Sujith Nambiar, Ahmedabad: Music lovers of English music were in for a treat on Thursday, with almost 20 of Ahmedabad’s performers taking to the stage to commemorate the 37th annual World Music Day at a local café.

Titled #Rockout, the event organized by Sunday Secret Sessions (SSS) in collaboration with the Indian Motorcycle Company at Baseline Café was free of charge, in keeping with the spirit of the original Fête de la Musique, held in 1982 to make music accessible to everyone.

Energy levels were high among both the performers—including Under the Bins, Prachi Jhala, Namrata Varshney, Kaviraj Thakur, Melson Panmei, Sheldon Fernandez, Pritul Chauhan, Yax Dave, Meet Gadhia, Hariprasad Damodaran, Karan Shah, Niraj Dhabhalia and Harsh Patel, Elton Vaz, Himanshu Desai, Shantanu Patel, Siddhanth ‘Goatee’ Srivastav, Sheldon Fernandez, Nicolette Gore, and Mark Haydon—and then the audience, most of whom were on their feet the entire time.

While the setlist featured a number of covers of classic crowd-pleasers, including Melson Panmei’s cover of Knocking on Heaven’s Door by Guns and Roses, Apostrophe’s Kaviraj Thakur performing Summer of 69 by Bryan Adams and Elton Vaz’s rendition of Eric Clapton’s Wonderful Tonight, newer artists were also represented with Prachi and Sheldon coming together for a unique rendition of Seven Nation Army by the White Stripes, Namrata Varshney doing Adele’s Rolling in the deep, and Akshita Patel doing Leaving on a Jet Plane.

The highlight of the evening came in the form of Steppenwolf’s Born to be Wild performed by Mark Haydon (of Hammersmith fame), Sheldon Fernandez, Pritul Chauhan, Shantanu Patel and Siddhanth Srivastav and Nicolette Gore. The fact that this was concert pianist Shantanu’s first-ever rock performance made it even more special.

Shantanu says, “Being a classical pianist, it's rare in this country to get a chance to play in a crossover concert, where Bollywood literally rules the music scene. The whole of my musical career has been revolving around Classical and Contemporary experimental music but this was an out of the box experience. Of course, all the gratitude goes to Nicollette Gore for organizing such an amazing world music day celebration jam and inviting me to perform and Himanshu Desai for teaching me rudiments of jazz within a day! Of Course, it's just one percent of jazz learned yet a long way to go!”

Another standout feature of the evening was that unusually for Ahmedabad, the audience began to trickle into the open-air café well before the scheduled start of the show. Early-birds attendees were also in for a visual treat: four Indian cruiser motorcycles that were displayed in front of the stage until the show officially began.

This is the second time that SSS— the brainchild of musician and hypnotherapist Nicolette Gore, which recently celebrated its first birthday—has tied up Baseline Café.

Himanshu Desai, who works closely with Nicolette, said the evening was a refreshing experience, “especially in Ahmedabad, where organizers and hosts often bring in bands from other cities like Mumbai” despite the city being “brimming with yet-to-be-discovered musical talent”. He then pointed out that local music is part of the city’s heritage, and hence must be conserved.

Abhishek Prasad, the proprietor of Baseline Café, agrees.

“Up to the late noughties, Ahmedabad had a very vibrant live music scene. However, since then, a number of artists have moved to other cities. We are trying to revive the underground music and creative circle in Ahmedabad by giving creative people like musicians and performers a platform to express themselves in public and make a career out of it. That will take the backing of a revenue model, which is based on a robust business model—which is what we aim to offer,” Prasad says of his association with SSS, the brainchild of musician and hypnotherapist Nicolette Gore, which celebrated its first birthday earlier this month, with a concert at his venue.

SSS calls itself a safe zone for musicians to exercise their freedom of expression, and for music lovers to expand their comfort zones. Over the past year, its monthly events have spanned a range of genres and have featured artists such as Arunaja (of The Stage-2 fame), and Glasgow-based mezzo-soprano Ankna Arockiam, who performed operatic pieces accompanied by Ahmedabad-based concert pianist Shantanu Patel. They also included masterclasses by Arunaja and Ankna, to give upcoming local vocalists the chance to widen their range. SSS was also the force behind AmusED, the city’s first-of-its-kind music education expo, which was held last November. 

As Nicolette Gore puts it, “Today’s young musicians and performers have missed out on a lot with a whole generation of musical talent having moved out of the city. Since SSS focuses on identifying and encouraging young talent in the city, it makes sense to expose them to older legends who are still active in music here. It’s important for musicians to have a sense of community and understand the musical lineage they come from. So, with events like these, young musicians don’t just get to perform with seasoned artists, they also get to draw on their experience. So they learn a lot, and receive encouragement as well.”

“However,” Nicolette adds, “Any performer needs an audience, so it’s great that city-based brands are coming forward to facilitate this resurgence.”

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