A still from a Sofar session(Aryaman Dixit)
A still from a Sofar session(Aryaman Dixit)

Secret gigs, poetry meetups and art: These collectives are bringing culture home to you

From Shayari sessions to the best of music, get your cultural fix at these meetups in town.
Hindustan Times | By Aditya Dogra, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JUN 25, 2018 04:58 PM IST

Delhiites love to get their cultural ever so often; but we’re sure most would agree that it is rare to truly enjoy a live performance when there is so much happening around you. Barring a few venues, most places often have a large number of people who would rather talk, eat, or indulge in social media shenanigans than actually pay attention to the artists on stage. While that is ‘normal’ in most social setups, wouldn’t it be nice to have a setting where the artist is surrounded by an audience that has fun, but takes the performance seriously too? The idea might sound Utopian but ,well, it does exist in the Capital, and is coming of age now (and how).

Clubs and collectives have been mushrooming of late, ones that promise you art, music, poetry and more in an intimate setup (which could be your home too). The guest list is limited, the gigs mostly sponsored or crowdfunded, and the result is a spectacular meet-up of like-minded people who truly wish to enjoy the show.

If you aren’t still clued in about what these meet-ups we are talking about are, here’s a low-down.

For the love of Shayari

The Delhi Shayari Club meetup in progress.
The Delhi Shayari Club meetup in progress.

The Delhi Shayari Club, which was started in 2017 with just about a 100 members as part of the group is all about hosting intimate shayari meetups that promote growing talent and the love for shayari. The group now has over 4500 members as part of it and people from all over the country attend these meetups. “The process of performing in a meetup is quite easy. All one has to do is join the group and send their couplets for review. The poet slots are then decided and the meetup happens. We offer food and stay for our shayars, and most events happen via sponsorship (be it funds or the venue),” says Aanchal Ghosh, who organizes these meetups. “Funds and venue selection is always a challenge, but we never drop the ball and keep meeting people who’d love to step forward and encourage this beautiful part of literature,” she adds.

Participating poet and member of the club, Pallav Mishra says that the club is an ecosystem for poets where they can celebrate and learn from each other’s work and passion. “I joined the club about one and a half years back, and since then I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, interacting and listening to various poets from all facets of life. The club isn’t just for established poets but is also a platform that helps young talent grow. It is a place that really nurtures your passion for poetry and the setting just makes it even better,” says Mishra.

Sofar,So Good

A Sofar session progress. (Aryaman Dixit/HT Photo)
A Sofar session progress. (Aryaman Dixit/HT Photo)

Reimagining the live event experience through curated, secret performances in more than 400 cities around the world, Sofar Sounds is global music series. Their secret (invite-only) shows bring music lovers together in an intimate setting to re-discover the magic in live performance. Nobody talks, everybody listens. The concept first came up in London, and slowly spread around the world, coming to Delhi in 2016. “Sofar hosts performances at various locations across the city. We currently do one secret gig a month, and one can apply for the guest list online. We disclose the date and time to the guest list just days before the performance and function on a ‘pay as you like’ basis, where attendees contribute money (about Rs300) which helps future performances. Artists for the performances are also reviewed, so everyone can have a good time listening to some quality music,” says Tanya Nath, city leader, Sofar Sounds. “One does not really get to enjoy the music in bars or pubs since there is a lot happening around you, but we bring amazing artists in intimate spaces who perform stripped back sets to a carefully curated audience that actually wishes to soak in the experience,” she adds.

Anindo Bose of band Shadow & Light has performed for quite a few sessions with Sofar and feels that it is an experience that educates both the artist and the audience. “Unlike performing at a club or a festival where audience members attend for social interactions and are often distracted by food and other things, the audience here is actually attending for the music. The beauty of it is that neither the artists are aware of what the audience would be like, nor is the audience briefed about the artist, and that leads to a discovery of sorts on both parts. Being a Sofar artist also opens up avenues for artists to perform at various gathering around the world, something that not only helps independent artists grow, but also introduces them to new listeners and new artists every time,” he says. “ I feel that performing in such a setup is worth more than performing any 90-minute gig at a club or a festival where people wouldn’t pay that much attention to your music.”

Art for all

A Delhi Art Slam in progress.
A Delhi Art Slam in progress.

There’s enough of options when it comes to music and poetry, but this collective curates museums, galleries, contemporary exhibitions at local public spaces — making art accessible to all. The Delhi Art Slam is a community for art, artists, and art enthusiasts, which provides a platform to untapped talent in the city via informal meetups. “Our idea is to localise art galleries and museums by organising art slam events across the city’s ordinary public spaces and cafes. It’s open for all,” says Isha Yadav, founder and curator, Delhi Art Slam. “Whether you dabble with painting, sketching, sculpting, photography or you’re into illustrations, wall art, diary art, knitting, quilling or any other visual medium, there is space for all art forms in this collective. Most the works sent by the artists are also put up for sale at the artists’ discretion,” she adds.

Pramit Sen, a Delhi-based cartoonist, who attended the Slam for the first time with his friend says, “I had no idea how this thing worked, and my friend had just asked me to tag along. But when i met people, saw their work, heard stories of artists and their passion, that is when I felt the connect , when I understood what the slam really was for — the fringe artists, the creators, the ones who want to share their love for art. I often keep travelling and haven’t gotten a chance to go again, but would love to share my work at the slam sometime soon.”

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