Brawny patrons of the Gurudutt Gymkhana in Dharavi flexed and heaved on Thursday, not to the usual Bollywood disco beats, but to the reverberating bass of hip hop coming from two stories above.
Vinayak Vaiti, the akhaada style gym’s burly proprietor, assumed a position outside his office to play host to his esteemed guests that evening — UK-based reggae artist Apache Indian and two US-based artists handled by Timbaland Productions, Amar, Rebel and music producer Jim Beanz.
“It’s a good programme and I am happy to have them playing here. We know Apache’s music from those performing,” said Vaiti, whose gymkhana turns 50 next month.
Vaiti is referring to an impromptu concert titled ‘Respect Recycle’ that had Mumbai’s most popular shanty in a hip hop haze.
The gig was put together by Acorn International, a non-profit organisation, and 21 Tigers Entertainment, a Mumbai-based music marketing agency.
“We heard of Acorn’s great initiative called ‘The Dharavi Project’, which supports the rag pickers of the area and the recycling industry within Dharavi, and created a concert around it because these artists under Timbaland were visiting Mumbai in any case,” said Jitin Abraham, co-founder of 21 Tigers.
Holding onto their paper invites that read ‘Aao Dharavi Ka Josh Manao’, eight to 12-year-olds headed for the gym instead of home and added to the noise and crowd quotient.
“I know Apache Indian,” boasted 12-year-old Sagar Sapkal. “I have heard Boom shak a lak and I also love English music such as Bebot, Rise up, Satisfaction and Belly Dancer,” said Sapkal, referring to his favourite hip hop tracks.
Even in the presence of international artists of repute, those given real star treatment were the six members of Dharavi-based Tamil hip hop group, Sout Dandy Squad. “It’s D-Block season. We are proud of our hood and to be making music here. Tonight we are performing a new rap song on recycling that we composed for Acorn,” said 20-year-old Slim Styla.
The climate solutions event saw the sole invitees, the denizens of Dharavi, engaging also with graffiti and installation artists.
“This is the real India, and to work with and understand the talent here is great. I visit here four times a year and do a lot of charity gigs but it’s good that my team from the US is getting a different perspective on Mumbai. I’m here supporting Dharavi,” said Indian.
With a little help from the Slumdog Millionaire shine that Dharavi continues to bask in, Abraham hopes to push the momentum forward with more such events. “It’s not a one-off gig. We are in talks to have the artists take up art and craft projects with the youth. If Slumdog... brought it attention, we intend to retain that,” Abraham said.