India’s indie music scene
Blue Frog is Mumbai’s most famous venue for live music and attracts a varied and eclectic crowd. (Rajini Vaidyanathan)
While Mumbai may be best known as the home of Bollywood music, in recent years the city has started to lay claim to a growing and passionate indie music scene.
Because of high entertainment taxes, few well-established, international music acts stop off in Mumbai, preferring instead to play in Bangalore and Delhi when on tour. This leaves plenty of space for smaller independent acts to shine, and provides a welcome alternative to the high-end, dress-to-impress scene that is typical of Mumbai’s glitzy cocktail bars.
The most famous spot for live music in Mumbai is Blue Frog. Located in the Lower Parel area of town, the venue is easily accessible from both north and south Mumbai, which is possibly why it attracts such a varied and eclectic crowd; businessmen, hipsters and expats all rub shoulders here.
Variety in the crowd is matched by the variety of music you will hear -- everything from cover bands to Indian rock acts, solo singers to drum and bass DJs. The monthly retro nights, which play mainly ‘80s music, are popular with locals, and the Sunday live music brunch is a relaxed way to enjoy a weekend afternoon.
Blue Frog’s unique layout is an added bonus. Group-sized booths are built around the stage area at different levels and have a futuristic spaceship feel to them. Book a table for dinner and listen to the live music from the comfort of your seat. For those who want a mosh-pit-like experience, there is plenty of room to dance.
In keeping with Bandra’s growing status as an alternative cultural hub to central Mumbai, the area offers several options for indie concerts. Mehboob studios (100 Hill Road), in Bandra, has been home to some of Bollywood’s biggest films. Now, a recording studio in the building provides a quirky location for indie music nights, which are held here one Saturday a month as part of the studio’s Live from the Console event.
As you walk through the building you get a sense of the venue’s rich history. The studio where the bands perform is decorated with old signs, while a specially built stage and modern lighting give an intimate feel. The nights usually begin with a film screening of a related music offering, before a selection of Indian bands take to the stage. The curry and rice dishes on sale at the back of the hall add an Indian wedding buffet charm to the proceedings.
Chez Moi is a small, Parisian-style venue in the Bandra reclamation area, which recently started unplugged acoustic nights. A lone singer-songwriter plays at the venue every Monday. The low lights and cosy space are a real plus, but there is very limited viewing space so getting there early is the best way to secure a decent vantage point.
Away from the monsoon summer months, typically June to September, open air venues are also a great way to catch indie acts in the city. Bandra’s amphitheatre is one such venue, which has attracted British acts in addition to Indian bands. November’s Nh7 music festival in Pune, (a four-hour drive from Mumbai) is another popular annual draw. This year, the musicians Imogen Heap and Basement Jaxx are on the line up, alongside a range of Indian bands.