What happens when musicians play blindfolded? Find out at this unique workshop in Mumbai

Updated: Nov 19, 2017, 12:06 IST | Krutika Behrawala

What happens when musicians play blindfolded? You get to find out at a unique workshop hosted by an artiste from Israel

In May, a Delhi club hosted a gig where eight artistes played improvised jazz melodies on keyboards, bass and electric guitars, drums and hand drums. A regular jazz gig, one would think. But before stepping on stage, the musicians were blindfolded by drummer Dov Balu Rosen from Israel, who conducted the ensemble like an orchestra.

A Blind Orchestra performance in Tel Aviv, Israel. Pic courtesy/Ayelet Dekel
A Blind Orchestra performance in Tel Aviv, Israel. Pic courtesy/Ayelet Dekel

"He would gently tap our shoulders with drum sticks. A single tap meant you should start playing, and two meant you stop," says Delhi-based drummer Aditya Bhagavatula, 15, who was part of the gig. He sums up the experience: "It was unique because my sense of sound was heightened, and I learnt how to let go on stage."

Dov Balu Rosen
Dov Balu Rosen

Playing it blind
That's what Blind Orchestra (BO), a music improvisational project conceptualised by Rosen, is all about. "Closing your eyes helps enhance other senses, like hearing and touch. It makes for better communication between a musician and his musicality. I learnt it by experience and later, found that there are scientific studies supporting the theory," says the 37-year-old artiste.

Aditya Bhagavatula, 15, is the youngest musician to participate in the experience
Aditya Bhagavatula, 15, is the youngest musician to participate in the experience

He brings the experience to Mumbai for the first time next week, with a workshop where 30 advance-level musicians will learn the concept and its rules; understand the obstacles and jam blindfolded. The session is open to the public. Next month, he has also planned a performance at Veranda in Bandra.

Rosen, who has been drumming since 11, and enjoys improvising on stage, launched BO in Tel Aviv with three multi-instrumentalists as a musical experiment, four years ago. "I realised that the concept helped eliminate common problems that occur during jam sessions, like the absence of listening to the whole, and hierarchy struggles. It also made improvised music more enjoyable for both, artistes and listeners," says Rosen, who has travelled with BO to the UK, Germany, Russia, Denmark, Canada, Manali and Goa.

How it works
Each performance features a different mix of eight to nine international and local musicians, including sitarists and bansuri players. "All instruments can be played blindfolded, except those incorporating digital screens."

Before the show, the ensemble holds a meeting to get introduced to each other and learn the rules. On stage, a couple of conductors, and even audience members, lead the orchestra. "Each conductor brings out different notes. It's a game that no mobile app can come close to. When the music sounds as good as a composed piece, you know you conducted well," says the artiste, adding that the project is constantly evolving. For instance, initially, the conductors would signal the artistes with the word "go" but "discovered it's not great to hear that word 100 times in a show. So, the sticks came in handy." Any other rules to keep in mind before putting the blindfolds on? "None, except making sure I know where I put my drink!"

On: November 23, 7 pm to 9 pm
At: The True School of Music, Sun Mill Compound, Lower Parel.
RSVP bit.ly/2uEki74

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