Rock ‘n’ roll has become black and white, it has no edge and it isn’t dangerous anymore. The kids clamour for something bigger and more ungainly but they get the same over and again, recycled and reused and regurgitated by wannabes and hypocrites and sonic pimps with nothing better to do than steal ideas and pass them off as their own.
Where is the flash and the colour and the noise and the pump, the exotic glamour and the sweaty dance that swells from deep within and explodes all over your face like a technicolour money-shot? Back in the ‘60s was when it was real, mainly because it was new, and this is rock ‘n’ roll but we know about rock ‘n’ roll, all too much, and so we’ll switch continents and immerse ourselves in Hindi cinema, known colloquially as Bollywood, and the music that went with it. Not the more contemporary modern strand of the music, but the left-of-centre ‘60s versions that filled your head with visions of pelvic-thrusting beats and shimmers, as is so eloquently re-crafted this very day by Melbourne’s own, The Bombay Royale.
“The ‘60s and ‘70s thing is a different kettle of fish to the contemporary stuff, it’s more the Punjabi style,” concurs bandleader Andy Williamson, aka The Skipper, and also known to Australian audiences through the Public Opinion Afro Orchestra. “The pocket of stuff we’re interested in, it mixes in all sorts of stuff.” It must be noted that what the 11-piece Bombay Royale is doing isn’t a tired reconstruction of a tried and true formula, it’s the reintroduction of a form of music and visual expression that sadly doesn’t see too much light in this day and age, and it’s hitting chords, which is really no surprise given how hungry people are for something that challenges them, in every sense of the word.
“Yeah, it’s been very enthusiastically picked up,” Williamson notes, an understatement when you realise the group, formed only last April, has already played Port Fairy Folk Festival, Bellingen Global Carnival, St Kilda festival and the Australasian World Music Expo, not to mention a recent appearance on Spicks And Specks plus decent radio exposure. “The AWME gig in particular was good for us, that got us to a festival on Reunion Island, just off the coast of Africa recently… that was really well received and it looks like there’ll be action in Europe for us and maybe South Africa arising out of that.”
“There are actually areas of the ‘60s and ‘70s music that we don’t use, the folk and more classically oriented styles, we stick more to the funk and the spaghetti western styles,” Williamson explains. “Live, the main focus is the music of course, and we’ve introduced a small amount of a costume thing going on. I mean, the focus of the project has always been the music, but at the same time there’s an expectation (because the cinema is so much a part of it) that there’ll be a visual part of it. So as things have gone on, the show has gotten a little more animated and theatrical, people have taken on characters, but it’s always about the music, it doesn’t get into the theatre.”
What it does get into is your head, deep within to parts hitherto thought barren, something new and exciting and certainly not black and white but bursting with colour and verve, something set to shake you up and break you down, which is just what the people want.
Samuel J. Fell
Published in Inpress Magazine,
3rd August 2011