Background music takes an entirely new meaning in Mumbai
Kenny G playing the saxophone for your posh dinner party, but from the next room? Don't gasp. Background music is taking on an entirely new meaning in the city
The setting is a posh flat at Breach Candy. The crowd is made up of Mumbai's most swish. The buffet is laid out, and the bar is flowing. Louboutins compete for attention with Versace, and glasses are clicking, and the conversation, as the millennials put it, is Lit. There is music too. Jazz, in fact. A keys player and a guitar player (both foreigners) are playing jazz standards. But you can't see them, as they are in a small conservatory, next to the main living room.
Singer-songwriter Reuel Benedict
The sound is fed into the next room through speakers. They play on, for a hour or two, and sometimes curious party-goers flit in, and flit out. Some sit down and watch, some return to their conversations. "Gigs like these happen all the time in London," says the keys player. "Posh parties, which need background music that doesn't take away from the party itself, often have background bands play in separate rooms." Before the jazz duo, there was another duo who played — one on the guitar, and the other on sax. But instead of hardcore jazz, they played jazzy pop covers — for example, Daft Punk's Get Lucky. "We had quite a few people who sat around and listened in. Maybe because our music was more pop. But it was great fun," the sax player of this unit tells us. The money paid? "Was up to the mark. Good money for a good night's work," the musicians echo each other.
But did we hear right? The band played, in a separate room, but not as the main focus of the party. Background music just became "live" background music. Could it be that now, people who can afford it, feel it's a classy touch to have a band play live, music that we once played through a CD or USB? Or could it be that a band, that's in the room, would take away from the conversation that a party often gives rise to? And hence, they are slightly separated from the crowd.
Romel Dias, co-founder of The Listening Sessions, is one of the few we spoke from the industry who seem to have heard of this new trend. "A friend had come down from Croatia, and he is a big name in orchestra music and jazz. He was invited to play at a fancy sangeet in Lonavala, and when he and the guitar player reached there, they were put in a room, and their music was played through speakers placed in the garden. I think sometimes these gigs happen, as certain celebrities and well-known people will only go to non-intrusive parties," he says, adding, "my friend was pretty offended though. He said he couldn't believe what happened. For most musicians, the kick lies in the audience reactions. That the main appeal of music as well. But it is an opportunity to make good money."
But the trend is surely here to say, even if it's at a nascent stage right now. Reuel Benedict, founder and music director at Eggs Benedict Productions, says that he played at several such gigs, usually at posh private parties. "Usually, the client will say they want music , just so it can add to the 'vibe', and instrumental music could be perfect for that," says the singer-songwriter. For Benedict, it all comes down to maintaining the balance between seeing music as a business and as a passion. "If you had asked me a few years ago, I would have said 'no way'. But now, I think about music as a business. I play a mix of gigs like the instrumental ones, which pay me well, to gigs that express my talent and passion, which may not offer that much money."
But not all musicians are ready to stay in the dark. Anuraag Chadha, also known as DJ Madoc, said that as a DJ, he demands the spotlight. "Many live musicians may take such gigs because of lack of work or appreciation. But I need the spotlight," says the DJ, but then adding, in a more practical vein, "But If you pay me a lot of money, yes, maybe even I will agree. In the end, everyone has a number."
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