Mu­sic on the Move

The Economic Times - - Saturday Feature -

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.

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