Bangalore Nightlife: On The Brink Of Transformation…
Reflecting a diverse and expanding cultural milieu, Bangalore’s identity is a manifestation of centuries of artistic progression. In the quest of interpreting every nuance of emotion and expression into an art form, it has gradually strengthened the core of its artistic identity over the years. After all, in a city where the pleasant drone of a tanpura can co-exist in harmony with hammering riffs, distorted bass lines and acid synths; it is no wonder that music has always been interwoven with its soul.
Over the past few decades, Bangalore has rightfully earned the recognition of being one of the most musically spirited cities in the country. At one point, there were heavy metal concerts, electronic/experimental acts and even kacheris running from dusk to dawn, thereby, luring every audiophile into a diverse musical den of sorts. However, times have changed and so has our identity. With archaic laws and practices coming into force, the city’s burgeoning musical character despite going through an evolution of sorts is yet again on the brink of a major transformation.
Mother Perera performing at Pebble
Popularly known as the ‘Cinderella Law’, the 11.30 pm deadline once imposed on the city’s nightlife invokes a question of morality, freedom and most importantly common sense. If the latest developments are to be believed then pubs and eateries will soon be allowed to function until 1am on Friday and Saturday within a fortnight or so. Of course, this will be done on an experimental basis for three months post which the government will decide whether the curfew will be relaxed permanently or not. Interestingly, this comes at a time when Lok Sabha elections are just a few months away.
If history is any indication then rather than providing a solution to problems, the authorities have always been more than willing to shut the city early and impose baseless laws unto citizens. Neither did the ‘outdated law’ answer any questions fundamentally with respect to harbouring a safer environment for the society nor did it make any effort towards advocating a culture that is responsible and aware. Despite having some of the most progressive ideologies, today, we often find ourselves staring at the shallow farceless face of hypocrisy.
Such laws have not only affected local commercial outlets and businesses but have also been a big blow to those trying to promote music and provide a platform to artistes who have dedicated their entire lives to the form. According to Sunil Shetty, one of the founders of BFlat , the Excise Department and the Police have been enforcing rules that work against each other. Moreover, the department has informed license holders that they have to meet specific Excise collection targets and outlets that do not sell enough liquor are in danger of their licenses being cancelled.
“Earlier, the Excise Dept. said that liquor can and should be served till 11.30pm so that targets can be met. If liquor is served till 11.30 pm there is no way that the establishment can be shut before midnight, which the police object to. We are caught in the middle of this conflict,” explained Shetty.
‘Overworked’: Policemen believe that extending the closing time for places that serve alcohol would affect regular patrolling at night. File photo: K. Murali Kumar
However, this has never dampened the spirits of those who genuinely wish to continue exploring different media of art. Promoting good music and upcoming talent has always been of prime importance and establishments have more or less adopted a strategy that doesn’t require them to compromise on the entire process of programming music.
Though commercially successful events yield more, several clubs/lounges have decided to dedicate their spaces to be a platform for independent or alternative music. “Those who come to our gigs regularly know that they are coming to listen to original music; and sometimes unfamiliar genres. We do our best to elaborate a little about what to expect via our social media, press notes and emails. This gives the public some insight into what will be presented that evening,” said Sunil who further accentuated on the importance of building a scene and nurturing it to the fullest.
Gin Bean playing at The Festival Of Free Love which was started as a part of the Social Tuesday’s initiative by The Humming Tree. Photo by The Humming Tree
Besides, for people who wanted to stay out beyond 11.30pm, the infamous ‘Cinderella law’ has made no difference whatsoever. “We don’t think that such rules and regulations are a hindrance when it comes to promoting artists. Music is a very personal journey. There used to be a time when it wasn’t easy to convince an individual to listen to a particular sound that he/she is not familiar with. People like what they like. But now, it isn’t a task to persuade a person to give experimental music a shot,” said Musharaff (bass guitarist and backing vocals) from the Bangalore-based alternate/experimental band Machli.
Machli. Photo by Najeeb Khalid
In fact many organisers and artists believe that the laws have not really affected those who are willing to put up a fight in order to promote sounds that deserve recognition and are worth sharing. Therefore, they have not really been a massive deterrent. Undoubtedly, it would be great to go longer for both the establishment as well as the customer without rushing through the night.
“Of course, it would be great on certain nights, when the set has been really built up, to be able to just push that vibe to its fullest. So, yes, a longer session would be much preferred but it’s not the biggest factor in pushing ‘good music’ right now,” said Nikhil Baruah from The Humming Tree who further added that no amount of restrictions can stop those who are willing to go to great lengths to discover and understand different kinds of sounds.
Indian-American rapper Alo Wala and Danish electronic dance music duo Copia Doble Systema performing at Humming Tree. Photo by The Humming Tree
No longer do people have to choose between great ambiance and an intelligently programmed musical night. With more and more artists gearing up to step out of their comfort zones; it comes as no surprise that independent venues wanting to showcase their music have sprung up all over the city.
According to Rahul Giri and Tanvi Rao from Sulk Station, the stringent laws have never proved to be an obstacle with respect to exploring new sounds. Of course, things were different a few years ago. There was a ban on dancing as well as live music. As a result, most of the bands were desperately trying to get gigs in neighbouring cities like Chennai. Although Bangalore has perhaps the most exciting programming across India; they believe that the real challenge lies in making good music and translating that into a noteworthy live performance.
Well, a lot has changed in the past two years. The distinction between those who wish to rake in moolah and those sincere about nurturing a musical journey is no more hidden. And, some of the credit definitely goes to venues and the minds behind conceptualising places that allow diverse musicality to thrive. “The Humming Tree, BFlat and CounterCulture have all played their part in not only giving space to alternative/experimental acts but also assisting in production. Moreover, a lot of mid-week events are witnessing decent turn outs which works really well for artistes. The fact that people show up for these events in huge numbers says a lot,” said the duo.
Bangalore-based folk rock band Swarathma performing at CounterCulture. Photo by Akash Mahajan
With music ingrained in its identity, Bangalore is gradually heading towards an era where individuals will no longer allow superficiality or narrow mindedness to drive a wedge between creative freedom and artistic expression; even if that requires us to stand up and fight for what is truly worth cherishing.
written by Akshatha Shetty