Songs from a cafe

20 February,2022 07:42 AM IST |  Mumbai  |  Nidhi Lodaya

A new collaborative project by a record label and coffee chain is giving indie artistes a platform to showcase their talent

Mumbai-based guitarist and singer-songwriter Bhrigu Sahni played live at the launch of Blue Tokai, Khar



How often do you pay attention to the ambient music in a café or a restaurant? More often than not, people are oblivious to it. A new initiative, Play Bar Project, a collaboration between artiste development agency and record label Pagal Haina, and Blue Tokai Coffee Roasters is hoping to change this.

As part of the initiative, which kick-started on December 1 last year, independent musicians in India can now have their original music played across all outposts of the coffee chain in the country. "Over the years, our coffee shops have been home to a strong and ever-expanding community of art lovers and creators. Through the Play Bar Project, we are now able to extend our appreciation for art to some of the country's best musical talent, with a focus on showcasing the work of contemporary Indian music to our customers across all our cafés," says Namrata Asthana, co-founder and CMO of Blue Tokai Coffee Roasters.

Alternative pop duo Khoya Firdaus

Mumbai-based alternative-pop band Khoya Firdaus, formed in 2020, initially got in touch with Blue Tokai as their beverage partner for one of their gigs. "After a few days, we got an email from them [Blue Tokai] asking if we were interested to join their initiative," says Pritpal Sudan, one half of the duo, on how they got on board the project last month. The duo filled a Google form, and shared their bio, pictures, and their entire discography, giving Pagal Haina the permission to play their music at Blue Tokai's outposts. "Through this initiative, we are hoping to target an audience that is likely to support independent arts," says Dhruv Singh, founder of Pagal Haina.

Some of the artistes that have joined the project include Lifafa, DITTY, Begum, Jatayu, Karshni, Fox In The Garden, The F16s, Hashbass, Tanmaya Bhatnagar, Water & Rum, and Suzonn. "We are fairly fresh in the indie scene and to be involved in this, along with such great artistes is a pretty great deal," says Atharv Shukal, the other half of Khoya Firdaus.

Dhruv Singh and Namrata Asthana

Singer-songwriter and guitarist Bhrigu Sahni was the first artiste from this project to play a live gig in Mumbai at Blue Tokai, Khar, on February 11. Sahni believes that such venues can be a potential avenue for artistes to perform, too. "People who visit such cafes are an interesting bunch. They are largely creative and I think they would vibe well with the music. They would be a good audience for an artiste to play for."

Singh pointed out that very few establishments in India actually pay out royalties for the music they play at their venue. "But, what we've worked out [in this project] is a simple barter for now. The artistes have their coffee needs met in exchange for allowing Blue Tokai to play their music in their cafes." Sudan and Shukla, for instance, got a membership card of the coffee place, along with monthly vouchers for the tenure of their deal, which is six months; it will be self-renewed after that. Singh, however, said that they are trying to work out a "royalty model" for registered artistes.

Currently, songs are played via a curated playlist, but Sahni feels that in an ideal ‘Play Bar,' the audience should choose the song they want to listen to. Singh, however, feels that this initiative will aid music discovery. "It is an encouraging thing for musicians to see that their music is being placed in a reputed place. It gives a sense of validation," Sahni adds.

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