DSSC Wordsmiths: Are Delhi peeps a patient and respectful audience?

The DSSC Wordsmiths Series brings to you the thoughts of some of our amazing members as they share their opinion, sentiment, perspective on food, tipples, the city and life.

You’re sitting in a nice, dimly lit room. There’s a ‘hot’ band tearing up the stage {I put hot in quotes because a layman’s understanding of the term and a musicians’ usage of the term are quite different}. The acoustics are perfect, warm sound, balanced, the singer’s voice cutting through. The band is building up to a musical statement. They’re saying something important in their language, their skill and how carefully you listen determines how much of the language your subconscious mind understands.

PC: Vinay Aravind Images

And then the table next to you bursts out into boorish, loud and completely inappropriate laughter. No one seems to notice besides you and the band. The band is used to this, after all, they’re “just” musicians. You keep shut because you’re the minority here, and you know, minorities should stay shut, “kyoonki tujhe pata hai mein kaun hoon”.

I grew up listening to music at home and at concerts. Delhi was different 20 years ago, and that’s okay, I’m not arguing on whether things were better or worse, but I am insisting that people had less of an ego and music had a little more respect. The rapid de-sensitization phenomenon of the average consumer to culture is about a decade old and it is in parts due to the growing inability to consume unprocessed information (this is the era of “hooks”, “riffs” and sex objects) by the masses. Unprocessed in the sense that the more complex art gets, the fewer takers it has. This is fact. Patience, in general, is eroding. Everything should be on demand, all the time: Nutrition, entertainment, education, love, sex.  

In a short line, I’d like to establish my background. I’m a run of the mill electronics engineer, I did well in my studies, I’ve been playing music (piano) for nearly 16 years and I have an odd penchant for acquiring and learning different skills. I didn’t know that I would someday be a music promoter in any sense, the expectation was that I would find a job in a nice safe company like Google (well, Infosys was the Indian tech dream in the early 2000’s) and make a decent living like the average middle class Indian boy.

But that’s not what I do. I stand in my club for 15 hours a day, 7 days a week to tell you to shut the f%ck up. It isn’t arrogance, it isn’t a power trip. It’s sheer disbelief that you think you and your conversation is more important than art.

Let’s back up, that was aggressive and out of context. And that’s the absolute worst way to get people to listen. It’s also my absolute last resort with a stubborn audience, when I’m so stressed and frustrated that my hair starts falling out and when I’m so embarrassed that I don’t know how to face the artist after the show. Yes, I’ve had days when I’m apologizing all night to the artists because I promised them an audience but all we had in the house were the average insensitive, de-sensitized folks. Now we’re finally getting closer to the point that was the heading of this article. The preceding paragraphs are important because until you take out the time to understand the problem, you can’t work towards a solution.

My approach has always been two fold. You can’t expect the audience to respond to an artist whose heart just isn’t in it, and you can’t expect the artist to play to a mob. When you join these threads properly, you’ll find you create an environment which allows people to experience something different, and then decide whether it’s worth their time to be patient and listen. And that’s all you really need to do.

The Artist End: They are the most important people in the house. Period. As an owner, as the venue team, as the audience, you need to know and believe this. Because if you can’t show respect for the people who have the ability to create, for people that literally manufacture emotions, then you’re in the wrong-fucking-place. Go to a bar that’s just a bar, and drink, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Hell, there are days when I want to be loud and obnoxious, I pick my venue appropriately. Also, it isn’t the artist’s responsibility to ‘fill’ a venue, the onus will always lie on the venue, it is our responsibility and we need to supply both the audience and the right environment to the artist. This is a mindset thing. It’s important.

The Patron End: If you decide to stay here, you aren’t just a customer for me, you are a patron of the arts. In a city like Delhi where art has almost become a bad word, it’s okay to not know what is expected of you. We want you to have an experience, not a night out. We want you to understand that the musician on stage has spent years of theirs lives and probably more money than they’ve yet earned to learn how to speak in this secret language, that’s not so secret if you just listen. We want you to laugh, cry, giggle and just respond to what they’re saying. We want you to know that if you listen and respect musicians, you are gods to us, the best mankind has to offer.

Every day, we meet new people, with language and body language we express our expectations in the venue. We get Love and we get Hate, fortunately, the Love has far outweighed the Hate. To all the people who told me at the point of conceptualization of this venue that I was stupid to create a product like this in Delhi, you forgot that Delhi is just you and me. I’ve met the best of the city over the last 9 months, and it is spectacular.

And the thing I’m learning is, that once you create a safe space for patrons and artists, and a curate an atmosphere that filters out the rest, every single day is magical. I love my life.

Come share the magic with us.

Arjun Sagar Gupta is the heart and soul of The Piano Man group which houses Dirty Apron, Cake Away and The Jazz Club – all Club favourites. This jazz enthusiast is known in the country for his passion for all things music and successfully built one of the finest live music venues in New Delhi. If you spot him, go over to say hey – he’s warm, friendly and always ready with an inappropriate joke.

PC: Vinay Aravind Images

5 thoughts on “DSSC Wordsmiths: Are Delhi peeps a patient and respectful audience?

  1. I am not even particularly fond of jazz as such… but one simply cannot summarise better what is happening at The Piano Man Jazz Club time and again… People who never really listened, never really appreciated music, suddenly do… And that in Delhi, of all places. A huge Bravo for creating this unique space & experience – Magic indeed!

  2. The food at “The Pianoman ” is beyond expectations !! and so is his band …! And if you haven’t tried it yet …then you have really missed something

  3. Arjun, thank you for this great article and for your great sensitivity and vision. What you’re doing is important for Delhi and music houses the world over. Listening rooms for intimate music were once widespread. Now more than ever, we need this kind of nourishment – where art meets heart and where we all together co-create something at once fleeting and eternal. I can’t wait to return to Delhi with my friend and favorite Indian piano man on the keys!

  4. Arjun has the courage of his convictions With time the audience will evolve from a raucous bar haunting kind to an appreciative art loving kind This was so in the jazz clubs of New York back in the 60s when audiences thought nothing of clinking cutlery and glasses and talking loudly when greats like Coltrane and Mingus played They have since grown out into one that listens in rapt attention while nursing their beverage Its taken a long time but it has happened

  5. Wonderful piece ! Love Pianoman jazz Bar for the ambience and the respect to the artistes and the love for the Art and Arjun at the piano himself. A musician friend once said “who comes for the music it’s just fun, friends and general party” and I told him off that NO I come for the music, for you All and the food and drink I order is respect to the establishment that sets all this up with great pain and puts up with an unappreciative / inconsiderate few ! So yeah artistes rock on and keep on with what you do and establishments please do keep on doing what you do – bringing wonderful music to us, feeding our souls !

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