Switch your silks for crop tops. Tune out the cello for the console. And curl your fingers into a hand heart. The refurbished (and finally soundproof) Experimental Theatre at the National Centre for the Performing Arts is set to host Electric, its first electronic dance music gig, this week.
The two-day event features Dualist Inquiry on Saturday and Anish Sood on Sunday. So why EDM, and why now?
It’s part of a deliberate move to make the 47-year-old multi-disciplinary venue accessible to a younger audience by expanding its definition of the performing arts. Behind it is the same man who kickstarted the change by introducing stand-up to the NCPA seven years ago.
“It’s nice to try new things, you know?” says the NCPA chairman Kushroo Suntook. “We’ve always had loyalists, but the thing with loyalists is that as they get older, they start to disappear. Regular events will continue, but old places like us need to find ways to get young people in.”
Old places the world over have faced the same challenge and responded in different ways.
In New York, the 150-year-old Metropolitan Museum of Art had success with an exhibition about fashion designer Alexander McQueen in 2011. At the 65-year-old Southbank Centre in London, this summer’s Festival of Love includes workshops on flirting and writing a love poem, in addition to installations and performances.
Mumbai’s new cultural spaces — gigs in malls, mills, bars and the race course; supper theatre; neighbourhood festivals; comedy clubs — offer enough clues to the current generation’s obsessions. “My aim is to attract young people to do what they like, and people love to dance…,” Suntook says.
And dance they just might. All seats have been removed from the theatre.
Sahej Bakshi, the Delhi-based, LA-trained musician who performs under the name Dualist Inquiry, is adapting his set for the venue as well.“It’s not going to be a ‘Put your hands in the air and jump’ kind of gig,” he says. “Because it’s not every day that you get to play in a theatre with great acoustics, the focus will be on variation in sound, texture, mood and instruments. It’s subtle, delicate EDM.”
Bakshi, 29, is both performer and potential audience; he has never been to the NCPA.
Anish Sood, the concert’s other headliner, is 26 and has played in nightclubs and outdoor festivals rather than venues that serve chutney sandwiches in the lobby. Still, Bakshi believes he’ll be right at home among their roster of sitarists and tabla maestros. “
“We are more similar than different,” he says. “We’ll probably have similar answers on where our compositions come from. And my work is no less Indian.”
Suntook plans to “peep in” on Electric as Bakshi previews his new album, two weeks before its general release. For everyone else, the view will be of a grand old institution taking a step towards frayed jeans by slowly loosening its bowtie.
WHAT: Performances by EDM artistes Dualist Inquiry and Anish Sood
WHERE: NCPA, Nariman Point
WHEN: August 27 and 28 respectively, both gigs start at 7 pm
COST: Rs1,120 per head
Tickets are available on bookmyshow.com