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Shake it up, Sid
You've probably heard this band's songs on TV shows How I Met Your Mother, The OC, and others;or in films such as David Schwimmer's Run Fatboy Run and Today's Special;or in trailers for blockbusters such as How Do You Know and The Dilemma;or in commercials for Apple and Chevrolet. But ask people if they've heard of Goldspot, and most would just shake their heads.
Siddhartha Khosla, or Sid as he's called, is the man behind the one-man band. And he's at peace with not being recognised or mobbed. If people recognise his work through commercials, he's cool with it. "Many musicians have realised that the music industry has changed, " says the 35-year-old Khosla. "About 15 years ago, having your song play in a commercial wasn't cool.
Now to survive, you have to allow your songs in shows and commercials, and luckily for me, all the brands and shows I've been associated with, are big names. "
This is Goldspot's third trip to India. For most international bands, having an Indian connection - like a band member - is an effective marketing ploy to create a buzz in India, an emerging market that music labels can't afford to ignore. For Khosla, his 'Indianness' is not an act he puts on. He genuinely revels in it. He even named his band after a popular Indian orange soda of the '80s. Ironically, when Khosla was looking for a record label to give the band its big break, most labels loved the songs but were reluctant to market an Indian front man.
Khosla's childhood memories are peppered with waking up to a Kishore Kumar song and doing chores while Mohd Rafi's velvety voice crooned in the background. When his mother, Savita, realised that her seven-year-old could sing, she handed him a music diary to transcribe bhajans to sing at the temple. "She used to force me to sing there, " says the New Yorker. "I didn't appreciate it then but now I'm very thankful to her for pushing me to do that. "
Known for its Bollywoodesque arrangements, the indie pop-rock band was formed in 1999. In 2007, the Sunday Times called it "the best band to come out of America in years". The band has re-recorded two of its hits - Rewind and Friday - from the debut album in Chennai, with A R Rahman's orchestra. If the first album Tally Of The Yes Men (2007) was a veiled dedication to the songs Khosla grew up listening to, their sophomore effort And The Elephant Is Dancing (2010) is more direct and also reminiscent of The Beatles, in songs like The moon is too far away.
"If you're honest with yourself - and as an artiste, the most important element of any piece of art is honesty - you'll do what comes naturally to you, " explains Khosla, a one-time bartender who earlier described his band's sound as "post-punk Bollywood crossed with pop" but which now has a decidedly '60s vibe to it. "I grew up listening to rock music and old Bollywood songs that my parents would listen to on cassettes. For me, to make all that a part of my music is natural. "
It would be unfair to call Goldspot's music fusion because it's not. It's more like melodious rock. "It's as if Kishore had an indie band. " Khosla, dressed in quintessential pop-star gear - shaggy-spiky hair and a leather jacket - writes songs that sound happy but are bittersweet, sometimes regretful but always introspective.
Like all good immigrants, Khosla went to college - he has a double major in political science and history from the University of Pennsylvania - but music proved too powerful a draw. In college, he was the first music director of the Penn Masala, the Hindi a cappella group. A multi-instrumentalist - he plays guitar, bass, piano and keyboards, as well as the flute and other wind instruments - Khosla not only plays most of the instruments on his recordings, he also does the vocals. The earlier avatar of the band had him playing with drummer Ramy Antoun. He can sing in perfect Hindi, as is evident from the Hindi rendition of Friday, something he calls a "little fool's play", and Goldspot's new take on the catchy Kishore song, Ina Mina Dika.
Filmed for Today's Special - for which Khosla has composed and sung four songs - the remake of Ina Mina Dika is a typical Goldspot song: slow-strumming acoustic guitar coupled with Beatles-y vocals. "I grew up speaking Hinglish at home and I keep trying to relearn Hindi all the time just in case I forget it, " Khosla, who grew up in New Jersey, says. He wasn't sure how Ina Mina Dika would be received in India but has been pleasantly surprised by the response. "I expected a little criticism... the song is so iconic to Indian pop music, I thought some people would just not like it, " he says.
Going by the response on his Facebook page, it's the one song he's going to be singing quite a lot on Goldspot's Indian tour.
The band will perform at Blue Frog, New
Delhi (Jan 22); Blue Frog, Mumbai (Jan 24);
Hard Rock Cafe, Pune (Jan 25); HRC, Hyderabad (Jan 27) and HRC, Bangalore (Jan 28)
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