“Ideally you should be able to go to any new town and see what are the Muse rooms available on a muse room app and go to the shows you want, just like Air BnB or OYO Rooms” Sumesh Lal, Aum-I Artistes
What is the Muse Room?
This would require some background first.
The Cochin Music scene
Cochin always had a vibrant artist scene inherent within it. During the 60s and 70s the biggest venue was the Sealord hotel in Ernakulum. But the music scene there has been inactive for some time. During the 90’s Cochin was alive with indie musical artists like 13AD to old school ghazals by artists like Umbayee. In 2013 two new venues opened which was supposed to usher in a new age of live music. These were Springr Café in Mattanchery and Café Papaya at Janatha. Springr while successful at its inception has closed its doors. Café Papaya although still very much active the number of shows have drastically reduced. The only place which has been functional and consistent can be said to be JT Pac at Tripunithua.
Even with music videos and movie soundtracks the bread and butter of independent musicians has always been the live performance. That is not just based upon the monetary benefits. A live musician is very different beast from a playback singer if you will. It requires a different kind of energy and discipline. A live performance is also about the little imperfections and changes in each performance. This is what makes it unique. This is very different from what the studio playback singer has to do, where uniformity is key. But due to the lack of venues and in effect audience it is getting harder and harder for indie artists to survive. In fact many artists survives by having a day job. So having more performances venues will help them have steady gigs throughout the year.
The people responsible for The Muse Room is Aum-I Artistes, the creators of Music Mojo and various programs on Kappa TV. The company itself was started by Suraj Mani as a company to mange his band at the time, Motherjane. Although they began as a music label they have evolved into a performance art label, artist sanctuary and a production company. The company itself or at least the kerala section of it is manged by Sumesh Lal. Both of them have been involved with indie music for decades. Suraj Mani on the stage and Sumesh behind it. So they bring with them the connections and the expertise necessary to bring about this concept of The Muse Room.
The Muse Room, the concept
Taken at face value The Muse Room is a performance venue. But if we look deeper it is much complex than that. Art always was an idea given physical form, it might not provide a practical functionality but it does provide with what the artistic soul which does exist within each of us the drive to move forward with the mundanity of life. The Muse Room itself literally means a room which provides artistic inspiration. The logo for the venue itself is a room with an open door. This means that this room is not limited to one space, it can be anything and anywhere. A room which provides form to the art inside us.
The Muse Room now
The Muse Room as it is now a performance venue situated within Panampilly Nagar. It is a smaller venue than most. Seating capacity is just 25 seats but more can be accommodated if they are willing to stand. But what is readily evident to anyone who has been here is the intimacy of the venue itself. The artist and audience since they are in such close proximity feel a connection any other venues in Cochin fails to provide. But a downside is that this means that larger concerts cannot be done here as there is just not space for more than three artists at the stage. Also one of my personal favourites is the entry ticket. It is printed on good card stock with the image of the artist that week. It’s these smaller attention to detail that gets to you. I confess it is the collector in me who loves this. In fact I have a box full of these cards. Another thing they excel is at consistency. They have a show every week, sometimes even two shows every week. All the performances are also recorded and released weekly on YouTube. This also works as a work portfolio for the artist himself.
For the talent they began with the genre defying band Oorali, has gone on to have various shows featuring music from wide variety of genres. From the blues rock of Mahesh Raghunandan, the acoustic magic of Govind Menon and even an epic performance from the founder of Aum-I Artists himself, Suraj Mani. But the venue is not limited to just music performances. There was the hilarious stand-up comedy of Ashvin Mathew even a Chakyar Koothu by Painkulam Narayana Chakyar.
But what makes The Muse Room as a venue special is not the venue itself, it is the concept behind it. The idea is to provide a space for artists to perform and to expand outwards. Anyone can start a muse room if they have the space and facilities for it. In fact a second muse room is already functional with a seating capacity for 200 people in Bangalore. Trivandrum will be receiving their own muse room soon within the Technopark campus. Plans are already underway to expand to Thrissur as well. The plan is to have multiple muse rooms in each city so that anyone can open a muse room app and look for the show they want to attend.
The end and the rebirth
If we take The Muse Room performances from the beginning to beginning of September can be taken as a season like in television, we could almost say that Alt&Pepper was the epic season one finale. It was a grand musical carnival called Alt&Pepper taking place within Pepper House Café in Fort Kochi. Live gigs are nothing new to Kochi, but what was different is the sheer number of artists. Twenty four artists performing over two days is something probably which never hasn’t happened before in Cochin. The genres ranged from pure pop to Thaymabaka. There were such unique performances as Bagpiper Rock and Sitar Metal. This took place during 10/11 of September 2016. (There will be a separate article on Alt & Pepper)
The Business side
The tickets itself can be purchased using the popular “Book My Show” app. Both for Muse Room and Alt & Pepper events.
Since live performances happens mostly during weekends the idea is to use places like cafes and existing performance spaces to host the Muse Room once a week. This while not making an extra ordinary amount of money will bring in some steady revenue to both the space owners and the artists as well. But, Sumesh insist that this will never be a business which makes a lot of money. He is not in it for the money. After all, if you create art, just for the commercial viability it is art no more. It’s just a way to make a living.
Now using our phone we are able to access a taxi or a hotel room, things for our flesh if you will. But soon with a Muse Room app you just might be able to buy things for the soul.
Now if that isn’t a good use of the technology and the pure entrepreneurial spirit, what is?
P.S:-Now after a break, Muse Room is starting again. The month on November 2016 will be a singer song writer month. It begins with something very few people in India probably will have a chance to experience. A singer songwriter with a harp as the primary instrument. So this probably will be something you will be able to experience once in your lifetime.
The link to the booking is also given below. It costs 250 rupees, and an hour out of your life. That is the average cost and time of having dinner at an average restaurant at Panampilly Nagar. So I would suggest just for today try feeding your soul instead of your stomach.