Look who’s serenading Chennaiites in parks, beaches and railway stations

This group of corporate employees has taken over Chennai’s public places to play music each weekend

“A group of us used to jam in coffee shops regularly, after work. Around December last year, we began to notice how people around us were responding to the music. Tired faces would start looking fresh, random strangers would smile at us,” Senthil Kumar recalls the reason why he decided to start the On The Streets Of Chennai initiative.

What started out as a group of four — spearheaded by Senthil and Rashmi Nandita (fondly known as Sen and Rash) — has now become a group of over 34 people who spend their Saturday evenings serenading Chennaiites in parks, railway stations, beaches, malls and coffee shops.

“Our first performance was on January 6 at Besant Nagar beach. So far, we have played at Nageshwara Rao Park, Thiruvanmiyur beach, Anna Nagar Tower Park, Chennai Central station, Amethyst Wild Garden cafe and the Grand Square mall,” says Preetha Jayakumar, a member of the group.

Creating a mood

The idea is not to make any money or to find a platform for their compositions, but instead to create a mood.

Senthil borrowed the idea from a trip abroad: “A lot of us, when we went abroad, loved the idea of busking that musicians practice. But we didn’t want to make money from it.” What they loved about busking is the spontaneity of it, and how it helps break down barriers between strangers. “That is what we wanted to recreate,” says Senthil.

So the songs they zero in on are ones their unsuspecting audience would be familiar with, not ones they try to compose themselves — “We are not trained experts in music; we just happen to enjoy it,” he says. Think film songs or tracks from popular albums, in English and in Tamil.

An exception was their performance at Rotticious cafe in Royapettah last weekend, which was all instrumental. And how does the audience react to their impromptu performances?

“They love it,” says Preetha, “A lot of them talk to us after we are done performing. In fact, that is how we usually get new members, and even performance requests.” Her favourite example of the latter is from a performance at Nageshwara Rao Park, after which they were approached by an official from Chennai Central railway station.

“He just happened to be in the park,” says Preetha, “He said he liked our performance, gave us his card, and asked if we would like to sing at Central on World Environment Day.”

And so they did. “We sang ‘Heal the world’ and ‘Sorgam enbadhu namakku’ for the environment, and also ‘Vande Mataram’, ‘Mayya mayya, ‘Vishwanathan velai venum’, ‘Kadhal sadugudu’ and more,” she recalls.

And how well did they perform? “We aren’t professionals, but we do practise seriously. Anyone can join us, provided they show up for rehearsals the day before. We have a committee that ensures performances are up to the mark. If it isn’t good enough, we just don’t sing it,” she states.

Follow the group on Instagram and Facebook, by the title ‘On The Streets of Chennai’.

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Printable version | Feb 29, 2020 6:53:19 PM |

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