First a disclaimer. This blog isn’t about bike rides (which I am (in)famous for). It isn’t about weekend getaways either. It’s about Purple Flower one of the oldest existing Rock Bands of India playing at a nondescript location, Gandhinagar, Gujarat for the last 35 years. For the uninitiated, people in Gujjuland treat Rock bands as any other orchestra at a Garba Mandali. They request for Sanedo and dance to it too!
Anyway, Sonam Gandhi and Shreya Oza do not fall into this category. As I am new to Ahmedabad and craved for some decent “chill-out” stations of which there are none in this city, these guys introduced me to the aforementioned band.
“Kya Hoga….. some sad orchestra you are taking me to!!” I smirked.
As I parked my bike (yeah, it had to be mentioned) and walked into the City Pulse Multiplex, I hear Eric Clapton’s Cocaine in a deep baritone.
Wtf? Cocaine!! Here??
Saturday night, I am standing in the vastly empty space, dotted by small trees with concrete peripherals to sit on them. A larger, flatter peripheral in the opposite under a Peepul tree, housed the Purple Flower. The halogens in the background bouncing off silhouettes of the musical instruments and the men and women(!!) playing them. As if cocaine wasn’t enough, the crisp wintery breeze sent a further chill down my spine.
“That’s Vispi Siganporia,” I’m informed. “The old man swaying at the drums.”
Further information. Vispi started out this band when he was in Xavier’s Ahmedabad (my college!!) with a couple of his friends. Like most bands, the interest waned out of most of the players but Vispi held on. Today his daughter, Harmony (the other one is called Melody) plays with him on acoustics and vocals while Arnab Kumar (film director by profession and musician by choice) accompanies him on the keyboard. Marc Damania lends his electric (guitar) expertise while the grizzly haired Abhinav Khokhar on the bass completes the band.
Vispi Siganporia attracted me the most. His silvers are tied in a knot at the back of his head and a handlebar moustache completes the look of this awe inspiring drummer. If you are sitting alone listening to the band (which is the case most of the time, people here still don’t understand this genre of music), he peeps from below his cymbal and flashes that walrus smile at you.
Harmony is any man’s dream girl at any point of time. Studied at the Center for Environmental Planning and Technology University (CEPT), she comes across as a fiercely independent young woman. Clad in baggy greens and kurta she croons to Bob Marley’s “Ain’t no sunshine” with such ease that you tend to believe that the song feels better the female way. You cannot help but notice the tattoos on her. Be careful though, dad is on the drums next door!
Marc Damania is tall, wears sneakers and rides his bullet down south here to strum his guitar for Vispi. Listen to him on “whisky in the jar” and you tend to forgive his “Rock On!!” antics for the crowds that come up after a movie.
The Purple Flower has stuck to covers all these years with Deep Purple, Guns n Roses, Pink Floyd with a Metallica thrown here and there forming their staple diet. Their original compositions are rather far and apart. Arnav Kumar is a huge help here. Filmmaker by profession, his fingers create magic on the keyboard too. Sometimes when Vispi isn’t around, he plays the drums for the band. His wife Dhaara accompanies him every time he plays here.
After Chinmay Nayak left his bass guitar here, it was picked up by the extremely talented nineteen-year-old Abhinav Khokhar. Purple Flower does pick up youngsters to do their deal now. Yashvardhan Prasad and Abhinav among others are regulars with the band now.
It’s been 40 years since Vispi won the “best Drummer in the country” title for his psychedelic rock number “The mod Trad” at the then annual Shimla Beat 70/71. Since then, he has tries to keep up this band and quite successfully at that. Today, the band is represented by two generations with different schools of thought, united by their singular love for music. It takes a lot of love, courage and gumption to stick to your guns if you're a musician, more so in this part of the country. Vispi and his motley crew of crazy musicians have done just that - for 39 years and counting.