A live-size model

Updated: Apr 24, 2020, 10:15 IST | Shunashir Sen | Mumbai

An online music festival hopes that a gadget will replicate the live experience of listening to indie artistes

Neeraj Arya
Neeraj Arya

Last weekend saw the possible coming of a new dawn when the biggest musical event of the post-lockdown era was streamed across countries into people's phones and laptops. One World: Together at Home, a virtual festival put together by charitable organisation Global Citizen, witnessed 19 acts including titanic ones like The Rolling Stones and Elton John logging in to play pre-recorded songs for almost 21 million audience members cocooned within four walls. Nothing on that scale had ever taken place before. No one had till date seen someone like Sheryl Crow or Celine Dion play songs in their home studios with no visible make-up on. But then again, it was only a matter of time before the cookie crumbled for people fed on a diet of live gigs, given how starved they are of physical concerts. Self-isolation has changed their consumption patterns. And that holds true not just for a global audience, but even for India, given how this weekend will see a full-blown three-day virtual concert featuring 18 home-grown indie artistes plying their trade on Instagram Live.

Dashankit Londhe
Dashankit Londhe

The event is aptly named Distrancing: The Lockdown Festival. Its format is such that the performers will tune in for 35-minute sets, playing genres as eclectic as folk-fusion and psy-trance. But unlike at the One World fest, the artistes here will perform live. Neeraj Arya of Neeraj Arya's Kabir Café will, for example, set up his phone on a tripod and belt out songs in real time, something he says he has never done before. He admits that it will be a different experience. "I will definitely miss the audience engagement at live gigs because in this case, the listener can see you, but it's not the other way around. All we can see are comments popping up from the bottom, which we miss since we are engrossed in our performance," he tells us.

But Arya adds that such musical experiences still have merit since they can be a source of solace in despondent times. The Internet can be comforting right now, he says, and even something as simple as watching a musician you admire playing live on screen can help a person feel better. But does this indeed signal a new dawn, a new order? Will online concerts become de rigueur even when the lockdown is yesterday's news? Arya feels that we will have to first assess their impact before reaching a conclusion. "People might start enjoying the idea of lying on their own bed and popping into the kitchen for something to eat or drink while listening to a musician play live. Or, say someone has a corporate job. He or she can watch gigs mainly on weekends. But with the Internet, they can spend their half-hour lunch break listening to an artiste online. So, you never know — this format might well catch on," he reasons.

rapper Maddy, who is part of the line-up
Rapper Maddy, who is part of the line-up

Similarly, Dashankit Londhe of Dashtag Arketing, the fest's organiser, feels that it might also be that online gigs are in harmonious co-existence with offline ones in the future. The advantage they have is that musicians can showcase their art in real time to the entire world. But a monetary framework needs to be in place, he adds, for that effort to be financially viable for both artistes and organisers. Londhe's model is to display a QR code on the screen when each artiste is playing so that the listener can scan it and contribute a voluntary amount. "We chose this route because it's the easiest, but there are other ways of doing the same," he says. The point is, it can be done. Look at how the One World festival ended up raising a staggering $128 million. So, economic nuts and bolts will have to be tightened before virtual gigs become as commonplace as a Baadshah song in Ludhiana. Meanwhile, like Arya, all we can do is wait and watch.

On April 24, 25 and 26, 4 pm onwards
Log on to Dashtag Arketing's Instagram profile

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