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Gig Review :: Highway 61 :: Hard Rock Cafe, Bangalore

Highway 61 marked their presence in Bangalore with their very first title ‘Muqt Alif’. The band, performing for the first time on the Bangalore turf, had the listeners’ rapt in a trance five minutes into the concert.  


Highway 61 is a sufi ethnic rock band from Pune whose music embodies expression and freedom, a fusion of classic rock with Urdu and Hindi lyrics. There is an interesting history to the name that the band goes by: Highway 61 is U.S. Route 61, the official designation for a United States Highway that runs  from New Orleans, Lousiana, to the city of Wyomming, Minnesota. It is believed that if you sold your soul here you would be heard by the world. And Mohammad Muneem and the members of the band are very intense in their objective of being the voice of the good.

Muqt Alif‘, the first number of the evening was about political suppression and suffocation and the need to escape. Their next track was ‘Jaago Zara‘ igniting the need to the occasion. The musical rendering was so intense that despite the lyrics being in Urdu the emotion transcended the language barrier and moved the audience.

Music. Expression. Freedom. This is how the band describes itself. They believe in liberation through music. All their compositions revolve around evils such as terrorism, communalism and political oppression. They’re songs raise questions and give hope.

“We want to be the voice of resurgent India.”

The band came together in November 2008. Each artist has an experience of about 6 or 7 years in various fields of music, after which the band was conceived. It has been four years hence. The band is a team of six musicians. Mohammad Muneem the lead vocalist and lyricist is from Kashmir and has been writing and singing since the age of fourteen, Jatin Kale the lead guitarist is from Pune and is a guitar prodigy, Rohit Vasudevan also the lead guitarist and backing vocals lives in Pune and is an exceptional guitarist and an absolute perfectionist, Rahul Majumdar  the bass guitarist hails from West Bengal and has been trained in Indian classical music and tabla since the age of 4, Hardik Vaghela on the keys as well as backing vocals comes from Gujarat and makes every song feel complete with his fillers and keyboard solos and Anant Joshi on the drums gives the band a heavy metal feel and is from Maharasthra. Each of these artists has proved their mettle and reached a point where they decided it was time to take a stand.  “The time felt right to make our own music. It was time to make music we believed in, music which was our voice not a reflection.”

By the end of their fourth track that evening Mohammad Muneem had everybody just as emotionally charged as he was. But what won the hearts the crowd was the covering of AR Rehman’s ‘Dil Se Re‘. Mohammad Muneem posed a question “What is the most important thing in the world?”. The answer- ‘Rupiya‘, a song on the age old cry of the rupiya intruding into all pleasures and happiness that life can offer. Highway 61 exited the stage after a “Jaago Zara” encore.

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