The Music Section, IIT Roorkee has a reputation of delivering wondrous performances catering wide ranging tastes along with fostering a camaraderie to envy. Read on as Sahil Lamba, the current secretary of the Music Section, talks about his experience with the section, how it refines your art and that unforgettable time the crowd cheered his name to which he smiled and gave his sticks a spin.
I feel that people listen to very limited genres of music and being a part of the section changes that the most. You meet people who are into different kinds of music; Indian Classical, Ragas and Qawwalis, Bollywood (yes, there’s some good music here too), Folk Pop, Blues, Jazz (and Fusion), Psychedelic, Progressive and you start listening to all kinds of stuff. You have access to frets almost all the time and when you try to tap your way across the fingerboard, you start learning about music theory, scales, and keeping up with time signatures. Listening to so much at once trains your ears to focus on distinct elements in harmonies and various techniques utilised in a piece. You learn the art of improvisation and jam with people who have different approaches to music. It’s a great and fun learning experience with some of the most talented people you’ll ever meet.
Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” at Dhun’16
A person’s skill level develops significantly after being part of the Music Section because, during preparations, people push you to extend your limits and present something that you’ve never tried before. You’re not bound to a single instrument anymore, I’m essentially a drummer but I can work the guitar, bass and even sing to some extent now (although I only sing to myself). With sufficient experience in the section, one also observes how to manage people and keep them motivated enough to finish up tasks. I’ve learnt a lot about life, the universe and music from everyone at the section.
There’s no defined structure of the Music Section, though we try to maintain proportion between the number of guitarists, percussionists, keyboard players, vocalists and other instrumentalists that we take. We usually recruit around 10-15 people across all years and branches (even M.Tech). The roles vary from year to year; the most experienced members are responsible for ensuring smooth practice sessions, audio setups, pointing out mistakes and getting them corrected. Some of them accountable for figuring out various technicalities of songs and passing on that information to everyone involved. The youngest and new recruits are more involved in the music and are generally asked to suggest good numbers, figure out their parts and are guided in the process. Apart from this, everyone has the responsibility of perfecting what they play and are free to get involved in any role that they like.
“Stairway to heaven” at Dhun’16
A good selection of songs prepared for the auditions will surely leave a lasting first impression. We won’t grill you when you’re playing although we do expect a good level of understanding of your instrument or catching up a certain scale (if you’re a vocalist). A little knowledge of music theory would help guitarists and pianists in latter rounds, and beat sense, consistency and groove while playing is required for percussionists. However, the most important of all is that you’re confident and enjoy whatever you play/sing.
My recruitment was pretty straightforward. I dedicated about a week to prepare 2 songs; Diary of Jane by Breaking Benjamin and The Sound of Muzak by Porcupine Tree. I got myself listed outside the section, went in, played for 10 minutes and 26 seconds and was sent back with a “We’ll inform you”. I played the primary beats of the songs (which seemed extremely complex at that time) and was then asked to employ different techniques such as heel-up kick drumming, playing 16th notes and the 3/4 time signature. Post that, I was presented with a groove and I was asked to improvise on that. I was fortunate enough to have 5 years of experience with all these rudiments while learning in rock school so it was pretty easy to follow. I was called 2 days after and was informed that I had been selected and was to wear shorts and a shirt for the intro chapo.
It’s the best feeling when you go up and walk on stage to your set, and the crowd starts cheering. It brings a little smile on your face and gives you a shot of confidence. At Swaranjali ‘14, I had invited all my friends to watch the show and when I went onstage, they started shouting “Lamba! Lamba!”, with the crowd joining instantaneously and this was not part of some scripted act, so I started looking at the audience following the whooping, trying to locate them (believe me, you can’t see a thing down the stage with all those lights glaring in your face), I smiled and gave my sticks a spin. That has been the most memorable moment of every show since then, and I thank my audience for that.
The group has grown a lot over the years. The level of each and every performance has increased exponentially and we’ve been successful in delivering 4 shows in a single year (which is an accomplishment). Not too long ago, the group’s main focus was to put up 2-3 shows in a year but, things have changed now. Many a times, we record our own practice sessions to learn more about studio setups and to achieve that crisp sound. We’ve also shifted our focus on promoting music culture by delivering popular numbers in our shows. Our activities are not restricted to the campus, we’ve been participating in various fests of other colleges and secured podiums too. Unplugged jam sessions at random locations during Thomso/Cogni are always on our checklist. We’ve started Friends of Section to involve everyone in our endeavours and keep the good music around, all year long. So, a lot of stuff goes on and it feels great to be a part of it all.
Friends of Section (FOS) was started by our secretary last year to provide a platform to students who are not part of the section but are confident enough to perform live in front of an audience. We have auditions to shortlist students for an FOS show although the expectations are somewhat lower than our section recruitments. We practice for our section shows and parallelly train and guide the FOS students for about 2-3 weeks, provide them with our instruments, audio equipment and a stage to showcase their talents. We plan to have one FOS show in every semester with the initiative to uplift the music culture in the campus.
I don’t know if I should do this or not. She was the Additional Secretary of the section when I joined, and I first met her in my introductory meeting after the recruitments. She was in her 4th year and fortunately was part of a five year course, so I got to spend a good 2 years practising alongside her. She is primarily a vocalist but can also play the guitar even though she has the fattest fingers in the whole world.
Misty mountain hop.