Until we meet again

Updated: 09 August, 2020 20:54 IST | Gitanjali Chandrasekharan | Mumbai

It's going to be a while before nightlife returns to Mumbai, even if the lockdown lifts entirely. But, the music is still playing

Latin dance mentor Mary Lobo
Latin dance mentor Mary Lobo

Andheri resident Jaanvi Chowhan got a first taste of Mumbai's nightlife when she was in Class 10. "We started heading out to clubs, but had to lie to parents and say we were going for sleepovers to a friend's place because we were too young to be at clubs," she says. "Of course, all that changed when we grew up," says the 29-year-old.

From then till a year ago, before she moved to Pune, the event manager would hang out at Bonobo, Linking Road and Veranda at Bandra's Executive Enclave, one of the few bars that had jazz nights on Saturdays. "I'd love going there just to change things up," she says, adding that another place her friends had started frequenting is antiSOCIAL at Lower Parel. Actually, still do. And, here's why.

Even though the physical space that the city's after-dark hotspots occupy have been shuttered since March, the party still starts post 9 pm, once everyone is done with work and workouts.

jaanvi Chowhan
Jaanvi Chowhan

Chowhan adds on Facebook and YouTube, DJs, event properties such as Pineapple Party and venues like antiSOCIAL and The Daily Bar & Kitchen are still keeping the community they had built pre-lockdown engaged. Another partygoer says, "The Daily (Bandra-based restobar) even home-delivered pre-mixes and a snack to those who had signed up for one of their parties, something to have while the music played."

It's not the same, of course. Even if the crowd that attends the party is the same, you are dancing at the screen. Once in a while, Chowhan says, a few friends get together at one person's place and watch the livestream and groove. Else, when you do sway to the music you can pretend it's the regular dance floor, where the music is loud and you can't talk to anyone.

It's a bit tougher for the DJs. Vile Parle-based Kumar Swamy who started the The Q Club (Q = Quarantine) in the first few weeks of the lockdown, now a regular Thursday-Friday-Saturday event, says the artiste tends to miss the audience. "The one way we do get a sense of how people are reacting to the music is by checking how many people are signing up for the live sessions, and through the comments," says the 35-year-old whose parties are held on Facebook as the "sound quality on Zoom isn't good".

DJ Kumar Swamy
DJ Kumar Swamy

While Swamy streams from home, with studios being allowed to function, the antiSOCIAL events have been streaming live from the venue itself. In both cases, the night begins at 10 pm.

But, it's not just the music that's moved indoors, even Mumbai's dance scene has found its own lockdown beat. Mary Lobo, event planner best known for the Salsa Nights at Worli's Shiro and now at Social, Fun Republic, has been connecting with the Latin dance community through video lessons. "Now, we are concentrating a lot more on the solo aspect of the dance which many don't get to focus on. So, it's a good opportunity in a way." She has also been listening to new music—African is an emerging favourite—and choreographing pieces to the length of a minute or two. These are sent to her students, who practice and share their videos with her. With some amount of back and forth, with corrections by Lobo, 37, the students send her a final video, this time in their best dresses and heels. Lobo, who teaches salsa , bachata and kizomba, then edits these and makes a final cut to upload on her social media page.

Mary Lobo now sends across choreographies on video to her students, who are then required to practice the steps, record them and send it back for correction, before cutting a final piece with formal wear and shoes
Mary Lobo now sends across choreographies on video to her students, who are then required to practice the steps, record them and send it back for correction, before cutting a final piece with formal wear and shoes

This is perhaps the only way for a community that exists on the basis of physical contact to stay connected.

But, can all of Mumbai's nightlife translate into live streams?

KARAN TALWAR and Michela Strobel
Karan Talwar and Michela Strobel

While musicians and stand-up comedians have found the switch easy, the founders of Aaram Nagar's Harkat Studios felt they wanted to do something more. The space itself is experimental, having hosted both theatre, Indie music performances and exhibitions. "When the pandemic hit, we decided to take a step back and not participate. We felt it was shortchanging the audience and the art itself to jump to another medium," says Karan Talwar, co-founder along with Michela Strobel. So, they have come up with an idea to craft events specifically for the Internet. One idea, he says, is to get a share-box of ingredients with participants and have everyone cook at the same time with instructions being given by the storyteller they have brought on board. And, even as they do so, the host tells the story of the dish that is being prepared. Others include creating something specially for artistes in rural India, who don't get a stage beyond the token festivals.

Venues such an antiSOCIAL have been organising live streaming parties for the community. PIC/KALASH SURANA
Venues such an antiSOCIAL have been organising live streaming parties for the community. Pic/ Kalash Surana

Evolution is an important step in survival. As the pandemic forces a city that still doesn't sleep, to lay awake inside four walls, Mumbai is finding new ways to stay connected and in rhythm.

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First Published: 09 August, 2020 07:57 IST

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