City and Space: Music Edition | In Conversation with Abhilash Choudhury
The Multilogue Collective in collaboration with House Concert India is working on a research narrative based around 'City and Space'. For the initial story, we wanted to cover the music scene in different cities and ask a few questions to musicians, organizers, and supporters of original music in India.
We were glad to have a conversation with Abhilash Choudhury , from Guwahati who is a singer, songwriter and music producer. He is also the founder of The Not So Popular, an initiative to provide unique experiences through art and music to fellow art lovers and instill art appreciation. He did his graduation in Electronics Engineering and MBA in Marketing, leading him to two years of corporate life and then quitting everything to pursue music as a full time career.
As an artist/musician/individual, what are your views on the ever-changing scenario for live gigs/concerts within the city and how performance spaces in your city have evolved for different kinds of music?
"I am currently based in Guwahati. I moved back to Guwahati in September 2017 exactly after 8 years of leaving this city. Guwahati has produced many good bands in the last decade but most of them have not been able to stay active continuously. I think a lot of factors are responsible for this scenario. Lack of opportunities, respect for musicians, stereotyping, financial insecurities, and most importantly, lack of proper artist managers." "I feel Lucid Recess is the only band who is doing something inspirational for the upcoming generation. There are a lot of live music venues in the city. But the amount of original music that's being played in these places is a questionable matter. Most of the times the bands have to play popular songs to please the crowd and somehow, the respect and regard for original music have not been there. Reason - People are there for the booze and not the music. The venues should not be blamed completely for this as they have to provide what their customers want."
"However, things have started changing with intimate and crowdfunded gigs happening in the city. I feel we are at the juncture of a new beginning."
Place-making capitalizes on a local community's assets, inspiration, and potential, with the intention of creating public spaces that promote people's health, happiness, and well being.
What are your views/suggestions on the idea of music (any genre/any kind of artist - gigs/festival etc) as a place-making tool, to activate the public life and create a sense of community within a city?
"It's the best thing to do to promote independent music. We have recently concluded the first edition of The Not So Popular Sessions. The turn out was great. What we have always realised is that - there are people who want meaningful and unadulterated music in their lives. You just have to find the right people for the right music." "Restaurants and pubs will always have their share of constraints as they have to look at things from their money making point of view. We can't always keep blaming money-making to find more avenues to promote music that appeals to us. Placemaking can help us build a healthy, thoughtful and compassionate society."
"The least you can do is to stay consistent with your efforts and hope for the best to happen. Things as long as they are, artist-oriented and art-oriented will be ideal for placemaking."
Cities start getting a tag of the kind of 'music scene' it has established over the years or is now adapting to. How would define the music identity of your city? (You may talk about specific genres or in general.)
"If you look at popular music playing on radio and TV, most of it doesn't make any sense to me, I may be wrong. I feel, there is no originality. Everyone keeps copying songs and styles. Most of it is like the ready-made shirt that we wear; all elements put into some pre-programmed formulas. Let's keep that fraction out of our discussion."
"Guwahati has always been very inclined to hard rock and heavy metal. There are bands playing alt rock, blues and folk. The city has a good rap scene too. It has got electronic producers and DJ's. It has got Indian classical and folk singers. There is a mixed music scene which makes it a good place for all kinds of musicians to thrive. I have a feeling that Guwahati will produce a lot of singer/songwriters and experimental projects in the coming years."
Any organisations you would like to mention which are creating this spark of the community through alternative experiences?
"In India - As far as I know, Muse Room, Worker Bee, Ivng, Pagal Haina, House Concert India, Sofar, LR Sessions, Maed In India, Kommune, The Blue Room, The Not So Popular (self promotion) are delivering it differently. I am sure there are many more"
We would like to thank Abhilash for being a part of this narrative and for being a wonderful individual in the music fraternity while he represents his city, Guwahati. You can connect with him here: youtube.com/abhilashchoudhury