The waves lash on the black rocks that sit huddled along the promenade while the wind plays havoc with your hair. Morning walkers and joggers ignore the fuss and stomp away to the rhythm of their playlist at the Bandra Seaface.
Achchhai Pandey regularly sings Uttarbharatiya songs at Borivli railway station. Pic/Kaushik Thanekar
The arched amphitheatre is privy to collegian gossip and lovers’ tiffs. In a corner, Chintan Vyas taps the drum, and lilting notes fill the air. Passersby turn their heads, and a few even stop in their tracks to listen to the song. “It’s the perfect start to a Sunday in the company of around 300-odd strangers, who share the love for a good song,” says Vyas.
Ramesh Parikh (centre) plays the harmonica with his friends at his residence in Peddar Road. Pic/Emmanual Karbhari
Music enthusiasts and singers are stepping out of the comfort of their studios and homes to jam with strangers. While the Bandra promenade is privy to many such groups, public spaces such as the Marine Drive, platforms of many railway stations and even museums are also doubling up as makeshift stages across the city.
Here you’ll find professional singers, who are part of bands or serious practitioners, sing along with music lovers and bathroom singers. Over a period of time, a core set of regulars comprises the group. But, there’s nothing that stops newcomers from joining in. “The more the merrier,” says Vyas, who runs the Mumbai chapter of Music for Meaning.
Singers at Carter Road take part in a Music for Meaning session in June this year
Strangers turn friends
Started in 2007, Music for Meaning, a non-profit effort uses music to bring about social change and unite people, meets every week at the Bandra promenade. Now, it has fanned out into two more cities — Faridabad and Bhopal. “Music is a great ice-breaker and lyrics are a great way to speak your heart out and force people to think and reflect about the way we lead our lives,” says Sooraj Joneja, the 32-year-old group founder.
And for these urban ‘mehfils’, musicians and enthusiasts come with their guitar, mouth organs such as daf, bongo, Cajon, djembe and darbuka, and percussion instruments such as khanjri. “Our most popular songs include Allah ke bandeh by Kailash Kher, Simple Man by Lynyrd Skynyrd, and songs by Indian Ocean,” says Joneja, adding that crowd pleasers from various genres such as rock, Bollywood, Indie, folk and rap music are performed to ensure that more people sing along. The group also offers a platform for original performances.
“Music for Meaning offers a creative outlet to people, who are too busy in their lives, to explore their artistic side. They can sing, dance, sing in chorus, play any instrument and can share their opinion during discussions,” says Joneja.
Twenty-seven-year-old Rita Ovejas often takes a stroll along the Bandra promenade and joins any group that’s singing. “It’s wonderful to see strangers join groups and sing to their heart’s content. I, too, have made many friends through such random meetings. Some groups even have a Facebook presence so they can plan gatherings,” she says.
Age no bar
In another part of the city, 75-year-old Ramesh Parikh, a retired chemical engineer, has been jamming with a group of like-minded music buffs at his Peddar Road residence four months ago. Three months ago, he founded Harmonics, along with his friends, Atul Mishra (51), Darias Engineer (60) and Arun Doshi (71) who plays the guitar.
“Last week, we moved the venue to Hanging Gardens, Malabar Hill. We play only for ourselves, but its nice to have an audience. After attending the flag hoisting ceremony at Hanging Gardens on August 15, we plan to perform a few freedom songs there,” says Parikh.
While Parikh enjoys playing the ragas on his Harmonica, the group manages to jam across genres — Bollywood songs, Western music and a few classical songs, too. “I can even play Arabic tunes on the harmonica. Our current favourite is Kuhu kuhu bole koyaliya and Mohe bhool gaye sawariya,” Parikh says.
A real platform
Of late railway platforms at Borivli and Churchgate stations have turned into a stage for folk artistes such as Achchhai Pandey. A resident of Allahabad, Pandey came to Mumbai last year and has been popularising Uttarbharatiya (North India’s) folk music with the help of National Streets for Performing Arts (NSPA). Set up in 2012, the NSPA is a non-profit initiative that works towards reviving a culture of public performances and supporting the livelihoods of artistes.
“Our attempt is to promote and publicise folk and lesser-known art forms in the public arena,” says Shrusti Iyer, project manager of NSPA. This year, NSPA has launched a series of art literacy programmes with government and private schools where their artistes conduct lecture-demonstrations.
So, if you are in the mood to croon or to sit back and listen to the melodies, keep your eyes and ears open. The city is sure to give you a musical surprise!