Cubbon Park was where we jammed in the ’80s

Cubbon Park was where we jammed in the ’80s

Jagadeesh M R

To the late Sunbeam Motha, I owe the idea and concept of starting a ‘jam’ scene in the early eighties – The Music Strip. It was a simple two-page brochure which explained the concept in a poetic manner, inviting musicians to congregate at a spot near the rocks in Cubbon Park on a Saturday evening.

I was in my early twenties, had a day job in an ad agency and this was the eighties, not many opportunities for musicians to meet and Saturday was perfect. Picture this: Petromax lanterns to light up the stage, small stage amps, a drum kit, guitars and a P.A -- all powered by 12volt car batteries, the only power supply available which was lent by a well-wisher who had a battery sales-service outlet on Infantry road.

I think most of the gear was sponsored and lent by Reynolds where Mike Furtado, drummer worked. Mike and me were also part of a band called Stylus. Mike also told me recently when we met how he had to haul all the gear into a cycle rickshaw after every concert and take it back to the showroom on Brigade Road.

Word got around and musicians like me started frequenting the Strip. Music both rehearsed and unrehearsed was being performed and I was ‘jamming’ with anyone I could. It was a creative environment fuelled by music – jazz, rock, funk, reggae, blues and at that time I wasn’t thinking if it added to my musical skills, but it was exciting and also felt like being thrown in at the deep end where you had to swim anyway. I was playing with a whole lot of musicians who were better than me like drummer Jeffrey Pope who was also a part of the Strip Committee with Peter Peres.

Every week was a new experience. There were guitar players, drummers, vocalists, wind instruments and bassists. At the end of the evening, it felt good to hang out to help pack all the gear, even make a trip to the battery outlet to return the batteries.

People came in with homemade sandwiches and burgers and it felt good.

Soon, from the rocks, the Strip moved to a place in front of the bandstand and now it had KEB (those days) power. This made life a little easier. Musicians started coming in from Chennai and the Strip slowly started acquiring a cult status. The verdant, lush surroundings of Cubbon Park was a perfect backdrop for the Strip. I don’t think recall if there were mosquitoes bothering us! The Strip had its final concert in the bandstand around 1990. After that there were several attempts to revive it but it didn’t surface.

I think the Freedom Jam is a worthy successor to the Music Strip but what the Strip started and achieved was perhaps path-breaking. To musicians like me, as I look back, it is where I honed my skills on very basic instruments, playing through a modest sound system and this I will never forget. The Strip has disappeared but the music remains. Everlasting.

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