For the Love of Restless Beats
On the night of the 4th of December, a group of strangers gathered in a tiny bar in Mumbai to sing, to pay ode to the blues and to sway, watching the magic of music unfold under dim lights. There was a sense of abandon lingering in the air; the guests were served a side of happy chatter with a dash of nostalgia. It was a scene reminiscent of the 60’s: small intimate gigs where you were bound to see a familiar face or two, smiling away as you let the beer and music take you to a place far, far away.
This was the prelude to The Orlem Music Festival, an ambitious project that seeks to revolutionise the indie music scene in Mumbai, India. It is the brainchild of Aaron ‘MrWaters’ Gomes, 30, who has been working on the idea with friends ever since a brainwave hit a few years ago. Gomes – a man with a distinctive beard and an expansive persona – played his part as the host for the night with ease, joking and crooning between sets.
The gig took place at STFU It’s a Bar, situated in Malad, a part of the western suburbs. There were no starry airs in sight as live acts stole the show, one after another. The sense of camaraderie was palpable – a collective, with happy people clinking glasses, and an abundance of laughter and dance. It’s a “feel good” show, offers Gomes, who agreed to meet and discuss his next big project at length one wintry evening in January.
The plan for Gomes and Co. is to essentially throw caution to the winds in 2015. They hope to change the way things are done and bring together a tiny community at the centre of the music scene in 2015. At the forefront of this idea is Orlem, a twinkling neighborhood in Malad – whose primary landmark is Our Lady of Lourdes Church, popularly referred to as the Orlem Church.
Mizael De Rosario, 22, is also a musician from Orlem. His eyes glint as he describes the beginning of his journey, performing at local parishes and garnering admirers. A friend who was already established in the industry advised Rosario to work on a Demo CD in order to break into the performing arts scene in the city. Rosario spent the next few months recording songs with a few friends who were also musically inclined. Patience and a lot of networking and contacting pubs led to them landing a gig with a local bar called Blue Pheniixx in Malad.
There was a catch. It would have to be a “free” gig. Against the advice of his friend, he decided to do the gig, enamored by the platform it offered. “Right now, it’s really not about the money,” says Rosario, sharing that though the pay is hardly flattering, the possibilities are endless.
The indie music scene in the country has seen a lot of powerful changes in the last few decades – the sea isn’t quite so still anymore. With sites like SoundCloud,YouTube, Facebook and Twitter gaining traction, social media has given more power to struggling musicians, and a chance to hit all the right notes, and share their music with an ever expanding audience.
Throw in a heady mixture of indie music festivals such as Bacardi NH7 Weekender, Ragasthan and the Ziro Festival of Music, providing huge platforms for indie artists coupled with a growing number of pubs and restaurants welcoming artists to play, and the future of the hopeful artist becomes much brighter.
According to Rosario, “There is no definite way to get there.” Networking plays a major role in the process. Contacts, contacts, contacts. Being associated with a big name can take you a long way.
With the Orlem Music Festival, Gomes is giving aspiring local artists in his community a chance to be one with the big league. The ultimate aim is to raise the bar for indie music in the city, drawing music enthusiasts from near and far. Gomes reveals that they’ve already been getting calls already from hopeful artists across the country, looking for a spot at the festival.
He believes that the concept needs to be heard, and the more people talk about it, the more of a game-changer it will be. With more intimacy in the gigs and a sense of cheer, it’s a fresh twist to contemporary performance culture.
Speaking of performance culture, new venues such as The Hive in Mumbai have become a force to reckon with. Big Mic, a platform for the performing arts such as poetry, comedy, cinema, magic, music and rap, has organised several open mic music nights here, enabling aspiring musicians to showcase their art, outside the confines of one’s bedroom and into the big world of stage shows, passionate singing and encores.
The indie music industry is currently sparkling with potential. With the advent of artists such as Parikrama in the 1990s to The Karsh Kale Collective, Ankur Tewari and The Ghalat Family, Bhayanak Maut and many many more, there is a strong sense of hope, of reality merging with dreams.
Rosario hopes to work on his solo project in 2015, and aspires to get his EP out in the next few months. Gomes, meanwhile, is busy figuring out the logistics of the upcoming music festival, funding being a major roadblock that needs to be dealt with.
The common thread that unites Rosario, Gomes and all other artists molding their dreams?
A burning desire to be heard, to play music for the sake of music.
For more about The Orlem Festival, you can visit their Facebook page.
Photo credits: STFU It’s a Bar