Some time back, after much pre-planning and juggling of work schedules, one was able to attend a live music event in the city. This performance at the NCPA, which was hosted by the Turkish consulate, turned out to be entertaining as it was insightful.
A Turkish orchestra comprising of seven instrumentalists were a delight what with their mix of strains and influences borrowed from a rich, long history. The ensemble was lauded by the audience, an interesting gathering that comprised of diplomats, Mumbai’s culture clique, well-heeled SoBoites, musicians, a smattering of TV and film stars, and regular folk keen on soaking in a new sound.
After ninety minutes of an enriching musical journey into another land, our senses were satiated, and the mind, was content. What one took away from this event was that unlike many of the big-ticket events that would feature celebrated Western Classical and other musical legends — a regular on Mumbai’s performing arts calendar, this was a refreshing departure. The mixed audience was an indicator that the city was truly warming up to different, varied sounds, without the apprehension and intimidation that might emerge with unfamiliarmusic. No big names, flashy hoardings or overpriced tickets.
Shortly after that event, there was another live performance that one was lucky to attend; this time, a native Algerian group had mesmerised the crowd with strains of Sufi music, as part of a festival at the Horniman Circle Gardens. The open-air setting, in an uncontrolled environment didn’t take away from the brilliant showcase of earthy sounds.
Dressed in traditional attire, and using conventional instruments from their region in Algeria, they managed to keep the crowd engaged, despite their edgy, offbeat vibe – many even suggested for encores after each act. It was satisfying to watch the assorted audience get swayed to the music. Never mind if it was rendered in a language they couldn’t follow, aided by unfamiliar instruments and without the gloss of glamourous front men or crowd-pulling artists. Pure music, sans the frills.
These two acts are examples of what is slowly emerging as an encouraging sight on our city’s performing arts annual calendars. It’s heartening to see more international acts, sounds and instruments from far-flung regions entertain us. Mumbai could do with more such acts. And, what will make this even better will be the accessibility angle.
Lower-priced tickets, and as we saw at the Horniman Circle Garden event, free entry, only makes it a happier ending for all concerned. It’s an open secret that the city is starved for good, live acts and we hope that all concerned will keep an ear to the ground as far as bringing down not just the big names but also a varied, rich musical experience from far and wide for Mumbai’s knowledgeable music buffs.
Let the music play, for Mumbai.
— The writer is Features Editor, MiD DAY