Brad Spurgeon's Blog

A world of music, auto racing, travel, literature, chess, wining, dining and other crazy thoughts….

Quick and Short Delhi Update – a Final Eureka, I Thinka

October 30, 2012
bradspurgeon

It has been an insanely long time since I have posted on this blog from India, and there are probably some readers who are used to frequent posts from me wondering if I have caught malaria, dengue fever or a bad case of Delhi Belly. Quite honestly, there were moments I asked myself the same thing. But apart from a general feeling of fatigue and another cold – after Korea -, the silence on this blog has had nothing to do with any of those things. It has had to do with my situation in Delhi, however.

The race track that hosts the Formula One race that I cover for my newspaper is so far out of downtown Delhi where my hotel is located, that it requires in general an hour and a half trip at best to get from door to door. And the only viable method of doing that trip requires taking a metro and a shuttle bus provided by the circuit for journalists. The last shuttle left Delhi every day at 9:00 AM, and that meant me getting up at 7 AM in order to exercise, eat, prepare and take the metro to the shuttle. The return shuttle left at the earliest from the track at 19:15 PM. That meant a huge full day.

Added to that, I had a workload in my job like none I have ever had before. It is an accumulation of six races in eight weeks and also a special report consisting of eight stories by me that was due today and will be published at the end of this week for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. All of this meant that the usual intrepid adventurer that I am decided to buckle down into a life consisting of the usual journalists’ excitement of: Racetrack, metro, shuttle, hotel room. No more.

Having said that, I continued to look and ask about music venues in Delhi, and as far as I could see, there was nothing for me from last Thursday until yesterday. No open mics or open jams, and no likely or obvious venues where I could gate crash. So it was that I accepted my fate for once of living a one-dimensional life.

Still, I was incredibly pleased and lucky with having managed to get to the Turquoise Cottage jam session last Wednesday on my first day in Delhi – despite my flight related exhaustion. And this morning, just when I thought I will have failed to play again in this city and had for the first time failed in a remaining challenge or two that I had set myself this year… I learned that the other branch of the Turquoise Cottage is holding its own Rabbit Session of jam and open mic tonight.

So I am intrepidly running off tonight to see if I can find this new place, take part, eat, play myself and hopefully with others, and then get another half night’s sleep before taking off to Abu Dhabi tomorrow. Can I feel anymore ecstatic about the Turquoise Cottage bookends to my India trip than I do at the moment? No way! Let’s see how it works out tonight. I have no idea when I will be able to get access to a good internet connection to report the results, but I hope it will be tomorrow night in Abu Dhabi. If not, it will be Thursday….

Jamming in New Delhi, India at Turquoise Cottage

October 25, 2012
bradspurgeon

delhi india open mic

delhi india open mic

It is a running theme of this blog that I hope no one gets bored of hearing. But last night again proved to me the wisdom of pushing oneself to personal limits in order to achieve goals and dreams. Of course, it is quite small, just a day-to-day kind of achievement. But last night after a full day trying to work writing articles after having only two hours sleep over Tuesday night, I had the sudden opportunity to go play in an open mic, open jam in Delhi, and despite my exhaustion, I went. Am I ever glad I did….

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….


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