The idea that has contributed to the popularity of the open-mic culture is that there is no one way in which we can express ourselves. While some might be good at storytelling, others might express their creativity through poetry recitation or stand-up comedy. The true meaning of open-mics for many is inclusion in relation to different forms of art, and inclusivity in relation to artistes and audiences.
These days, open-mic events are held frequently at various venues across the national capital. Whereas previously such events mainly hosted storytellers and comedians, now they provide a platform to a wide spectrum—from painters and photographers to musicians and activists.
The change has been initiated through several Delhi-based organisations that are actively revamping the open-mic culture in India. Listed below are a few such organisations.
“An evening of conversations” is how Chaaya Dabas defines the essence of Baatein, her brainchild that started as a blog in 2014. Dabas said, “Something accessible, something that lets people freely express themselves, and something that has no fixed form is what art is to me. Art being a simple expression, manifesting itself through dance, painting, monologues, reading out a love letter, etc. is what we try to focus upon. And thus we, at Baatein, want to get rid of all boundaries, letting people experience true freedom where they can express themselves.”
With an initial footfall of just 30-40 people to now hosting events with hundreds, Baatein has been able to give local artistes the kind of platform and reach they deserve. “Connection with and accessibility to the audience that appreciates this kind of art form are very important. We, through our local community leaders and our reach, try to call people who would not only listen or see but also try to live the moment with the artiste and their art. Baatein understands the meaning of interaction and we believe it has to be a two-way process.” added Dabas.
Performing at open-mics for two straight years taught Varun Ahuja and Krishn Sharan about the importance of getting the right platform and the significance of audience response in an artist’s life. This thought inspired them to start Forverses. To build a community of artistes and to make different art forms accessible to all is the motto of the organisation.
Forverses started in October 2018, and their events are called “almost open-mic”, where people are not just welcomed to recite poetry or narrate stories but can also exhibit paintings, photographs or any other talent they want to showcase. Varun said, “We simply wanted to build a community which would allow people to come together and celebrate art. We wanted a space that wouldn’t limit people and their talent. Where an artist gets the appreciation he or she deserves. We also allow people to showcase their craft for monetary benefits.”
Syzygy Art Festival
In astronomy, “syzygy” means the straight-line alignment of three or more celestial bodies. For Soumya Joshi, the Syzygy Art Festival means the coming together of art, artist and the audience—all under one roof with the common motive to interact. The idea behind starting the festival was to create an open-mic culture that is less rigid and more impromptu. The very first open-mic by Syzygy Art Festival happened on 23 March this year. Speaking about it, Joshi said, “It was a massive success in terms of having people from various sections of society and from different age-groups attend it. It was also great in terms of having artists who could take creativity to the next level and inspire many.”
Pratisandhi is a youth organisation and is founded by Niyati Sharma. It aims to foster a new way of thinking by eliminating traditional ideas on sexual health and education. Pratisandhi organises open-mic events every now and then. Each event focuses on certain social issues and artistes who are well-versed with those issues present their views on it through an open-mic format. Niyati said, “We, at Pratisandhi, aim to create a place where one can narrate stories and contribute to bringing about a positive social change. We provide these artistes with a platform to talk about issues that are still considered taboo in our society.”