One of your favourite artistes is playing this weekend. The location: AntiSocial. You’re getting a little tired of the same old scene, but there aren’t many other options. So you arrive, shell out a couple of hundred bucks, and take a look around. The audience comprises people your age, give or take a few years, and they kind of all look the same too. You haven’t brought a friend along, so you’re feeling slightly uncomfortable. But the music will make up for it, you think. The band begins to play. You’re standing in the middle of the crowd, listening intently, but soon people’s attention starts drifting and you find yourself getting distracted. The girl next to you is loudly telling her friend about her weekend and the guy in front of you is on Facebook. The artiste himself is looking a little bored, probably tired of talking to people’s backs.
Enter Sofar Sounds, a global music community, where artistes perform in intimate spaces for a small group of people. Sofar Sounds is a community of music lovers that has so far hosted musicians such as Warren Mendonsa, Sid Vashi, Nikhil D’dsouza, and Karan Joseph in the last few months in Mumbai. The network of artistes and audiences, in India, has already expanded to Pune and Hyderabad. Although Mumbai curates just one show a month, other cities such as London, where Sofar was founded, and New York among others, stage more than 70. But that doesn’t mean Mumbai lacks interested people. For Sofar’s upcoming event on February 26, more than 500 people are on the waiting list and only 60 will be able to come, according to Arul Kacker, leader of Sofar in Mumbai.
Sofar prides itself on providing an experience that, in the past, a typical venue could not provide to the artists and audiences. It’s completely free, though voluntary donations are accepted. The venue — usually a living room or a co-working space, because they provide a more intimate experience — keeps changing, making each event a novelty. There’s a new crowd each time, which encourages attendees to mix with people from unfamiliar age groups and backgrounds. And finally, the music is no longer relegated to background noise. It takes center stage. At each event, three artists from different genres perform.
Kacker says that each event is carefully curated. “Every month we scope out potential venues,” he says. “After we decide on a place, we figure out what kind of vibe it has. Based on that we choose a band,” he adds. Some types of genres are excluded altogether. A living room is not the best space for a heavy metal band, no matter how good it might be. On the other hand, it is perfectly suited for a night of classical or jazz music, which, unfortunately, is heard more in the elevators.
There’s an element of secrecy too with Sofar. In order to attend an event, one must sign up for it on Sofar’s website. The event, however, does not list out the artists and the exact venue. Attendees, who are chosen out of the waiting list, get those details on the same day only. “It’s like going to an art gallery without knowing what’s being exhibited inside. It takes a certain kind of person — someone who is looking for and enjoys new experiences — to do that,” says Kacker.