Invisible City: Budweiser’s #MadeStage Event In Bangalore Promises To Be A Two-Way Street

There is a distance, generally, between the artist and the audience during a performance that is physical, but also metaphorical – you are here to witness the performance and then head on out, vehemently discussing the performers’ nuances, quirks and flaws. But what if it could be more than that? What if the performers drew you in, enveloped you in a full-fledged interactive concert that accosted your senses, cropping up not just onstage – but out amongst you?

Audience and space acquire an evolved meaning at Budweiser’s #MadeStage event in Bangalore, because what they’ve got in the pipeline attempts to take their jaw-dropping gigs in Mumbai & Delhi up a notch. A collaboration between musicians, a sound artist, a visual artist, and a sculptor – this is a mission to add dimension to your gig experience in a way you probably haven’t before, at least in India.

The immersive audiovisual performance piece, hosted at Pebble, features Bangalore’s premiere electronic band Sulk Station, solo electronic music producer Lifafa and vocalist Suman Sridhar performing with Abhijeet Tambe (Black Box Project), Vandana Menon, artist Vivek Chockalingam, Ankit Daftery and Yashas Shetty joining them to present a two-hour journey involving an onslaught of sonic and visual innovations.

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The audience space dotted with seemingly innocuous objects and structures is all set to come to life one-by-one as Sulk Station’s tunes progress, revealing themselves to be interfaces that allow the audience to control sound, light and video elements in the performance. The band starts ebbing away from their regular songs to construct only musical structures that hang like question marks above the audience – the performance is now as much off the stage as it is on-stage; speakers, lights and live visuals amalgamating with the music structure to blur the lines between the audience and the performance.

The night undulates into a visually-rich trip loaded with a spatial sound, with film footage lending a voice to the narrative; vignettes provided by the Black Box Project and Sulk Station are to be screened, with the audience able to interact and trigger audio and visuals that build on the pre-existing story line. Visually, a mix of mixed media forms such as animations, photographs, film footage etc blend with synthesized sounds, recorded samples and real instruments, sonically, to birth this lovechild.

The third edition of this four-part series, this performance is designed to bring together local artists in India and enable them to showcase their talent, bringing together an eclectic mix of individuals spanning the artistic sphere, from around the country, to create unique experiences that they showcase in multi-city events in key metros –Mumbai, New Delhi, Bengaluru & Goa.

We’ve had it with trying our best to paint a picture of this magnitude and dimension for you, so we decided to get the facts from the people behind the project themselves:

I. Abhijeet Tambe (Director/Sound Designer)

A Bangalore-based musician and sound designer, Abhijeet Tambe is the man directing the team that’s putting together the show in Bangalore. His interactive sound and art initiative Black Box Project weaves the city’s soundscape with conversations, stories and city sound, and his work Still In Transit (2004) is a travel music/film project with 22 musicians from seven countries.

Here’s what he had to say about what they have in store for us, and how it’s going to stand out:

“For this performance we are doing something that I think is quite special. We have a great line-up of musicians that I am really excited to see performing on the same night, but we are also putting an installation in the audience space that will allow members of the audience to interact with it and manipulate sounds while the concert is in progress. So rather than listening passively the audience is participating in the act of creating sounds at the concert.”

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The cohesive nature of the project has clearly fostered a sense of solidarity amongst the team, about whom he talks about fondly.

“We have a great team of people working on the idea right now. Vivek Chockalingam is a sculptor/artist and he is building the frame of the installation. Ankit Daftery is our electronic whizz kid and he is building a bunch of sensors, wiring up electronics, and writing code that will make much of this possible. Vandana Menon is a visual artist and she is using LED screens to create this immersive backdrop along the stage using her ideas of Bangalore city, past, present, and maybe future. Rahul Giri from Sulk Station, and I are designing the sound interactions for the installation. We also have performances by The ISRO (Yashas Shetty and his shadow robots), Lifafa (Suryakant Sawhney of Peter Cat Recording Co.), Sulk Station and Suman Sridhar.”

II. Vivek Chockalingam (Sculptor/Artist)

Practising artist and designer, Vivek Chockalingam is not a fan of limitations of any kind. Alumni of the artistically and aesthetically loaded Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology, his personal inclination took him towards experiential design, and he has created work for the likes of Wake Up Clean Up Bangalore, CRY, PUMA and the Bangalore Pride March. Check out some of his work here. Describing his experience working on this project ‘as a very hands on process which was very much like an experiment’, he elaborates on what we can expect from the Bangalore performance:

“You can expect fun! There are going to be live musicians playing while there is a musical installation not far from them. The Installation is interactive and will let the audience be able to make their own music. The installation is hooked up with sensors which will trigger sounds and beats (each different for different bands). In a gig we are trying to make the audience also part of the performance. My role in this project has been to make the physical art/installation. This is my passion (creating experiences by making art). The team is comprised of many individuals who are talented in various fields.  We initially had to spend time understanding the skills we had. As our jam/workshop sessions started, we figured how we were going to merge as a team.”

So what is it that sets this gig apart from any other?

“This gig is unique as it is aiming at merging the performers and audience into one. Most often we are in situations that let the audience sit back and enjoy the show, but in this gig, everyone is part of the performance.”

III. Ankit Daftery (Tech Whizz)

A programmer, a hardware hacker and a photographer, Ankit has been involved in a range of interesting tech-related projects and innovations, including an app called BrailleType, which is a keyboard for the visually challenged, using Android touch devices, an Arduino-based device known as Thought for a Penny, where you can drop a penny to know the thought for the day and Breathlyser which is an alcohol sensor and logs your alcohol intake in a Google spreadsheet and can also tweet it for you adding a social element to your drinking habits. Trying not to remember our own pained attempts to install Photoshop on our laptops, we caught up with him to find out more:

“I’ve collaborated with the others to have an installation that will let the music react to the audience. In the frame that Vivek is making, I’ll be installing some electronic sensors in innocent looking everyday objects, that will react with light when somebody comes close or touches it, among other interactions. These will also trigger some sounds or modify the existing sound that is playing at the moment. The idea is to provide an experimental space for people to participate in the performance, and have an isle of their own where they can explore sounds for themselves.”

So what is it that makes it stand out?

“There are few (very, very few) performances that allow the audience to participate, and that have interactive, glowing objects that come alive when people are present, so this one’s really going to be wacky – also because we don’t know what the final result will sound like (laughs).”

Twitter handle: @ankitdaf.com

IV.Vandana Menon (Visual Artist)

A film maker and visual artist based in Bangalore, Vandana’s work ranges from short fiction narratives, documentaries, experimental films, photography and commissions for television to live visual performances. She has worked on several multi-disciplinary collaborations with film-makers, musicians and dancers, architects and software engineers on projects that push structural and technological boundaries – thus creating multiple, even interactive narratives with sound and image. This gig sounds like it’s right up her alley, so we found out what she had to say about it:

 “The whole idea behind the Bangalore show is to make it interactive and immersive. The theme of the show is Invisible City so visually, I’m going to try and recreate Bangalore at different points in time and in different spaces both imaginary and real. I more often than not work with mixed media, so there’ll be film, animations and digitally manipulated photographs projected during the show. The visuals will react to sound and will trigger different elements and themes, based on the mood and feel of each band. The whole idea is to showcase Bangalore and hopefully attempt to bring to the forefront certain themes and narratives that have made the city what it is.”

“I think the idea of building an interactive audio visual space in which the audience has an opportunity to not only watch but also interact and therefore in some way contribute to the whole experience is what sets it apart from any other gig I’ve done. Most often than not the audience aren’t active in the whole process of creating a show and in this case with the help of sensors and a stage within a stage we enable the audience to also get involved and create. That’s hugely exciting.”

V.Rahul Giri (Producer/One Half of Sulk Station)

As a producer on the laptop/controllers, Rahul Giri a part of the electronic/trip-hop duo from Bangalore formed with Tanvi Rao 2009, that has been sending goosebumps across the country with her sultry vocals wrapped with an atmospheric, kaleidoscopic richness with minimal beats and homegrown (cough) synth sounds. Strains of Indian classical music lace their unique brand of ambient electronica. Rahul tells us a little bit about the idea behind #MADE Stage and what makes it exceptional:

“The central idea behind the Bangalore leg is interaction – where the audience can manipulate the audio that is coming out of the stage and create their own soundscapes using objects, sensors, etc which is part of a structure/installation. So, in many ways, we will be performing alongside the audience (our new band member!).”

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What have you guys planned that sets it apart from any other gig?

“Unlike regular gigs… we will give a certain amount of control to the audience… and try and interact with the output from the audience end. So we are working towards and open ended set… keeping in mind the interactive aspect of the set up.” 

VI. Suman Sridhar (Vocalist-Performer)

One half of genre-bending duo Sridhar/Thayil Suman, Suman has performed at the Great Escape Festival (UK), Galle Literary Festival (Sri Lanka), Southbank Centre (UK), and National Centre for Performing Arts (Mumbai) to name a few. Sridhar grew up in Mumbai with Indian classical music in her family, and her background today ranges from singing in classical choirs to jazz and contemporary ensembles, cabaret and musical theatre across the NYC area and India.

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Image Credit: Asif Khan

She tells us a little bit about her involvement in the performance: “I will be presenting a live set using vocals, keyboards, melodica, percussion, tablas and a loop station. My father, Mr. K Sridhar will accompany me on tablas. The set will be an experiment in lyrical and sonic layering exploring themes of prayer, hypnosis, loss, consumerism and the urban being. What sets this apart from any other gig is the tone of active engagement from the audience.”

VII. Yashas Shetty (Artist)

 Yashas Shetty is the man behind The Indian Sonic Research Organisation, a collective of artists, musicians, designers and scientists who explore unconventional methods of making music, and undertake free workshops and clinics and public concerts. Having started out in 2006, they conducted a small workshop to teach people DIY methods of making small toys that made sound. The group currently conducts several workshops at the Centre for Experimental Media Arts (CEMA) and sometimes at Jaaga, the creative space in Bangalore. They also run a record label which disseminates works by South Asian and South East Asian composers, sound artists and musicians. Seemingly a man of few words, looks like ISRO wants their work to speak for itself:

“The Indian Sonic Research Organization often performs with handmade, home-made instruments. For Bangalore, ISRO will have robots manipulated by light performing along with the band. These performative light machines will hopefully take the audience on an audio-visual trip.”

ISRO

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VIII. Suryakant Sawhney (Vocalist/Producer)

On vocals, organ and guitar for the Delhi-based gypsy jazz/cabaret band Peter Cat Recording Co., Suryakant Sawhney is also a solo electronic music producer under the moniker Lifafa, as a part of which he dabbles in lo-fi electronica and ambient jazz. His debut solo record, Lifafa 1, released in January 2013 featured a soundscape peppered with an eclectic mix of disco groove, drawling vocals and mutated chants, and the pallor of ‘chudailstep’.

You know how we love our sad boys, so we caught up with him about improvising for the performance:

“Well , Abhijeet Tambe’s vision is to make the artists part of an interactive sculpture/installation. As we perform our sets , the audience will have the ability to modify and play with aspects of the sounds we are producing which will hopefully create moments of unpredictability and encourage them to get into it more.

Musically, apart from many of or normal songs , we’re also creating some pieces specifically designed for allowing that sort of interaction. Much of it may be created on the spot depending on where the audience is taking it.”

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Conclusively, this isn’t the kind of trajectory that can be foretold or deliberately explained. Given the level of artistry involved on most accounts, this is likely to be one of the most interesting experiments in audio-visual design you’ll witness this year, and maybe even next. And since we don’t know if something like this will ever see a truly public platform like this again, you’d do well to show up and experience it first-hand.

Don’t know how? Just RSVP by emailing your contact details to [email protected] 

Click on image to head to the facebook event page.

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