Society

Chennai’s slow dance with silent discos

Silent discos are slowly but surely making their way into the city, cropping up everywhere from standalone establishments to day-long picnics

Revellers in Chennai are finally warming up to the sound of silence.

In February alone, two popular events in town drew crowds with silent discos. The Big Picnic, hosted annually by Farhana Suhail and Shamshad Begum of Buva House, saw around 200 people on the dance floor the previous weekend, while Riviera 2k20 by VIT’s SPARTANs club drew nearly a thousand people.

“We had to divide them into batches of three, so everyone had space on the dance floor,” says student Shaswat Sharma of VIT. “This was the second time that we arranged for a silent disco; we also had one at our 2019 edition.”

One of the reasons silent discos seem to be picking up in the city is the mere ease of operations. Noise levels and disturbances are no longer a concern, and the biggest investment needed are headphones, which can be linked to basic sound systems or music streaming apps on smartphones. It helps that the music does not disrupt other goings-on, making it a viable option for multi-activity events.

The other reason, of course, is the sheer fun of it. As Farhana explains, “If you don’t like the music the DJ is playing, you can just change it. The buttons are there on the headphone itself, so the tracks you dance to are up to you.” Most silent discos in Chennai have headphones that pull in three different channels of music; the ones at The Big Picnic had five, with one of them playing live mixes by a DJ. VIT had three on offer — but with three DJs, each playing live into a separate channel.

Something more

There are many ways to amp up the fun quotient here. For instance, Oscines, the city’s first silent disco establishment, has LED headphones which blink out different neon colours for different sound channels so smaller groups can zero in on the same channel and vibe on the dance floor.

Founder Prashant Kumar, however, decided to take the neon aspect of these lights and run wild with it. “Our whole concept at Oscines is neon. We have dark lights, so if you walk in wearing white, yellow or orange, your outfit will glow. We also have neon face paint, for those who really want to get into the mood,” he says.

Having said that, Prashant’s plans for four-month-old Oscines (it opened last Navaratri, with a neon dandiya night) are still cautious, since Chennai’s response has been gradual. “Our dance floor currently has space for about 25 people at a time. We open only on Saturdays, because that is the only day we can expect a good crowd. But we are planning to try and keep it open on weekdays too, after the first week of March. Let’s see how it goes.”

Where to disco
  • The Big Picnic’s headphones are up for hire, for those who want to organise their own events. Call 7305630496
  • Oscines Silent Disco is located in Thoraipakkam, and currently opens only on Saturdays. Call 7358016263

Admittedly, these are slim pickings, especially considering the fact that silent discos have been drawing crowds in Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Kolkata for years now. Chennai used to experience this as a once-in-a-blue-moon event, only at luxury hotels.

However, the recent pop-up discos have made the concept much more accessible, and future ones are likely to add to the trend.

It also helps that the headphones can be used for other activities as well. The Big Picnic, for instance, also used them for their silent theatre evenings. “People could watch movies under the stars, without being disturbed by other activities happening around them,” says Farhana.

Having said that, the main focus of her event this past weekend was the DJ. Though the duo spent a lot of time zeroing in on the perfect set of headphones, Farhana insists that finding the right DJ was key — “We had to find someone who knows Tamil, Hindi and English music, though we realised that the first two are much more popular in Chennai.”

Oscines, on the other hand, dispenses with DJs altogether. “They are too expensive for such a small setup. We have a number of playlists and different tracks, and when the dancers have specific requests, we are more than happy to play it from their phones, YouTube, or apps like Saavn or Spotify,” says Prashant. Oscines also offers snacks and beverages, some of which are included in the ₹470 per person charge that gives you an hour and a half on the floor. “We don’t serve alcohol, though,” he says, adding curtly, “Because this is a family place. Everyone is welcome to come and have fun.”

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Printable version | Apr 7, 2020 1:18:33 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/chennais-slow-dance-with-silent-discos/article30963312.ece

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