New Delhi, June 1 Indians may not be that familiar with Doc Watson, the American pioneer of bluegrass and country music who died May 30, but Bobby Cash, India’s own Watson, says “the salt-of-the-earth music is slowly catching up” with the country’s children.
Bobby Cash, who has made a name for himself as an independent artist in Australia and as the only Indian to record in Nashville, the country music mecca in the United States, sustains on his solo music. He ascribes the growing popularity of country music – mostly ballads with powerful narratives – in India to the Internet and live concerts that have spread to the remote reaches of the country.
The fact that country music sports a spartan instrumentation of guitar, mouth organ and a banjo makes rendering of the genre easy, he says.
“Internet has almost changed the awareness about music in the country. Once people start researching country music on the Internet, they begin to like it. It is so easy to share your music…You can watch videos,” Cash told IANS recently after his performance at The Hilton hotel in the capital.
Bobby Cash, like Doc Watson, is a roots singer – grounded in the minimalist tradition of old American bluegrass and swing which originated in the 1920s from American cowboy and southeastern American folk music.
The musician’s strength is his guitar which he says “flamenco fashion” to strum complex riffs, melodies beats and finger-plucking. It doubles as rhythm and bass.
Cash’s repertoire spans the playlists of honkytonk and soul stalwarts such as Jim Reeves, Merle Haggard, Hank Williams, Alan Jackson, George Strait, Chet Atkins, Jose Feliciano and his own albums like “Cowboy at Heart” which he released under the Universal label in 2004 and “State of My Heart” last June.
“I have been connecting to kids in school across the country – especially in institutions like the Doon School and Wellham’s in my hometown Dehra Dun,” he said.
Besides the school concerts, he plays live in the northeastern states, Mumbai and Bangalore when he is in the country.
“School children love one of my songs, ‘Train Train’. No kid who has heard the song could forget it. They want to learn the song and to play the guitar. I have taught kids in school,” Bobby said.
The musician divides his time between India and Australia.
“In Australia, I am well-known as an independent artist. I actively encourage independent recordings in the country and have tried to breathe life in the independent music industry which is struggling to take off,” he said.
A “new traditionalist” in style, he likes to write his own songs about cowboys, home, every day realities and love.
“Some stories do not change – country ballads for example. They talk of life,” he said.
The American ethos of the genre, however, makes it hard to forge instant emotional connect in India, he says.
Then, he added: “Country has become cross-over. Sometimes, it is hard to tell which is pop and which is country. I still like the traditional music though some of my songs are cross-over with elements of flamenco and jazz.”
His international career began when he was invited to the Tamworth Music Festival in Australia, where he became the subject of a documentary in 2003. Before long, he was playing to packed houses and appearing in numerous television and radio shows.
In 2005, Nashville called Bobby. He played at some of the top venues in Nashville, appeared on the WSM Midnite Jamboree at E.T. Troubadour Theatre and other places, including Billy Bobs – the legendary country music club in Dallas.
“India still has a long way to go in Western music to measure up to Western standards,” he said.
“In this era of music downloads and digital distribution, only live concerts can keep western music alive. We have plenty of talent but they have to make authentic music.”