All About Jamsteady // The Kolkata Experience
The City of Joy is everything and nothing you’d ever expect it to be. From the heavy traffic on rainy potholed roads to the cacophony of amplified Bengali music and prayer calls wafting through moisture-laden air, from drenched cycle-rickshaw wallahs to the road side chai stalls teaming with workers, no one can really prepare you for the wonder that is Kolkata. One thing is for certain; amidst the hustle bustle of everyday life one can, even today, feel the magnificent richness of culture and art – the source of many a poet’s inspiration.
Last Friday, as I drove to Jamsteady at The Princeton Club, I couldn’t help but think that the live gig scene in Kolkata is not as vibrant as one would hope. Audiences continue to look for access to outlets and spaces that actively promote live performances; places where music lovers could unwind to good music at the end of an exhausting day. Jamsteady is one such initiative that truly stands apart in the Kolkata indie music scenario.
I park outside the venue, looking forward to witness my first ever Jamsteady and am greeted by the growing volume of happy chatter at the doorway. As luck would have it, a fantastic line up of artists, most of whom I was hoping to catch live, sometime in the near future, readied themselves backstage. Through the night, artists including Deep Phoenix, The Suitables, Jeepers Creepers, and ‘secret set’ artists – Monkey In Me, would go on to successfully woo a 400 strong enthusiastic audience.
Post gig night, I managed to catch up with Nishit Arora – Director at Smoke Inc and the spearhead behind Jamsteady – on the story of it’s beginning, what makes it so popular and what the future looks like for the brand.
Remya: That was truly one of the most entertaining Friday nights I’ve had in Kolkata. What’s the story behind Jamsteady for our readers outside Kolkata.
Nishit: Jamsteady – a Smoking Inc production, started on 2nd November, 2012. I remember the day very well, as my father was undergoing a major heart surgery on the same day and I was really nervous for both my dad and Jamsteady. To my relief, both went off very well!! Smoke Inc has been conceptualizing and organising music and art events in the city for several years now. The lack of spaces for Indie music in the city is a disturbing reality and many of us have been trying very hard to change it. Such exciting music is being produced in the city by local artists but not many venues want to offer space for original and fresh music or for collaborations between artists or for anything which is not mainstream and commercial. This is what we have been trying to change. So we started The Basement in 2010 and managed the programming there for a year or so. In November 2012, things started looking up and we joined hands with Princeton Club to start Jamsteady. What can I say? We saw a great opportunity with this venue and we took it. Ever since, there’s been no looking back even as we complete 9 months, 36 successful shows – one for each Friday night – till date. There is lots to look forward to and we need to keep doing what we do; keep growing keep adding elements, tie ups and partnerships to further boost our growth.
Remya: You’ve clearly grown since your earlier shows from last year…
Nishit: Well we average around 300 people each Friday night now, which is a testament to how far we’ve come. I think the audience is very happy with what we’re trying to put together. But we’re nowhere near perfect, we have a lot to improve and a lot to learn from others doing similar work. This field amazes me with its creativity and with its ever increasing standard of production. The idea is to not to work in silos but to create something bigger which is owned and sustained collectively by all artists, promoters, the venue owners, sponsors and the audience together. Only then, can we claim to be changing the scene.
Remya: From The Basement to Jamsteady how do you line up your artists?
Nishit: Smoke Inc is not managing The Basement at present. We did that in 2010- 2011. The way of working there was very different for our team, as we were not completely in control of the proming. Jamsteady, is different. The vision, concept and format of Jamsteady is our priority and we are very glad to be working with Princeton Club which is an extremely supportive venue. We only have bangramds from Kolkata or artists traveling through the city that we get wind of and can strike a deal with. We are unable to fly artists down from other states or overseas due to financial constraints, although we would love to, in the future, when we associate with the right partners and sponsors who can make this dream a reality.
Remya: So you are open to the idea of collaborations…
Nishit: Yes absolutely! If we see potential in any form of partnership we are delighted to go ahead with it. With the right partners and sponsors we could pave the way together for much, much more – regular jams could become interactive sessions, artists representing different states can be in the spotlight, workshops and learning opportunities can be introduced. The options are limitless!
Remya: But you currently do a host of events across the city by yourselves.
Nishit: Yes, through Smoke Incorporated, which is an event management company for both corporate and entertainment events. On a more corporate level, we continue to do open air concerts, PR promotion and events amongst other things. Jamsteady is our property as well, and we continue to promote it heavily.
Remya: What are your plans for Jamsteady in the weeks and months to come?
Nishit: So far we have been incredibly lucky with the artists we’ve been able to showcase. We hope to continue to bring raw talent to the forefront in an effort to promote the city’s artistic abilities. We also plan to expand Jamsteady as a brand, take it to different cities to begin with. We did a Jamsteady at Delhi not too long ago at a venue called Downstairs at Zo. Small place, great response! People just poured in. Delhi is buzzing that way. Also, peers and friends from Kolkata living in Delhi really helped spread the word which made for a wonderful first out-of-town show. Hopefully we get to do that again in the near future.
Remya: Hope so too! Meanwhile, who can we look forward to at this Friday’s Jamsteady?
Nishit: We have an alternative/ electronica act called Zoo to be featured this Friday. As I mentioned, music wise we’ve been lucky to get the best acts from the Kolkata scene. Be it artists collaborations like The Big Family Blues Ensemble to bands like Neel and the Lightbulbs and Srinjay Banerjee Quartet, most local artists have performed on the Jamsteady stage. This week is no different with a promising set from this 4-piece young and refreshing band.
Remya: Thanks Nishit, I’m quite looking forward to Jamsteady this week plus that beer you promised me…
Nishit: (Laughs) will see you there!