Last year I had managed to book a full gig in advance at the TLR bar in Delhi on the Thursday night, and I ended up meeting a musician there who invited me to his open mic the following night at a different venue. This year I made no plans, and the TLR already has some bands lined up, and the other venue no longer exists. So I wrote a message to my friend who invited me to his open mic to ask if he knew of anywhere to play this weekend.
The response came almost immediately, and it was for an open mic at a place called Turquoise Cottage. It turns out that the bar has hosted this open mic for around seven years, and gives it the name “The Rabbit Hole Sessions.” I was exhausted, but the Facebook announcement looked so enticing – open to all musicians “including amateurs” – that I thought I just had to go. It seemed lunatic with the fatigue I was undergoing, especially since the trip over meant taking two metros and an auto-rickshaw.
But I went, and I could see from the moment I arrived that I had made the right decision. As I entered, a huge group of 16 musicians was setting up and doing a sound check, but other musicians stood around with guitars to do solo performances, and I was immediately asked by an organizer if I wanted to play.
Of course I immediately said “yes,” and then I went and ordered the most amazing dish of rice, shrimp, chicken and various spices. My only disappointment was that the place does not serve Indian food, but mostly Indonesian and Malay and other such things. But the food was fabulous.
The sound system was superb, the room was full of posters, guitars on the wall, high ceiling in front of the stage, even an old motorcycle. And it was filled with people of all ages. The massive band was the biggest I have ever seen at an open mic. It was superb, and as it turned out, this was the band’s first public performance.
Based in Delhi, the band calls itself the World Folk Ensemble, and is made up of drummers, guitarist, violin players, vocalists, a bass player, flute players…. As you can hear in their presentation of their first song, their approach is to play folk music from around the world. Last night they did tunes from Sweden, Estonia, France, India and elsewhere. A very impressive debut.
And thank goodness I finished my rice quickly enough to play before them. I’d have been dwarfed by their ensemble had I played just afterwards. But play I did, the reception was great, and I managed to take in most of the evening before leaving around midnight as the jam session opened up into the traditional blues kind of thing, and I got back for a good night’s sleep after all – dropping off like a lead weight and not waking until morning…. It was the sort of experience I’d have been mad to miss, and had I given in to my lazy urges, I would have….