Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Anokhi Magazine Article

Cheers to our friend Hilal for writing this piece which you can read in its original form here

Bamboo Shoots Are Shooting Stars
Desi American Pop-Rockers Are New Jersey's Next Big Export

BY: Hilal Nakiboglu Isler
PHOTO: Courtesy of Hilal Nakiboglu Isler

I met Ankur Patel in an over-lit New Jersey diner a few years ago. A
kid with a quick smile and over-sized jeans who didn’t talk much, and
when he did, it was about this band, called Bamboo Shoots, he was in
with a couple of his buddies.

I might not have taken Patel that seriously (what is it with boys and
their garage-bands?) if Rekha Malhotra, a.k.a. DJ Rekha, hadn’t been there.
She’s the New York-based turntablist responsible for bringing Bhangra to the
city through her long-standing club night Basement Bhangra. I was
interviewing her and had spent the day being SUV-ed around to a local
TV taping to her offices in Brooklyn and now here to this restaurant
booth off the New Jersey Turnpike.

It was she who introduced us. And over some deep-fried food, which the
three of us now shared, she told me Ankur’s band was the real deal, a
group to watch. She was a fan, and had recently hosted them at
Basement Bhangra, part of an attempt to showcase Desi-American music
not of the dhol-beat-repeat kind.

Patel, softspoken with an earring and well-pruned goatee, told us
about a competition they’d recently entered: an annual contest
sponsored by mtvU, held in attempt to find the "Best Music On Campus."
He said if they won, it would be "huge" and gave me the online address
where I could go and place my vote — which I did later that night.

So did thousands of others. The Bamboo Shoots secured a win, becoming the
first Desi-American band to do so. The prize: a chance to perform on
Late Night With Conan O'Brien and a deal with Epic Records, a major
mainstream label.

That was two years ago. Since then, there have been gigs, lots of
them, across the United States: at dive bars, clubs, even a theme park
(the tween girls seemed to really enjoy that one). Then three months
ago, a first: a five-city tour of India.

You don’t see many young bands travel to India so early on in their
careers. That’s something generally reserved for rock veterans
(Metallica, Iron Maiden come to mind) who roll through, almost as an
afterthought, on the tail-end of an Asian blitz. So why India? And why

"We get the sense that most American bands would only come to India
once they were firmly established internationally," frontman Avir
Mitra told me from Delhi, where he had performed at the Turquoise
Cottage the evening before. "They'd stop by on their way to Japan or
something and play huge venues and then leave. We want to do it
differently…to start from a grassroots level, build a solid
relationship with India early on." They’ve managed to pull this strategy
off nicely in the States.

The guys (there are five: Avir Mitra, Karl Sukhia, Shiv Puri, Ankur
Patel and Ahmed Mahmoud) have a following as loyal as any — people
they’ve won over with their accessibility and their endearing, nerdy
charm. Watch their YouTube videos (/bambooshootsband), and you’ll see
what I mean. In the clip where Mitra announces the India tour, for
instance, he sits mumbling in a collapsed lawn chair, nervously
tossing a pebble around before someone (is that Ankur?) starts raking
a pile of dead leaves in the background.

The video ends as awkwardly as it began which makes you realize two
things. One: these guys probably didn’t go on many dates in high
school. And two: they don’t see any reason you can’t be rock stars and
normal people simultaneously.

The Shoots cover both classics (Al Green’s I’m Still In Love With
You), and contemporary hits (by Kanye West, Radiohead), but it’s their
original pieces like Milk, Satin, Silk and Wrong All Along that are
really memorable, full of punchy charm. Their debut album, Armour, is
to be released late this year. Jerry Harrison of the Talking Heads
gets production credits.

Their legion of committed online fans will help make the album a
success here. And in India? "None of us had any idea how our sound
would be received," says Avir Mehta, "But people there are definitely
getting it."

That’s reassuring and suggests if word-of-mouse spreads, as it does,
the Shoots just might become a band with a transcontinental following.

Visit the band on MySpace for more info:

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