With a backdrop of the old Blossom Book House, a bunch of distinctive people sit with typewriters, sketchbooks and smiles to add a spin to a Saturday night on Church Street - they are the BLR Buskers.
Busking, in the actual definition, is the act of performing in public places for voluntary donations. As a common practice in the West, it includes acrobatics, animal tricks, clowning, juggling, magic, miming, musical performances, storytelling, sketching, painting and street theatre. It does not consider writing to be a part of it and that's exactly why BLR Busking is a unique and intriguing twist in the tale.
Rahul Kondi, a user experience designer by profession, is the founder, rather an initiator of BLR Busking since he started out on December 24, 2017. The idea struck him when he was hanging out on Church Street and happened to meet a guy with a typewriter writing poems for strangers and making art for charity. He joined them in raising funds to buy stationery items for a government school nearby.
“They were doing it for donations and saw it through but I wanted to continue this because I really enjoyed playing with the typewriter,” says Rahul with a content smile at not having missed a Saturday in front of Blossoms for the past 78 weeks. Rahul and co. meet at other parts of the city too; Sundays are to hang out at other venues in the city like cafés, campuses, co-working spaces, metro stations and even the airport.
Gradually, friends and strangers started to join the BLR Busking group, intrigued or inspired to do something similar. “I started posting about the events on social media since I was all alone and did it every week. Many joined me once they saw the posts," says Rahul. "Now we have close to 20 active members. It is a fluid group and not an organised one. All I do is post a hashtag and the location. The range is diverse and includes people from all walks of life, once we had someone coming to join us from Bagalkot and we are open to all.”
Ansh Tarejha from Bhopal, a designer by profession in Bangalore, says: “I came across BLR Busking about seven months back through a colleague who is a part of the group and I come here whenever I can and sketch, something I have done right from childhood. I love the company of these guys and it also allows me to bring out my artistic side.”
Doodlers, sketching artists and an occasional musician on guitar or ukelele settle in on the steps of the famous Blossoms Bookhouse on Saturday while the evening sets in. “None of us knows how to play any musical instruments but we have a few people joining us with music at times. Fortunately, we have never faced any issues on the street. Unlike other street artists, we sit on the edge of the street and probably that gives us an edge!” quips Rahul.
Fostering conversation is the key idea behind the initiative. “The art we make is secondary and is essentially born out of the interaction we have with people of all kinds. So, it is a simple case of the subject and the artiste meeting, and voila - the conversation becomes the art,” says Rahul, adding that the variation is in how they carry it out rather than what they do.
Everyone is welcome, even to just chat with strangers. Among the writers, some prefer a conversation with strangers. Some just listen and write whatever lines arise in their minds. Some of them record their art or words in a notebook. Others let the strangers write a message and leave it for the next to pick up or continue. Curiosity about a bunch of people hanging out or seeing the age-old typewriter on the street is what gets people to come and have a chat with them.
The two years of the group has been a pleasant surprise, according to Rahul. “Going in blind and seeing how it goes, that has been the way throughout and I believe it worked for us," he says. "The response is overwhelming and we have been able to do a lot of events over the year - Bangalore Literature Festival 2018, Under 25 Summit, Spoken Fest in Mumbai. We pitch a stall at events and carry out our usual jam, going with the flow, interacting and collaborating.”
The concept and the art are finding new homes and BLR Busking couldn't be more proud and delighted. “It was started in London by a friend I met in Mumbai during a fest and I got him a typewriter from Chor Bazar," exclaims Rahul. "Another friend took it forward in Pune, it moved to Hyderabad and now college students in Bhubaneshwar have started it too. It's an ongoing cycle with busking settling in and it feels great to know that I had a part to play in it.”
An open journey of art, words, passion with no expectation and basking in the glory of busking.