Imagine playing music in the back of a cab.
Imagine a cramped space, bumpy roads, out of sync and tone deaf horns, and honk friendly people peppered with some of the juiciest expletives you might hear. It seems like Sisyphus would have a better chance of rolling his stone uphill.
But there are artistes who are doing this, and like a boss! Bombay Cab Sessions is a YouTube series, conceived and brought to life by Rishi Kartika, who is a media professional with a love for the indie and the underground music scene. As the name suggests, it involves musicians playing inside a taxi travelling through the lanes and by-lanes of Maximum City, providing them with a much needed, quirky platform, to showcase their talent. So how does Rishi manage to make this roller-coaster musical ride work?
“That’s the beauty of the initiative. You see, in a controlled environment like a studio or a venue, an artiste can play with lesser constraints. The job gets much easier as he/she is stationery, doesn’t have sudden bumps to account for, and he or she has to be heard over loud horns. Bombay Cab Sessions pushes musicians to their limits and challenges them to come up with stellar performances in a tough environment, all in a single take!”
But why a cab we ask, and Rishi’s prompt response tells us that he’s been expecting this from the word go.
“In Bombay, it takes us 3 to 4 hours to get from point A to point B by an auto or a taxi. Travelling is a nightmare, and you have basically nothing to do apart from fiddling with your phone or making some calls or maybe listening to music. So, it’s pretty much a waste of time. So, from there the idea came into being. Why not do something inside a cab?”
He goes on to elaborate further on the need for an initiative like Bombay Cab Sessions. Being a scene kid helps, when you know the difficulties your own band had faced just to get that first show or break, and then the many that are needed to prop your baby up firmly.
“A young budding musician doesn’t quite get the exposure he/she desires or might deserve. That’s where we come into the picture. We give them a platform to showcase their own music to get a wider audience and grow bigger with time.”
Tejas Menon comes up in the conversation while discussing the underground music scene of Mumbai. Tejas is a very talented singer/songwriter who is coming out on his own right about now -playing gigs in Mumbai, and he could definitely do with more exposure.
“You see, at Bombay Cab Sessions, we just don’t shoot a video of a musician playing his own tunes and singing his own composition. We ensure that we showcase the back-story of an artiste along with his talent. For example in case of Tejas, we took a few minutes to build up on how and why he had taken up music in the first place, what inspires him to pen down his songs, and how he would like to take his music further. It’s a very organic process.”
“That is why we are rigorous about the selection. In the first season we received around 400 entries, and we selected 8 out of those. We asked them to send in existing videos, and then we set up meetings where they could audition. The ones who came out the best, made the cut.”
The finances for this ambitious project depend on a crowd-funding campaign run by Rajat Das, who heads the Delhi based – The Hot Start – concentrating mainly on crowd-funding campaigns in the times of the bear making merry and the bull snoring.
“We had a target of Rs.1,50,000 out of this we have already raised over Rs. 1,00,000 which is not too bad.”
Rishi adds, “We have been very fortunate that we have the support of Ola Cabs who agreed to be on board from the very beginning. All of this has contributed to producing the series in a very professional manner and giving the artiste the best possible platform we can. A musician can easily use this clip for his betterment and promotion, and he doesn’t have to spend thousands of rupees that come along in the process of recording a demo, such as hiring a studio, paying technicians, paying for the mixing and mastering of the demo and other costs.”
I went on to mention some of my favourite YouTube channels – Okay Potato, Balcony TV, The Soundcheck Project – catering specifically to a demographic that wants to venture out of the conventional mainstream music that is spewed on every medium, and how Bombay Cab Sessions is different from those. Rishi chuckles as he answers, “They don’t have musicians playing while being driven around. But jokes apart, playing live in a cab is the USP of the initiative. Also, I would absolutely stress on the fact that the AV is recorded in a single shot. We don’t mix or master or in any way tamper with the sound. It’s all in a single take.”
When asked about the future, Rishi sounds cautiously optimistic as he signs off, “We would love to do Cab Sessions across the country. Especially in cities like Kolkata, where there are so many talented artistes but they don’t really get a proper platform to showcase their talents. And then, hopefully we can take it further to smaller cities in the next decade or so, if it takes off. But for now, we are solely concentrating on Bombay and making the best of what we have.”
I turn on the first episode of Bombay Cab Sessions featuring the talented Tejas Menon in a montage of shots describing his journey. The strains of his soulful song Ruby fill up my room as Tejas wistfully sings about his first love. Or second. It doesn’t matter. I could see where Rishi’s optimism came from. This could work.