City and Space: Music Edition | In Conversation with Vasundhara Vee
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 Vasundhara Vee, who is a soul singer raised in Delhi but living now in Bombay. The independent music movement in Delhi has been closest to her heart and she has been a part of it for the last 12 years.
She spends most of her time in two cities, Delhi and Mumbai and believes that they are almost opposites of each other in certain ways. Being a singer, she has always been focused on how culture is viewed and consumed. This impacts how artists move through these cities and for how long live music remains viable. You can know more about her work on her website www.vasundharavee.com
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?
"Growing up in Delhi, I witnessed and heard stories of a healthy underground culture. When I was little, Rock was everything. We had phenomenal bands and there was a community of people who took pride in turning up at every rock event. For 7 years, I was also part of an Artistes Unlimited (AU), a contemporary choir of over 150 members. In its heydays, AU became a hub for young adults to work with professional musicians and put up yearly concerts at Kamani Auditorium. A lot of the bands we know - Advaita, Them Clones, Yellow Bucket, Doppler Effect, Tankbund, Mosko, Faridkot, etc. were all members of AU. We had a strong community at that time."
"By the time I got into music professionally, jazz began to take root again as prime entertainment in clubs, concerts, festivals, and corporate events. This, unfortunately, seemed to replace the rock bands. Jazz and Fusion became the fad. Now, in fact, is the time for Hip Hop and Regional hip hop to rise here.
In major cities around the world, there are separate networks of venues for Rock, Hip Hop, Jazz, you name it. What I hope for is that healthy parallel networks be formed for all sonic aesthetics."
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?
"Music is a powerful placemaking tool. But I feel that it can be effective when it rises above musical fads. Communities overlap. And well-being is sought in different ways through different sonic landscapes. So it's important to develop each subculture within a city. Expose each musical role to the fullest. Give followers a sense of history so that they can map themselves on it. This is how one feels that one belongs. Belonging is the greatest healing tool for current times. It's a biological need and a psychological imperative."
Cities start getting a tag of the kind of 'music scene' it has established over the years or is now adapting to. How would you define the music identity of your city? (You may talk about specific genres or in general.)
"In Delhi, the music scene is active and thriving, but less and less financially viable. What I know for sure now is that listeners are enthusiastic and open, much more so than 10 years ago. Delhi's average musicality is much higher than Bombay's. But Delhi's earlier healthy system of payment slabs has broken down and it has led to a certain pay crisis. This needs to be corrected somehow."
"Mumbai is the heart of the industry. It pays exponentially better but the best players don't play a lot (or at all) in clubs. Music is a proper job here. It's the bolly gigs, the studio jobs and the long TV contacts that capable musicians stay locked in. This leaves the club spaces open for newbies or for the one-off gig by established people. Obviously then, there was an imbalance and now the clubs here are either shutting down or stopping programming. How long can you circulate a hungry audience this way? Some venues keep a heroic effort on and I have the utmost respect for them."
"In neither city have we developed a system of healthy rungs for an artist to ascend through in the live space. I am beginning to be of the opinion that we need to create fresh ideas now."
Any organisations you would like to mention which are creating this spark of the community through alternative experiences?
"Bandra Base has created a large community for Jazz. The Little Door is a great place for live music too. Abhinav Khokhar curates jams at Cafe Zoe. I am not sure if that's still on. The Pianoman Jazz Club has been a strong support system to me personally. Gatecrash is tirelessly working to get us access to artists from abroad and also to curate high quality festivals."
"The greatest community building effort these days is by musicians themselves who are all actively teaching and mentoring younger players. By association, the young players' friends get familiar with the music community and feel connected to it."
We would like to thank Vasundhara for being a part of this narrative and for being a wonderful individual in the music fraternity while she represents her city, Delhi and Mumbai.
You can connect with her at:
Website : www.vasundharavee.com Instagram & Facebook - Vasundhara Vee