Gigs Come Home
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Earlier this month, the home of Bandra burger joint Gostana's owner Arpana Gvalani was transformed into the venue for a live, intimate gig by four Mumbai-based musicians and bands. Vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Sidd Coutto, singer-songwriters Nikhil D'Souza and Alisha Pais and Split frontman Garreth D'Mello's side project, Dischordian, played to approximately 20 people who put aside their mobile phones and listened quietly and intently. They were brought together by Songs From A Room – or Sofar Sounds – a movement that began in London in 2009 and has now found its way to a number of other places including New York, Paris, Sydney, Melbourne and, last year, India.
After attending gig after gig where people paid more attention to their mobile phones or chatted amongst themselves, co-founders Rafe Offer and Dave Alexander (Rocky Start is a third co-founder) organised a small performance at Alexander's London home. Alexander, a musician, played to a handful of people, all of whom sat and listened attentively. The concept was a success and similar gigs were then organised in the homes of a number of other people in various parts of the world. The two rules, so to speak, were that the audience must stay through the duration of the gig and stay silent through the performances. In addition, these were secret gigs, in that the venue and timings would only be disclosed to invitees and even the invitees would not know the line-up (of artistes performing) beforehand. The idea was to give new musicians the chance to play for a genuinely attentive audience. The most important aspect is that these gigs started out and continue to be free - the audience pays nothing to watch the musicians perform and no money changes hands.
In 2010, a UK-based journalist and academic Reema Kumari Jadeja began discussions to bring the concept to India and in February last year, the first such gig was held in Pune. "What started out as a conversation between a music colleague and I at British Music House, London, in the summer of 2010 became a crystallised reality when I brought Sofar to India in February 2011," recalls Jadeja, who is the coordinator for Sofar India. "I called upon Shaa'ir + Func to perform for the first Sofar session in Pune, which was the first session not only in India but also in Asia." Flautist and music composer Milind Date, tabla player Charudatta Phadke and Mumbai pop rock band Something Relevant were the other performers at this first edition. Then, in June last year, a second Sofar session was held in India in Delhi where the fusion band Mrigya, blues/rock band Half Step Down, Dualist Inquiry and Hindi folk fusion band Maseeha performed.
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