Music on the Move
Chennai: A few minutes before its departure last Thursday, the bus on route 29C was as nondescript as it usually is on most sunny afternoons at its bay in Chennai’s Perambur depot. Then, a motley band of singers and musicians hopped in and turned it into a stage on wheels to drive home the point that music can be a social leveller – if it is allowed to go places.
Musicians across genres – from classical to independent pop – took turns to perform as the bus wound its way towards Besant Nagar. Students heading home were surprised to hear the initial strains of Prabho Ganapathey, accompanied by the mrithangam tactfully nestled by the musician on his lap as the bus swerved and sped along. Confused commuters had to be assured by the conductor that they were on the right bus. As one performance wound up, another set of singers would climb in to take their turn.
Savitha Shriram, a Carnatic musician, said the idea to sing in a bus was a powerful medium to take music to the public. “This is like an awakening for musicians too... to perform to different audiences,” she said.
After a devotional start, the concert took a revolu- tionary turn near Nungambakkam as Suren Vikash and Sofia Ashraf gave a shrilly rendition of a song that hits out at a system ignoring environmental degradation. Ashraf, who gained popularity with her protest song for those affected by mercury pollution from a factory in Kodaikanal, was excited about the power such a moving platform.
“Usually, I perform at protest events, where the visitors know what they are there for. Here, everyone is surprised. I would call it guerrilla messaging – intruding on a public space to tell a story,” she said.
By the end of its one-hour journey, six short performances that included rap, harikatha, abhangs and fusion had been delivered.