When a band is interrupted

When a band is interrupted

A row over language resulted in a truncated gig at a pub last week. Metrolife gets perspectives from the band and the venue about what happened

Yo Bro Street Academics describes itself as an alternative hip-hop group. It is based in Kerala.

Always known for embracing diverse art forms, Bengaluru was in the news last week for an unsavoury incident at one of the city’s many live music venues.

Foxtrot Gastropub in Marathahalli shut down a band’s performance and forced artistes off the stage after some customers did not approve of the language they were singing in. 

The incident took place on July 13. Along with three other bands, Street Academics, an alternative hip hop group from Kerala known for songs blending Malayalam, English and Tamil lyrics, was playing, when the hosts switched off the mic.

Metrolife spoke to Vivek Radhakrishnan aka ‚V3K’, music producer and DJ at Street Academics, and founder at Glitch Collective.

Disappointed 

“Many of our fans had paid entry charges and come to see us perform. While we were nearing the end of our set, some drunk customers kicked up a row. We read in some reports they wanted us to perform Kannada songs, but some person kept asking us to sing in English. Since we were on stage, we couldn’t hear or see what was happening. He was making a big fuss.

Instead of asking the guests to leave the venue, the venue manager stopped our music abruptly. Hotel staff came on stage with their resident DJ and asked us to leave. The people who had come to see us left the venue immediately. And consequently, the next artiste had a very small audience. 

It didn’t end there — the way they treated us afterwards was also shabby. Artistes get food and beverage coupons they can use after the performance.

We were made to walk from pillar to post to get these coupons and finally one person told us the kitchen was closed. The incident was saddening.”

Some reports said the police were called in, but that is not true, the band told Metrolife.

What the venues say

Arhona Chakroborty, who handles music and live events at Windmills Craftworks, says customers have never asked for a language switch.

“We usually have foreign bands coming in to perform here. The events are ticketed, and the audience allowed is limited, and we ensure they are briefed about the kind of music that will be played. We have had artistes singing in French and African languages, and they don’t even speak a word of English. But the audience has never had a problem — in fact, they come here to experience international music,” she says. 

Many venues in the city refused to comment, since playing live music itself had become a sensitive issue recently.

When Bollywood fans are stubborn

Vivek says artistes often face such problems across the country.

“Last year, we were doing the second edition of the Glitch Music Festival at Barleyz in Koramangala (Street Academics is part of the independent record label called Glitch Collective), when the venue cut off the sound,” he said.

The situation is no different in clubs where DJs are asked to play according to a single customer’s wishes. “I may be an EDM DJ but even if one customer asks for Bollywood they ask us to play that. If you don’t, the managers ask us to step down so someone else can play,” he says.

Sadly, venues across the country don’t want any regional music played — they prefer Bollywood and English.

“How will independent music survive if this is the attitude?” he wonders.

Actions were taken in the heat of the moment

When Metrolife spoke to Akanksha Chowdhary of the marketing team at Foxtrot, she said this was the first time something like this was happening and the action taken under pressure, whether right or wrong, was to protect the organiser.

A statement put out by the venue: “We conducted an internal investigation… There were four bands scheduled to perform as part of the Khulle Nagade Tour. Almost half an hour into Street Academics’s set, a guest called the floor manager to the table and inquired why the band was singing only Malayalam rap and if we, the venue, were promoting Malayalam in Bengaluru. They suggested we have local language performances too, hearing which, another set of guests seated in the garden area also joined the conversation. They claimed they hadn’t paid to listen to a language they don’t understand. The manager informed them politely that the band is part of a line-up and the next performance wouldn’t be the same. He inquired with the organiser if any other language was possible.

Prasad, a representative of 4by4 Entertainment, said it was an original act and can’t be changed. The manager conveyed this to the guests and asked them to wait for a few minutes. The guests raised the same issue after some time. This time Prasad spoke directly with the guests, stating that if they don’t like the music, they can leave the venue.

This comment aggravated the situation; almost 15-20 angry guests started asking how someone can ask them to leave after they had paid entry charges. The manager tried to calm the situation down, got in touch with the regional manager and the venue manager. As a temporary measure, he asked the sound vendor to lower the volume for Street Academics’ last track and asked the resident DJ to play.

However the programming team stepped in and after speaking to Prasad, decided to have the next act go on stage. This may not have been the ideal way to address the situation, and we admit it; however, in a heated moment, with a big group involved, it was a difficult choice and we wanted to ensure no physical harm was caused to anyone.

The management dissolved the fight with the help of the bouncer. Everything was fine and nobody raised any issues then. We also refunded the entry charges and bill of the guests who complained.

By next afternoon posts and comments on social media started appearing. We want to make it clear that nobody from the venue team requested the band to either sing in Kannada or disrespected the artist in any manner, or spoke about languages in any manner.

Akanksha says the venue is getting threats from regional outfits. “The venue is not biased towards any language; we knew what the act would be like and programmed it accordingly. We have been in the industry for a year and a half and have hosted about 80 bands at this venue alone.”

Are Kannada artistes sidelined by the pubs and venues in the city, consequently depriving the audience of a chance to listen to Kannada songs?

“We have great local bands but each venue caters to a different type of audience. Most people here understand English and we have to cater to the majority. But we also have events where we showcase local artistes and their original songs,” she says.