Bengaluru Gets a New Music/Arts Venue, Courtesy Suraj Mani
How the singer-songwriter and former frontman of prog rockers Motherjane spent a year turning his office conference room into a collaborative arts space
Two years ago, when Suraj Mani was office-hunting in Bengaluru to shift his air-conditioning company [Suraj Mani Engineers] into, he bought two floors in a building located in the city’s Kalyan Nagar. He then chanced upon its topmost fifth floor. “I looked at that floor and said, ”˜This is also mine,’” says Mani, best known as a singer-songwriter with his rock band The Tattva Trip and previously as the frontman of prog rockers Motherjane.
It wasn’t until last year that Mani laid out his plans to convert what was initially a conference room into a performance space called OO Heaven [short for “On Occasions, Heaven”]. After a test run with the Tattva Trip in December last year and another Kerala fusion band called Soul E to iron out sound issues, the venue launched on June 18th with Kochi musician Govind Menon [from fusion rock band Thaikkudam Bridge] launching his solo project. However, Mani adds with a laugh, “It’s still a conference room when it’s not used for a gig. We have presentations with the best audio acoustics now. It’s the hippest conference room in the country.”
In addition to revamping the room to add carpeting, acoustics, ceilings and a stage, OO Heaven also has a break area outside the performance space. Mani says he wanted to create infrastructure that was different from the existing pub venues in Bengaluru. “It’s a very good feeling for the artists when they perform to an attentive audience. We get a performer’s high from that and we deserve that high once in a while,” says Mani. Menon, who performed mostly-instrumental solo material as well as covers to a seated audience of 75 people, says, “It’s not about the size of the venue, it’s about the culture. When people are there purely for music, it’s very validating. Indie artists need places like these, because then we can start off here before we play anywhere else.”
While Mani plans to host just one show each month, OO Heaven can be rented out by another organizer. In addition to Mani’s artist management firm Aum-I Artistes hosting their monthly gig series The Muse Room at the venue, the next show takes place on July 16th, featuring an acoustic and electric set by Suraj Mani and the Tattva Trip and local singer-songwriter Mahesh Raghunandan.