A rooftop, a drawing room and a retail store may seem like unlikely venues for concerts. However, over the last two years, these places have started transforming into stages for ‘secret concerts’ across the city. Run by Sofar Sounds, a movement that first started in London in 2009, is slowly picking up pace in Mumbai. Want to be a part of the audience in these concerts? There is a catch. The organisers do not disclose the location of events. Those interested must apply to be added to the guest list. To add to the mystery, shortlisted viewers must wait till the day before the concert for the exact location as well as the name of the performer.
“We try and bring together a diverse group of people to the concerts. We shortlist people who are regulars, people who have applied for concerts before but were not selected, and people of different age groups,” said Arul Kacker, the head of Sofar Mumbai. About 40-50 people attend each concert. Since the venues are smaller places, the concerts create an intimate environment for viewers early in the evening. Kacker said,
“The concerts are a great way to reach out to local Bombay talent. You have these up-and-coming artistes who thrive on the opportunity, while on the other hand, we also get some big artistes who wish to try out some of their new creation before a test audience. Since the identity of the artiste remains unknown regardless of who the performer is, many big artistes have played at Sofars.”
The concerts begin around 7.30 pm and feature three acts. There is no opening or headlining act, rather the three acts are balanced between different genres to offer a variety of music to the audience. “In Mumbai, there is a team of five people from different professions and tastes in music who come together and vote on which artiste to book for each concert. Having five people allows them to branch out to these different genres because sometimes one is not familiar with a certain genre or artiste,” Kacker added.
The concerts are completely free, and those attending are encouraged to bring their own choice of beverage. Funding for equipment comes either through sponsors or crowdfunding. Sofar is currently running in 413 cities worldwide and can also be heard in Delhi, Ahmedabad, Kochi, Dimapur, Kolkata, Goa, Bangalore, Chennai and Pune.