"I first came to Bombay in 2006,” explained Kavish Seth, an independent musician and the creator of the recently-patented musical instrument, Noori, which means lighting the path ahead. The instrument has 14 strings, with a kind of all-encompassing timbre, that allows it to play Western, Indian classical as well as Arabic music.
The IIT Bombay alumnus is also the founder of Zubaan, a project which aims to create a platform for all the independent music artistes from different parts of the country, and binds different music into collaboration. Before going live with their music and stories, in the lieu of restrictions, Kavish travelled a great deal around the country to understand and discover indie music. Out of the many cities he had been to, he managed to develop quite the love-hate relationship with Bombay.
“During the period after my JEEs, I started learning guitar and developed an instant liking for music and composition,” says Kavish. “Hence, to further expand the prospects of this venture, and to gain substantial exposure about the same, I chose to attend the IIT in Bombay,” he explained how that decision would prove to be the turning point in his life…
The Bombay crowds are characteristically very different as an audience when compared to those in the other cities. You would never find them squeeze into shows without paying for tickets or indulging in things like that. They project quite the no-nonsense attitude, and respect the value of art
But the initial days weren’t easy and the ground realities of the city of dreams were very different from what Kavish had expected. Things were especially tough for independent musicians who were trying to steer clear of the Bollywood route. And, Kavish was definitely one of them. By the virtue of being the son of a renowned singer, Kavita Seth, Kavish had chances to witness the inner workings film industry and was not particularly smitten by it.
“After the demise of my father I had to take on the position of my mother’s artist manager while I was still in college, for my parents essentially functioned as a team. During those times I dropped in on several mainstream projects and recordings, where I had a chance to observe them closely. I knew right away it was not my cup of tea, it at times was a very murky, script-oriented, and a commercialised space behind the scenes, experimenting was very limited. Even otherwise, sometimes it feels like it is the city’s habit to simply pander to plain fluff with very little substance. In a way, it pushed me further to expand on the Indie horizon,” he said.
For his music, he then frequented some initial gigs in places like Hard Rock and The Hive. Through these he realised how limited the profession could get. “With the kind of engulfing competition that is prevalent here, only so many places would offer people like me an opportunity to play our own compositions every month and pay for it. I wondered if there were ways to ensure more sustainable and dependable incomes for the non-commercial musicians in the city. That is how the concept of house gigs called Ghar Ki Baat thrived.”
With the kind of engulfing competition that is prevalent here, only so many places would offer people like me an opportunity to play our own compositions every month and pay for it.
These house gigs would round up people at someone’s house, where Kavish performed along with other artistes like him. It would provide these musicians with opportunities to portray their talent, and the audience was encouraged to pay by choice. “I first experimented with this at a friend’s house in Powai, and immediately this trend caught on with others as well. Some of my seniors from college heard about it too and got involved in it.” It acted as a means to provide several talents a stage.
Delving into the memory lane, Kavish reminisced some of his cherished niches of the Mumbai muse. “Worli Fort has to be one of my favorite places in the city. The place overlooks towering commercial buildings, charming Koli houses, the sea link, all with the wind, and the ocean. It is almost everything one would associate the city with.”
“This is also where I came across one of the most interesting collaborations for Zubaan, with the Koli performer, Chintamani Shiwadikar.” With him, the project has released one of their most fun songs called Papletwaali. “Since the collaboration, we often go to the Koli houses where we are treated as their own, and every so often we jam and experiment with music, with genres like reggae too.”
Revealing his prized corners of Mumbai, Kavish continued, “Apart from this I am fond of the Juhu Wharfs, they are quite peaceful and allow me to walk closer towards the ocean. Then there is Brews and Bites, the IIT café, where I hung around with my friends, my seniors, and then the professors. We even went for walks around the campus, it was very fun. I like going to Prithvi Theatre as well, the ones in the city are, well, just so far away!”
Though locational inspiration remains very important for all performers, the audience makes has a key impact on their art too. “The Bombay crowds are characteristically very different as an audience when compared to those in the other cities. You would never find them squeeze into shows without paying for tickets or indulging in things like that. They project quite the no-nonsense attitude, and respect the value of art,” said the artiste reminiscing about his journey of navigating through what was offered by our city.