Mad About Music

Jam-boree: Another Dimension
August 21, 2008, 9:38 pm
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Hey! There’s another extremely important aspect of Jam-boree that I seem to have, inadvertently, missed. In fact, it is this aspect that sets it apart from what typical jam sessions are like in other places.

The essence of Jam-boree as envisaged by Mr. Ajay Mahajan is that it blends both entertainment and art. Entertainment because it features exciting acoustic covers of old favourites ranging from The Beatles to Eric Clapton. Art because Jam-boree is a platform for original music.

A significant slice of each session is devoted to showcasing original compositions. The young lady visitor from the US who first told me about the Jam-boree also performed some of her original material at the sessions. Later sessions featured another American man singing several of his self-composed pieces, and another young keyboardist, Tejesh, sharing his creations. And of course, Sanjo focuses predominantly on his own compositions, both in English and Hindi, accompanied by some dazzling, scintillating lead guitar played by Samir.

All this makes Jam-boree a great place to catch music that is original, creative and refreshingly different.


Jam-boree: The Next Big Thing?
August 21, 2008, 6:01 pm
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I met a couple of people from the music industry today over beer and lunch. As usual, I was on my current favourite topic of conversation — Ajay Mahajan and his innovative new music concept: Jam-boree. My guests, one, a marketing manager with a music label, and the other, a VP with a large event management company, were thoroughly impressed with the whole concept.

As we downed our beers, the conversation veered off in an interesting direction. In a situation where the music business is going through a bad patch with no signs of things getting any better in the foreseeable future, we suddenly realised that Mr. Mahajan’s Jam-boree model made enormous business sense.

We did a quick back-of-a-paper-napkin calculation that evoked some very interesting possibilities. In a place like Delhi where the live music scene and gigging circuits are almost non-existent, a concept like Jam-boree is sure to attract music-lovers in droves. Charging an entry fee of Rs. 200 would be very reasonable. After all, these folks are used to paying cover charges of 600 bucks and more, and paying 150 bucks for tickets at multiplexes.

Now with a crowd capacity of 100 people (not difficult, since Mahajan is already doing private exclusive events that end up attracting 50 people or more), the takings for a single Jam-boree session would be Rs. 20,000. If the Jam-boree were to be held once a week (Saturday nights, just like they happen now at Mr. Mahajan’s studio), the monthly sales would be Rs. 80,000. Now if one were to do deals with the sound and light guys, and manage the rest of the finances carefully, one could easily restrict monthly payouts to a total amount of Rs. 30,000. That means a monthly revenue of Rs.50,000. When you annualise that figure, it adds up to Rs. 600,000 per annum.

Now think about this for a moment. Most music labels don’t manage to generate that kind of money from their artistes. Yes, you have the biggies who bring in the big bucks, but by and large the music business is in the boondocks today because revenue streams are drying up. With the Jam-boree model, they could well end up with a healthier bottom-line.

The possibilities are very exciting…

Jam-boree… Getting My Facts Right
August 18, 2008, 8:08 pm
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Okay, time to ‘fess up. My last post was a travesty of ‘investigative journalism’ — I got all my facts wrong. Made a complete mess of things. So here’s to setting the record straight.

The series of live music events that I talked of is actually an exclusive, by-invitation-only private event that is the brainchild of a technology geek called Ajay Mahajan (my apologies for getting the name partially wrong the last time around). Mr. Mahajan evolved the core concept for the event from a series of gatherings called Musical Evenings in his living room to a full-fledged live music event titled Jam-boree in his spacious studio in South Delhi. Over the years, he has perfected the format so that the entire event, which is known to span a marathon 6 to 7 hours sometimes (!), runs like a well-oiled machine, painstakingly choreographed down to the minutest detail. Mahajan takes care of every little thing from the decor, seating arrangements and themes to dress codes, menus and stage management.

Typically, a Jam-boree is held on the last Saturday (night) of each month, and is attended by a set of regulars… die-hard music fans who are there for the sheer thrill of the jangling guitars, pulsating rhythms and songs that are far off the beaten track. The flavour, I am told, is distinctly retro… classic rock, seventies rock ‘n’ roll, country, eighties pop, a touch of blues rock, some golden oldies from the golden era of Kishore-Rafi-Mukesh-Lata-Asha-RD-SD-LP-KA-SJ, and a smattering of more ethnic stuff like Punjabi folk and Sufi songs.

Believe me… the scene truly rocks! My contact showed me a dark, grainy video of a couple of performances taken with his mobile phone… couldn’t make out much, but was left with no doubt that these Jam-borees are very special musical events, absolutely chilled out and totally unique — there’s nothing quite like it in Delhi, a city that is, sadly, left way behind as far as the live bands scene is concerned, especially if one compares it with Bombay, Pune, Bangalore and Chennai.

Apparently, the highlights of these evening are a series of performances by Sanjo (who I’ve already mentioned in earlier posts) teaming up with a brilliant blues-rock guitarist, Samir. The two are intermittently joined on vocals by another singer, Sashi. Every Jam-boree also features a varying line-up of guest performers.

For the Jam-boree regulars, the real attraction lies in the 100 per cent live feel of the event. Unlike much of the so-called live music scene across pubs and lounge bars, Jam-boree refuses to tread the mundane path of karaoke songs and folks crooning to bland backing tracks or instrumental pieces. Mahajan personally sees to that. Without interfering overtly, he subtly controls the content of each session to ensure that it is memorable in its own special way.

How does one get into a Jam-boree? Let me tell you upfront that there’s no way to gate-crash the event. It’s a private gathering where everyone knows everybody. Sneaking in is not a feasible course of action. The only way to get in is by finding Friends-of-Mahajan or Friends-of-Friends-of-Mahajan or Friends-of-Friends-of-Friends-of… well, you get the picture. Eventually, you’ve got to prove that you are a true music maniac… that you’re not looking for just another cool place to hang out on Saturday nights. Tough!

But here’s a ray of hope. Mahajan is currently toying with the idea of broadening the audience base while sticking to the same format. He is exploring the possibility of shifting the Jam-boree to another, larger venue. The parameters would remain the same… live music… a music-centric audience… limited seats… private invitations. The total strength would, however, swell from the current head count of fifty to around 100-120 persons.

Personally, I foresee very exciting prospects for Jam-boree. It could become a series of television programmes or a to-die-for live music event along the lines of the garage band scene in the UK.

Guess I’ll just have to wait and watch…