, publishing is like every other industry.”

(On the existence of formal agreements and ethical dealings in the independent publishing space in India)

– Zubaan
September 11, 2017
(Read the full interview here.)

“According to me, the best way to work in public spaces is to move on after a work is made, leaving the work and space to take their own shape… which could be for it to disintegrate, be whitewashed over, be burnt or celebrated. Difficulties are mostly to do with making sure I have the right equipment, and that safety is first priority. While working in public spaces, life has taught me to be most humble and nonconformist. Public spaces are ever evolving, and so should the thoughts expressed in such spaces. My challenge has always been to make an artwork that remains an interesting constant throughout the years, like that one t-shirt you will always want to keep in your wardrobe.”

(On his work and challenges as a street artist/muralist in India)

– inkbrushnme
April 2, 2017
(Read the full interview here.)

“In an emerging market such as ours, it took us one entire year to take our product from the idea stage to testing; what could have been accomplished in a quarter of the time. This was a hard learning experience for us. We knew for a fact that in a city like Bangalore, people yearned to exercise their creative abilities to build, and not having a facility that could nurture their ideas would leave them not just disheartened, but never to invest in them ever. We were clear we didn’t want to let that happen. We started out by simply helping create the necessary conditions for anyone who was willing to take that first step to invest in their idea, hobby or even in a skill that they wanted to acquire.”

(While explaining the inspiration and intent behind building Workbench Projects)

– Anupama Gowda, Workbench Projects
January 22, 2017
(Read the full interview here.)

“Photography in India today? Everyone’s a photographer; they are millions in number. Almost every device we have has a camera. Hundreds of workshops are taking place around the country. What we took five–six years to study, everyone wants in a weekend workshop. It cannot happen. Equipment does not a make a good photograph. I always say, “I will give you the best computer, can you write me a good story?” It’s just that. There is NO art without serious practice. Sadhana is missing. We are witness to millions of meaningless ‘junk photos’ since the advent of the digital era.

With this kind of insane competition, to find a few good photographers is rare, but they are there. The higher the load of images, the tougher it is for the younger generation to break in.”

(On the growth of professional photography and photographers in India)

– Navroze Contractor
August 20, 2016
(Read the full interview here.)

We hope that these interviews serve as guides to help you navigate the independent art and music scene in India. Here’s wishing you a very happy new year and feel free to share any insights you might have in the comments below.

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