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For years, it was the one thing that gave Mumbai an edge over the rest of the country. blueFROG with its acoustically designed performance space and an envy-inducing line-up of artists and DJs, ensured that there was much heartburn, especially in Delhi where the live music scene was alive and kicking but had no venue like BF.
Nearly four years after blueFROG opened its doors in what used to be a derelict mill compound in Mumbai, an old travellers' serai in Mehrauli has been remodelled and polished to make way for a futuristic-looking space that promises to be a feast for the aural senses.
"This property had been lying vacant for 10 years and we've remodelled it using the latest technology. We have speakers from the same company, d&b audiotechnik, that has outfitted the Sydney Opera House, " says ex-investment banker Simran Mulchandani, one of the five partners behind blueFROG. The inspiration for the name came from one of the partners' 'alleged' love for frogs.
The Delhi outlet is just a few days away from opening its doors and after nine months of round-the-clock work, it's just a few layers of plastic that stand between the audience and the club's gleaming metallic-finish walls lit by UFO-looking installations on the ceiling.
Mumbai was a story of hit and misses before the BF found its alternative groove, but the team - musicians Ashutosh Phatak and Dhruv Ghanekar, film-makers Mahesh Mathai and Srila Chatterjee and Mulchandani - has come to Delhi with very clear plans. "We know who we are and we do what we know, " asserts Mulchandani. The club has acquired a reputation for being elitist, for not keeping popular opinion in mind. You may not find bhangra playing here but Asian Underground from Southall certainly.
Like in Mumbai, the gigs calendar will be packed with avant-garde international acts that are a burst of sound and colour - Latin-
American salsa ensembles and African musicians are a BF staple. There will be homegrown musicians and DJs with a gift for ear-catching and foot-stomping tunes. So don't expect to hear crass commercial remixes and, of course, Bollywood is a strict no but
Hindi folk music is more than welcome. "If a promoter comes to us saying I guarantee a crowd of 1, 000 if you give this artist the stage and we feel it compromises our values, we are not interested. We don't work like that, " is Mulchandani's bold statement.
French electro-music band Nojazz will open proceedings for the club when it opens on December 22. Delhi's electronic poweract Jalebee Cartel will perform a live set on December 23. Gigs announced till January 5 are packed with local Delhi acts such as Peter Cat Recording Co, HFT and international crowd pullers such as The Alchemist, Eminem's official DJ, DJ Matt Darey and Tim Mason.
The focus is on live music and Delhi's undeserved reputation of being a bhangra city doesn't have the group worried. "I disagree with whatever is said about Delhi. I'm expecting to receive a great response here because there are more cultural centres here and there are tons of bands playing every week. In Mumbai, when we opened blueFROG there was no venue for live music. The success of BF opened the way for other venues, " he reasons.
Emma de Decker, head of programming at the club, is hoping her friends were right when they told her that most of the international acts that perform at Mumbai are likely to get an even bigger reception in Delhi. "When we got the Banda La Republica, a lesser-known salsa band from Colombia to perform in India, they got a great response in Delhi. So maybe I shouldn't be worried, " she laughs.
As for the club itself, it is about 100 metres from Qutub Minar. The four-in-one complex called the Kila will house the club, a restaurant, Azimuth, a courtyard dining space and a live performance venue that overlooks the Qutub. Next week, only the club and courtyard will be open to the public.
First impressions are good. The space is bigger and grander than its Mumbai counterpart. The DJ's console is elevated and overlooks the dance floor and stage. Four movable mammoth projectors will stream and reflect live images all over the club. A long bar - under the DJ booth - will keep the cocktails flowing.
But in what is an upgrade from Mumbai and a concession to the way Delhi parties, the club's trademark sunken seating, or 'pods' as they're called, are more luxurious and come equipped with a personal bar. "The pods in Mumbai had a table which we realised was unnecessary. We are not a dining space so we improved on our design for Delhi, " explains Mulchandani. His brief to the designer was well, brief. "' Think Singapore Airlines first class seats', is what I told the designer, " he says.
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