If you are a music lover who has been residing in Guwahati for the last couple of years, you would agree that the live music scene wasn’t anything great about 5-6 years back. There were a few festivals that music lovers would save up for, and places like the Piano Bar where you could hear a resident musician playing piano renditions of old classics. There were only a few other places that organized occasional acoustic sessions, and, on top of that, there was hardly any variety when it came to music genres. But then things seemed to change for the better, and one big part of the change was David Koch. He formed the bridge between upcoming artistes without any connections and music lovers in the city who were looking for something different and new.
Born and brought up in Dibrugarh, David Koch was born to a family of police officers. A Rock and Roll fan, David Koch organised his first concert when he was a 9th standard student studying in Don Bosco, Dibrugarh. After that, he took a break from music promotion activities and concentrated on his studies as his first aim was to be in the Indian Army. But when that didn’t materialize, he came back to Assam.
In 2007, he started Cafe Rock and Rolla. The cafe was located in Chandmari near The Assam Tribune office. The cafe used to host acoustic jams quite regularly and that is how he got acquainted with many talented artistes as well as music lovers. In 2008, David Koch introduced Fireball, a rock festival, and he managed everything without any help from sponsors. However soon after that, David suffered from major financial crisis and Cafe Rock n Rolla had to be shut down. Even then, he has been passionate about promoting and organizing Fireball every year. In fact, it is becoming bigger and better with every passing year.
Because his journey started with Cafe Rock and Rolla, he didn’t want to leave the legacy behind which is why he still uses the same name for his event management company. Around the time when Blues (no longer in operation), a pub/club opened in Guwahati, the live music scene of Guwahati was taking its baby steps. David organised more than a hundred gigs with the management of Blues. That was the beginning, after that David has worked with the management of Cafe Hendrix, Urban Mantra, Terra Mayaa and several other venues in Guwahati to organize live performances by bands from different Northeastern States.
Even though he has organized so many live gigs all over the city at different venues, he feels that there is something very special about Cafe Hendrix, ‘I think it is amazing what Cafe Hendrix is doing for music, and I feel that no one else in the country can compete with them.’ Cafe Hendrix was one of the first places in Guwahati that started the concept of live performances every weekend. Bands from all over the Northeast have performed at Cafe Hendrix, in addition to that, they also get artistes and bands from outside the region to perform as well. It is one of the most popular joints for music lovers in the city.
He feels that the boom in the local music scene is also helping to bring out the best in local talent. ‘Back when I started, it was the time of cover songs, but now is the time of original music. Every band needs to have good original music to survive in the music industry. I am very happy to see that people are appreciating original music here.’
Another way that David is helping local bands is by sending talented bands to the famous Wacken Open Air in Germany which is considered to be the biggest metal music festival. He has been auditioning and judging bands in India for the Wacken Open Air since 2010. He personally visited Wacken last year. He felt the experience at Wacken was ‘something out of the world’. David sadly points out that India is the only country where bands which are selected to represent the country at Wacken have to pay for their own expenses. In order to help out the upcoming bands, he has started a fund to help provide money to the selected bands so that they can go and perform at the prestigious metal festival.
The thing about David is that he is a true music lover, he feels that bands from not only from Northeast India but also from all over the country should get more opportunities and more platforms as that is the only way the music scene will grow. ‘My dream is to see bands from India perform at the biggest music festivals all across the world and I want them to win competitions everywhere in the world.’
It is true that Northeast India has no dearth of talent but talent starts to fade without the right nurturing. There are so many talented artistes in the region who could have gone far in the music industry but they had to settle for less because of the lack of exposure. Maybe what India needs is more people by David Koch who can provide up-and-coming artistes with the right platforms to showcase their music and connect them with the right audience to give them more of a fighting chance to make it all the way to the top.
By Jadeed Hussain
This article was first published in Eclectic Northeast (March 2017) issue