Ahmedabad: Cafés with daily musical performances by local and prominent artistes have begun mushrooming in the city since some time. But Nicolette Gore, a musician and hypnotherapist based out of Ahmedabad, has been organising Sunday Secret Sessions (SSS), an exclusive meet-up of musicians and music lovers once every month. Nicolette tells us that this is not a platform per se for musicians to come and perform for an audience, but a safe zone for freedom of expression through music for true lovers of music in the city. This is a changing group of people who don’t judge each other for their musical choices but rather exchange ideas and experiment with each other’s taste in music. 11th March saw the eleventh edition of this event being held at her house with a limited guest list, all of them either a musician or vocalist by hobby and some by profession too. What made this meet up very special was that Arunaja, one of the top three finalists from popular singing reality show The Stage 2 and a close friend of Gore had come down to Ahmedabad for the session. The participants of the meet-up, especially the girls couldn’t believe their eyes and went total ‘fangirl’ from the moment they met Arunaja.

“This is my first time in Ahmedabad and it is the best thing I did after coming down to the city, I got to know and meet people who are trying to do music which is not mainstream. I think having the courage for it without fearing of what people might think of them or judge them is great and the first step to change," says Arunaja, who was looking beautiful a la Whitney Houston. Telling us about how the SSS works, Gore says, “One has to register for the SSS via email mentioned on the posters which we put up on social media platforms a week before the meet-up.The invitees are informed about the venue on the day of the meet-up. I am not charging any money for this and I never involve any commercial platforms in organising the meet-ups. A host volunteers their home for the sessions.

The gathering was in for a treat from the moment Arunaja went behind the mic, during which she switched between telling stories about her journey so far and singing renditions of popular songs upon suggestions from the people in the room. Her rendition of Zombie by The Cranberries literally gave goosebumps to every person present in the room. Everyone took turns looking at each other with the expressions of “Can you believe this!” and then staring at Arunaja in disbelief and admiration at the same time. On being asked where she gets her vocal power, Arunaja said, “I am someone who believes immensely in God. I feel that I am blessed to be able to do what I love the most. I’ve been singing literally all my life, and I know this is what I am meant for. If not this, I don’t know what else….”

This is not the first time Gore has brought down prominent artistes and musicians to her “secretive” music lovers meet, much to the delight of the attendees. One such artiste was Dov Balu Rosen from Israel, who had conducted a blind orchestra workshop at one of the SSS events. She had even organised a music education expo and festival named AMUSEd in November last year. It was the first artist led Music Education Expo of its kind in Gujarat that brought together 8 music schools from the state and featured performances by the music students and groups. Some of the bands that performed at the event were Facultea, Not Just Binny, Apostrophe, Labyrinth, etc to name a few.

What was supposed to be an exclusive meet-and-greet with Arunaja, turned into a personalised mentoring session for a couple of lucky attendees who had volunteered to sing their favourite songs for Arunaja after she had sung one of her newly written songs Broken for the first time in a gathering. The young vocalists hung onto each and every word that the Kochi-native spoke to them after their performances. She made some of the most difficult vocal exercises sound so simple and easy, and the singers promised to practice to hone their craft. The most beautiful part of the whole session was the homely feel where everyone was connected with the strong bond of their love for music. And that is what puts Gore’s efforts a notch higher to that of the others, who organise music meet ups and open mics for a cost. “Open mics are supposed to be free, but here even the performers are charged a fee to get a slot for them to perform,” says Gore with slight disgust on her face. (Fun Fact: Nicolette Gore was the first person to bring the open mic scene to Ahmedabad, which is now a rising trend since last couple of years.)

As Arunaja went on to mingle and talk with the other attendees, we ask Gore if she plans to take this initiative to other cities too, to which she declines saying she would love to let this be exclusive to Ahmedabad city. Arunaja tell us she has shifted base to Mumbai now and has formed a band that has some of the best indie musicians like Mayank Sharma from Zygnema, bassist Roop Thomas Philip from Blakc and guitarist Vignesh Venkatraman from Albatross. She has written songs and is planning to release a single soon.

Sujith Nambiar tweets at @sujith17nambiar. Like this article? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.