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Keeping it secret

Event organisers today are moving towards curating exclusive sessions in art, music, travel, etc, with a limited number of participantsfor a more engrossing experience, discovers NT BUZZ

CHRISTINE MACHADO | NT BUZZ

It was back in the 90’s that Ranjit Pais, a noted hairstylist, decided it was time to bring about a change in the live music scene. Although there was great music happening, Pais began finding that he could not enjoy it as it should be, owing to factors like people at the venue talking loudly.

This buoyed him to start organising small intimate music sessions under the banner Eternal Sound Project- Home bound, for a select group of pre-invited guests, in Mumbai. These were held at offbeat locations around Mumbai, and were entirely crowdfunded.

When he moved to Goa, a few years ago, Pais decided to continue with these secret gigs in the state and has since done events at places like Living Room in Vagator and House no 248, Sangolda.

“My intention is to have a stronger connect between music lovers and the audience,” says Pais. “My focus is on anyone who loves music. I don’t canvas or promote these concerts on a big scale. I tell people I personally know who would be moved by my idea,” he says. In this way, his data base of music enthusiasts has grown. Prior to an event, he sends out invites to these people only along with a general idea of where the venue will be. Those interested have to then book their spots. Only once confirmed are they given further details as to where the gig will be held.

“I prefer to do these shows in people’s houses versus commercial venues,” says Pais. The challenge however is to get enough of an audience. “But it’s getting easier as time goes by,” says Pais. “As long as I curate from my heart versus my head, I find it strikes a chord.”

For your ears only

Conceptualised on a similar note, Sofar (Songs from a Room) Sounds is an initiative which has its roots in London where it was first formed in 2009. Today, it has its presence in over 398 cities around the world including in Goa. In fact Sofar Sounds Goa was started in October 2017 by Nupura Hautamaki and shows are usually held once a month, in private spaces like home gardens or patios, or in music spaces meant for small gatherings. The guest list for these shows is curated beforehand. Not everyone who registers gets in as there is a limit to the number of guests. “One of the biggest positives of this initiative is that people actually get to enjoy music the way it is meant to be enjoyed. If you go to a lot of bars and restaurants today, you can barely hear the band because people are talking, taking pictures, drinks are being made at the bar, etc. But at these shows people can actually get to hear the music,” says Hauntamaki.

Similarly, the musician too is not distracted unnecessarily as the audience is wholly focused on you, says Hauntamaki. Also important is the fact that the listeners can connect with the musicians and also get a chance to interact with them post the gig.

And while Sofar Sounds may have started with music, they have diversified to include different performing arts. “Globally it has become a place where any performing artist can perform as long as it is original content. It can be dance, spoken word, stand up comedy, etc,” says Hauntamaki.

And she does acknowledge that when they began it was a little tough to get enough people. “Now, more people know us and so the number of guests has organically grown,” says Hauntamaki. And while initially the venue of the show was kept completely secret until the registration was final, they have now begun putting out the general location of the place. “This way at least they will know the distance that they will have to be travelling,” she says.

Finding the right venues is still a challenge. And while they do get requests from commercial establishments to hold their shows there, they only do so provided that certain Sofar guidelines are adhered to.

 “For instance, people cannot be walking around during the session. Also, we don’t want expensive food items to be sold. The idea is that the event is affordable for all which is why there are no tickets and it is all through voluntary contributions,” says Hauntamaki.

And Hauntamaki believes that having these sessions at a home are always preferred. But getting such homes is hard to come by. “While in Bengaluru and Mumbai, a lot of shows happen in homes, in Goa, there are privacy issues. We would like it if more homes approached us,” she says, adding that they will be organising their next gig this month at a secret location in Saligao.

“I would like to add that it would be nice if the audience comes on time and refrains from taking pictures. This way the thought of what makes Sofar great stays that way,” she says.

And it’s not just music gigs that have become exclusive. Soul Travelling run by Varun Hede has begun organising secret trails around Goa, like the secret food trail and the tavern trail. People pre-register for the trail and meet at a decided location. They are then taken on a walk where they learn of some untold stories of the area and discover hidden nooks.

The fact that it is secret makes it more interesting, he says, but at the same time, the stakes are higher. “People are really excited about exploring something secret and you need to make sure that the excitement stays when they visit these places. The quality has to be very high,” he says.

There are challenges though, as people love taking pictures and posting these on social media. “However, we make sure that they understand the importance of keeping the secrets during such a trail. We even make them guess the next location at times,” says Hede. Getting venues on board for the food and tavern trail is also a process. “It takes awhile but it’s worth it. If you need good venues you need to put in the time,” he says.

If you’re a lover of poetry, you can now be a part of a secret poetry session. Started in March 2018 by Tamana Arora, the idea of this initiative is to get like-minded poetry lovers together, to share their own works or any piece that they discovered and have a meaningful discussion about this. “Each of these sessions has a theme to it. For instance, the first session we had coincided with International Forest Day, and so we themed the event around this. We also had one along the Panaji promenade and since Panaji completed 175 years as the state capital last year, the poetry was themed around this,” says Arora, who mostly invites people via word of mouth and also puts it up on the social media page.

“While at first only people I knew came for it, we have since then had strangers who just saw the announcement on social media showing up. We have had numbers ranging from two to 16 people and it’s been equally fun each time,” says Arora.

“People think they are not poetry people. But I think everyone can be a poet,” she adds.

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