Nascent artists have a hard time being taken seriously as their name and what they do is confined to not-so-public spaces. But Bangalore is beginning to understand the need to give creativity a space to exhale. Historically speaking, the city has always had a big heart for art and music and The Cubbon Park Bandstand has played an important part in giving performers a platform to express themselves.
Today many, performance venues come in the garb of cafes, bookstores, bars, restaurants, etc. Here artists not only grow as performers as they interact with diverse people but also create a cultural vibe within a commercial space.
And soon what starts out as a niche space becomes a popular cultural hub as the spectrum of performances it hosts gets more diverse, expansive and popular. “While having to organize performances for a certain type of audience is quite satisfying , our real objective is to come out of the confines of ‘niche’. There are certainly difficulties in reaching out to a wider audience, but we don't stop at the limitation,” explained Ananthi Balakrishnan, at Atta Galatta, the space for everything, be it bread baking, readings or engaging workshops.
And sometimes you needn't worry about the number of people that attend these performances, as the audience's understanding and involvement creates a greater impact than the number of heads or footfalls.
“I read and perform my poetry. An audience for a poetry reading generally includes poets and those who appreciate rhythm and rhyme. The feeling invariably is of elation, especially when you convert those few in the audience who are not poetically inclined,” expressed Amrutha Dongray, poet and host of Atta Galatta’s, ‘Let Poetry Be.’
Such attempts bring together like minded people, which opens up the possibility for a new culture as well as subcultures to emerge. Drawing in ample number of customers who dine or shop with an experience they wouldn’t recieve in regular stores where elevator music is played in the background, is a growing trend.
These spaces give an opportunity for the artist to be discovered and the customer to discover. “Performances are core to the Urban Solace Brand Experience as Urban Solace (at Ulsoor) is Bangalore's first Cultural Café; opening its doors to all forms of creative self expression. From poetry to comedy, music, art, photography, book readings and reviews, book launches, spirituality and more,” said Perry Menzies, owner and brand manager of Urban Solace.
As much as places like Urban Solace aspire to promote art, it helps that their business grows along too . “We were convinced that in order to survive as an independent entity, we had to be more than just a place with books on a shelf. We decided to bet on the fact that people that love books also would be interested in a variety of literary and artistic performances and having these performances would essentially bring more people to the store,” said Subodh, co-owner of Atta Galatta.
Artists are also not barricaded and placed at a safe distance from a throng of people at such venues. Instead they engage the audience at close range . “I like the fact that in spaces like this, the people get to come close to the stage and interact with us while we perform. We don’t feel distanced from them.” said, Robin, lead singer and guitarist of Thirty Thousand Passages.
What gets even better is that these places are open to a very eclectic mix of performances. Like book readings and discussions, poetry, film screenings, art and photography exhibitions, workshops etc. The people that perform could range from highly established artistes to upcoming artistes and even amateur performers.
“We can’t dismiss these smaller venues or these artists,” says Vikram a story teller, and an associate of an arts collective. He emphasised that, “It is extremely important to have these venues and artists . As we come from a country where art is highly valued and associated with our daily lives. With the changing dynamics of the city space, performance spaces have changed too.”
Humming Tree in Indiranagar is a lounge but also has a library nook, a stage for musical performances and readings. a living room like setting that overlooks tree tops. The vibe is welcoming and warm to those who make music and those who enjoy it.
Rangasthala, Rangoli Metro Art Center, MG Road of course is also emerging as a vibrant space for plays, poetry and more. At Shankara, the sprawling cultural centre on Kanakapura Road ideated by danseuse Rashme Hegde Gopi, there have been performances by disadvantaged children as well as dance and music recitals.
For a very long time Bangalore has been going to Alliance Francaise, K H Kala Soudha, ADA Rangamandira, Ravindra Kalakshetra, Ranga Shankara, Chowdiah Memorial Hall and recently to Jagriti Theatre for its staple dose of culture but the smaller players in this space have broadened the choices for Bangaloreans.
At Yours Truly Creative Space on CMH Road, plays have been staged and the dynamics of conventional performances have been played around with even though the space is not very capacious. At Bflat, Indiranagar, music and theatre find unrestricted freedom and the trend to create intimate spaces where art is not just an objective experience but a subjective one, is here to stay.
(with inputs from Veena Carmel)