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Sax and the city: Why Delhi rocks!

May 06, 2014 15:31 IST

Sax and the city: Why Delhi rocks!

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Ritika Bhatia

The contemporary music scene in Delhi is deliciously complex and layered; while Bangalore may be the rock capital and Mumbai busy helming alternative, Delhi is revelling in a unique sonic experience.

The door to Cocktails and Dreams in Gurgaon proclaims "Knock three times to come in" and opens to the dimly-lit bar with interiors that have a warehouse feel to them.

The basement is where the crowd is buzzing tonight, while Louis 'Pops' Armstrong on the stage wall declares, "If you have to ask what jazz is, you'll never know!"

The occasion is the International Jazz Day.

As soon as the bassist of jazz and funk trio Syncopation, Anir 'Baan' Ghosh, hits the first note, there is a noticeable shift in the energy.

People stop chattering, some even put down their forks and drinks, and all eyes are rivetted on the stage.

From the back of the bar to right along the length of the staircase, people click their fingers and tap their feet to the music, which transitions from mellow contemporary jazz to frenzied swing beats.

Ever since Metallica cancelled their concert hours before it was to open in October 2011, Delhi has carried a live music albatross around its neck. However, in the last few years, the independent music scene has exploded with musicians dabbling in genres previously unheard of in the country: Ska, neo jazz, rhythm and blues, heavy metal, punk rock, dream pop, garage, glitch pop, nu disco, to name just a few.

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Photographs: Sanjay K Sharma

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Sax and the city: Why Delhi rocks!

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A range of pubs, bars, clubs and lounges offering live music have mushroomed in Delhi, close on the heels of this indie revolution and met with varying degrees of success.

With newer venues such as Cocktails and Dreams-Speakeasy, Striker's and Hard Rock Cafe opening in Gurgaon, and old bastions such as Blue Frog (Mehrauli) and The Living Room (Hauz Khas Village) making a comeback, the capital music scene is looking up at last.

Turquoise Cottage continues to be the mecca of live rock and electronic music in the city, consistently hosting promising indie acts as well as the big stars, jamming sessions, tribute nights and so on.

Only the venue has shifted from Vasant Vihar to DLF Place Mall in Saket, with a bigger stage and better acoustics.

The last few years have seen a spike in original music, with many local producers recording out of their bedrooms, leading to a diverse bubbling cauldron of genres.

Artists such as Dualist Inquiry, FuzzCulture, Nucleya, Peter Cat Recording Co and Tankbund, among numerous others, are spearheading a new indie revolution.

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Sax and the city: Why Delhi rocks!

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They may take influences from EDM to gyspy soul to electro-rock and trip-hop, but they also play live complete with a full-fledged band: Vocalist, guitarist, drummer, keyboardist and percussionist.

The electronic live scene in Delhi differs significantly from the jazz one; here most of the audience is on their feet, a drink in one hand, headbanging away to glory, moving and grooving to the beat, while the spotlight is on the musicians and DJs spinning their magic on their instruments of choice -- synthesisers, amplifiers, and mixing consoles et al.

Jazz lovers in the city can head to PCO, another speakeasy-styled neighbourhood bar in Vasant Vihar, that plays light jazz of the Ella Fitzgerald-Etta James variety, while The Potbelly Rooftop Cafe in Shahpur Jat, which specialises in Bihari cuisine, has had bi-monthly jazz nights in the last couple of months, featuring a quality mix of local as well as visiting jazz artists, and hosted by seasoned guitarist Adil Manuel, one half of Delhi's foremost jazz duo Adil and Vasundhara.

Manuel talks about the bubble of live music that blew up post 2010 with Hipster Central Hauz Khas Village coming on to the scene, "It was like our very own SoHo; every cafe, restaurant there was playing live music and it was great.

But then most places lost their focus and tried doing seven different things every week."

However, there are still a couple of venues in Hauz Khas Village that host quality live gigs from time to time, among which Raasta has definitely cemented itself as the 'it' place to be.

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Photographs: Courtesy: The Potbelly Roftop Cafe

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A reggae bar with a beautiful outdoor terrace which hosts indie EDM and electro-rock artists often, the place has high energy on weekends, with the inner lounge transforming itself into a dance floor around the console.

Roost Bistro and Thirty Nine, new kids on the block, also host jazz nights with young trios such as Drift and Takar Nabam Trio.

The biggest news for music lovers this week has been the imminent return of Blue Frog, back in the same location, with a fresh lick of paint and some other changes.

Having first opened in 2011, its reputation rests on bringing live music with the best of international and Indian artists to a large audience.

Brilliant acoustics set in a futuristic design and an impressive weekly line-up of gigs and great food make for a high-octane live experience, with many artists declaring it their favourite place to play in the city.

The Living Room in Hauz Khas Village, which years ago was credited as the launch-pad for indie artists, is also up and running with an updated gig calendar.

The contemporary music scene in Delhi is deliciously complex and layered; while Bangalore may be the rock capital and Mumbai busy helming alternative, Delhi is revelling in a unique sonic experience.

Sahej Bakshi of Dualist Inquiry fame, who opened for French powerhouse DJ David Guetta during his India tour, says he's just spent a "surprisingly awesome month in the capital, with a couple of killer WildCity gigs, plus there was the amazing jazz fest at Nehru Park, everybody sitting together listening to good music in beautiful weather."


Photographs: Courtesy: The Potbelly Roftop Cafe

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