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Brigade Road in Bangalore on Valentine’s Day had the usual trappings — red and white heart-shaped balloons, couples holding hands and vendors trying to thrust red roses on passers-by. But a short deviation would have taken you to something a little more unusual — a “garage jam,” with bands, nu metal band Cartelize and rock band Maun, belting out their compositions to a garage full of enthusiastic fans. If your taste ran towards something milder on Valentine’s Day, the basement next door was hosting the city’s first saxophone jam.
Both events were organised by Sonido Musicals, a shop specialising in music instruments. Since its opening nearly two years ago, it has been looking to provide platforms for music enthusiasts across genres. Garage Jam, which was launched last October, gives bands — especially young, up and coming bands — a place to perform at absolutely no cost. Bangalore already has places like the jam room at Taaqademy, started by popular band Thermal And A Quarter, and The Jam Hunt in Hennur, where bands can practise for a fee. What Garage Jam offers is a chance to perform before an audience — they just have to turn up with their guitars, all the other equipment is on the house. “I’m part of a band myself and I know the hardships beginners go through,” says Arwen Magma, the coordinator of Garage Jam. So every Friday, two bands perform, each for 45 minutes. There is never a dearth of audience because the location of the venue guarantees walk-ins, apart from friends and fans of the band, says Magma. So far, more than 20 bands have performed and the garage is now booked till April, he adds.
The saxophone jam has its genesis in Sonido Musicals promoter Saket Jalan’s personal passion for the instrument, coupled with his failure to find fellow-enthusiasts in the city. Jalan says he will now host a sax jam every quarter. He had started something similar for harmonica players last August, the “Bangalore Harmonica Lovers” which now meets every month.
While the Garage Jam next door had attracted a crowd of youngsters, the Sax Jam had a little teething trouble. The main performer was a saxophone teacher who, interestingly, used to be with the Karnataka Police before taking voluntary retirement. Unfortunately, he had forgotten his notes, so his repertoire was limited to a few old Hindi and Tamil numbers. But the audience of around 20 was quite appreciative and the pace picked up when one of them, Shubham Harnal, cut in with his harmonica and played his heart out. Another pitched in with the history of the saxophone. Harnal, a software engineer, is also a member of Bangalore Harmonica Lovers, and says the club has motivated him to go from being a dabbler to someone who is serious about it. “I’m interested in the blues and am on the lookout for a drummer and guitarist I can jam with,” says Harnal, who has been learning the harmonica for the last three to four years.
The organisers of the sax jam, meanwhile, remain optimistic. “When we started the harmonica club in August, it had just 15 people but this has now gone up to around a hundred,” says Nidhi Mohta, who coordinated the event. Once the saxophone jam and club are up and running, a flute club and more jamming is on the cards.