There’s a musical revolution taking place in your backyard, but only a chosen few know about it. Over the last few months, a select group of guests have been quietly invited to private residences and spaces around the country. There they switch off their mobile phones and settle in to wait for what’s coming next: three up-and-coming musical acts that take to the ‘stage’ in a stranger’s living room to play an intimate gig, completely free of charge.
This is Sofar Sounds, otherwise known as Sounds From A Room. It’s a programme whose members have to sign up in order to be invited to a private concert. Started in London in 2009 by Rafe Offer, Rocky Start and Dave Alexander, Sofar Sounds now exists in 280 cities around the world.
Having recently begun operations in India, Sofar operates in eight Indian cities – Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi NCR, Goa, Mumbai, Kolkata and Pune. The entire model is volunteer-based, so everyone involved is doing this purely for the love of music.
#QueMag spoke to Sofar Bombay City Leader, Arul Kacker, to find out more about what’s on offer.
What You Can Expect
Kacker explains that once you’ve signed up, you’ll be placed on a guest list and your name will be in consideration for the next concert. Right now, there is one gig scheduled for every month, in each of the eight cities and there are plans to increase the frequency of the gigs to two per month. If you’re invited for the upcoming gig, you’ll be informed of the location 36 hours in advance.
In case you’re wondering about the line-up, don’t. It’s pointless to try and find names of performers because Sofar announces the line-up only at the event itself. This stems from their belief that every artiste deserves equal respect – there is no opening act or headliner at Sofar concerts. Each event consists of three musical acts which have been carefully curated to give the audience an experience of different genres.
“We’re in the business of experiences. What we want is to show people the wealth of music out there – whether it is local artistes, artistes from other cities, or even the occasional international artist,” says Kacker, “what we want is to make an impact on how the audience views the music scene that’s available to them.”
There’s two ways to get involved – you could either be a host or a guest.
As a host, you’ll be expected to offer your home as a gig venue. Apart from the obvious benefit of gaining bragging rights for having hosted a secret concert and some of the country’s best rising musical talents in your living room, there’s more. Once you’ve played host, for instance, you can skip the guest list for any Sofar gig around the world and get in without any hassle whatsoever.
On the other hand, as a guest you simply turn up and prepare yourself for an evening of fantastic music in the company of like-minded strangers.
Sofar, So Special
Sofar is completely by the people and for the people. Their crew is comprised solely of volunteers who do this for the love of music. The artistes perform for free because they love what they do and want to share that with more people.
This means that every performance is straight from the heart. “Every Sofar gig is unique. We’re extremely careful about curating these events because we want every event to be varied and wildly unexpected,” says Kacker.
“We want our guests to experience something new and different each time so that they check out all the great local talent that’s out there.”
In between each of the three performances, guests have a little while to socialise and get to know one other. And since you can only take a +1 on an RSVP, it’s unlikely that you’d know more than one or two people at the event. “I wouldn’t call it networking, it’s more like socialising. All the people at the event have at least one thing in common with you – a love for music,” explains Kacker, and adds, “in fact, many hosts choose to have guests stay back after the event so that they can get to know each other better.”
“Be respectful, be attentive, be patient,” says Kacker as he sums up what’s expected of a guest at a Sofar event.
First, you’ll be expected to be at the venue on time because the doors will shut when the music begins. Also, you can’t leave during a performance. And forget about your phone because you’ll be asked to switch it off so that you can fully immerse yourself in the experience. And if you love what you’ve heard, you can make a contribution of any amount to help the crew cover the cost of the event.
We can’t think of a better way to explore great local music and meet interesting new people. With plans on to expand to two gigs per month in 2017, Sofar Sounds is heading in an exciting new direction. And we just want to go along for the ride.
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