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Live Music Makes a Comeback Across India

Venues around the country have recently resumed programming shows

David Britto Aug 26, 2021

New Delhi singer-songwriter Tanmaya Bhatnagar performing at the city's Imperfecto Ruin Pub last week. Photo: Courtesy of the artist

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While gigs in India returned after the first lockdown last year, they only managed to function for a few months until things were shut once more due to the increase of COVID-19 cases.

Over the last month, there’s been a resurgence in the live scene with more people vaccinated and cases under control. Mumbai artist Ambika Nayak aka Kayan recently played two shows in Hyderabad and Pune while singer-songwriter Tanmaya Bhatnagar performed an intimate set in New Delhi.

On what it’s like playing in front of people after ages, Nayak says, “Playing live is what I love doing, so getting to do this again feels amazing. I really missed being able to do so. I think I’ve gotten a little more adjusted to the idea of going in and out of what we consider normal. Grateful for when it happens.” Bhatnagar adds, “Although it was really exciting I think I was also slightly apprehensive in the beginning and the only reason why I decided to do the show was also because I’m vaccinated twice. Nevertheless, it was still a really good feeling to just be able to play live again.”

According to Nayak, at certain venues attendees need to show proof of vaccinations while others follow general protocols such as temperature checks. Both Nayak and Bhatnagar’s shows were functioning at limited capacities. “People had to wear their masks. My ultimate objective was to remind people all the time while I was on stage to kind of keep slightly away from each other,” says Bhatnagar. She adds, “Obviously it’s also not my responsibility to make sure that happens but I did that on my own as much.”

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With gigs also back at Mumbai’s antiSOCIAL, Business Head at Social, Mayank Bhatt says, “It’s good to restart the whole process.” He adds, “We’re planning to keep it pretty simple, and the programming team is also kind of fed up with the whole start and stop situation. But then again, we can’t do anything about it. We’ll just have to learn and keep evolving and adapt to the situation.”

Bhatt explains that at antiSOCIAL they are following the strict SOPs (standard operating procedure) that they’ve been given and have also added a UV airflow system that is connected to the venue’s air-conditioning unit. “It basically purifies the air completely,” he says. The performance space will also be capped at 150 people for all events.

While it’s great for music lovers as well as artists that the live scene is finding its feet once more, ask them if there is a sense of fear that things might close again? Bhatnagar says, “I think obviously there is a sense of fear since the last year has been so unpredictable. But as human beings, we have to adapt to situations. They [venues] should be extremely strict with COVID regulations. There must be a mandatory vaccine proof, checking these things should happen because people get complacent.” Nayak adds, “I hope it’s a step forward. It might take a while to get over the fear and uncertainty but only time will tell.”

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Bhatt informs us that venues in Bengaluru and New Delhi have been operational for almost two months now. He says, “Delhi actually has gone to regular business and functioning at full licensing hours.” He adds, “We’re not seeing a spike in the cases at all. So hopefully, other state governments will take that into consideration and let nightlife come back after this big lull period.”

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