by Samvita Kalyan
Fronted by one of the most prolific vocalists IIT-M has seen in a long time, Pakoda, an institute band, was formed in 2006 with a line-up consisting of Pinky (Kaushik Vishwanath), Sabu, Mayank Kachhawaha, Tejas Ramprasad, and Googoo. A similar interest in music and well-discovered synchrony while playing together led to the beginning of what is now a conscious effort to ensure some representation on IIT-M’s part in the western music scene. Pakoda started out as a band that largely played only covers of Jimi Hendrix and Santana, and competed only at the college level. When asked about the name, Pinky admitted that there isn’t much of an explanation behind it except that it is a good reflection of their music: Crunchy, Delicious, and goes great with ketchup. The band underwent a name change in 2008 to Samosa and that marked their foray into the Acoustic music scene. A year later they were re-named Pakoda and the name has since remained.
While most of the founding members have all graduated and moved away, Pinky remains the only member still in the band. As its senior-most member, he has seen Pakoda through its graduation from playing only covers to writing their own music. When asked about how the music-making all comes together, the band members admitted to not having a solid song-writing process. Says Rishab Ramani, drummer, “We don’t really sit down and write music. Someone comes up with a bassline and the rest of the band joins in and the song comes together. For instance, the first original we wrote, Lolly(Hariharan Mohanraj) came up with a bassline, Pinky added the vocals, and the solos were all improvisations.”. The band is positive about the direction its originals are taking and hope to have 4-5 originals by next year. As far as covers are concerned, they enjoy adding their originality to them and will continue doing so.
Motivation and the will to continue, Pinky says, is something that the band derives from the incredible feeling of making good music on stage. “Yes, it’s nice to win competitions and have a huge crowd at your show but you we aren’t having fun with it I don’t think the rest of it matters.” Juggling academics, extra-curricular activities and music has always been something that came with being a part of the band. An interesting trend that has followed is that the keyboardist of the band, has till date, always been a student from the Electrical Engineering Department and has traditionally had the highest CGPA in the band.
One of the major problems faced by Pakoda is the lack of an appropriate space to practice in. The music room in Saraswathi hostel, thanks to Lolly’s efforts as its Soc-Sec, was well equipped for the band to jam in for the past few years. However, with Lolly having graduated, the band is unsure of whether the music room will continue to remain as it is. The band is presently pushing for the soundproofing of the music room in Tamiraparani, which will allow them to practise there.
While earlier the visibility of Pakoda was limited to IIT-M and the college festivals they played at, Pakoda is slowly but surely becoming a well-known name in the Chennai Music Scene. From playing at Mood-I in 2010 and bagging the First place in the Acoustic band category, and winning the title of Best Acoustic band at Nxg Rockstar, to being offered a performance deal with Geoffrey’s Pub which will pay them 80 grand to play 5 shows, Pakoda has indeed come a long way. When asked about where he sees Pakoda headed, Pinky said that the members have now started devoting more time to the band and he can really see them making their mark in the Chennai music scene.
One of the highlights of Pakoda’s journey so far was Saarang ’10 where they were placed 3rd in the Powerchord event. Recalls Advaith, “We had prepared 2 songs, each 5 minutes long, and had decided to play one for the prelims and both of the finals. But, during the prelims, we rushed through the two songs and were done with them in 5 minutes and didn’t know what to do. When we made it to the finals, we were faced with the problem of having to play the same 2 songs but for 15 minutes. 5 minutes before we were to go on stage, we decided to add a new song which I had to learn just then, and even then we ended up having way too much time left over. I remember Pinky asking the judge if we had more time, and she asked us to play something more. So Pinky and Sabu decided to play this song they both knew, and Lolly and Rishab had no problem joining in because they had a vague idea of the song. I managed to figure the song out midway but in the wrong key, and it was slightly chaotic but it was one of the best experiences with the band overall.”.
Pinky (Kaushik Vishwanath)- Vocals
Sappola (Advaith Mohan)- Guitar/Bass
Fungus (Ruchir Jolly)- Guitar
Rishab Ramani- Drums
Gelatin (Aditya Shankar)- Bass