Taking Art to the Streets
Busking in the Good ol' Days
Street performances or 'busking' is a phenomenon that has gained much currency in recent times. However, this practice of performing on the streets has been around since ancient times. For centuries, talented individuals have embraced the streets as their stage, using these hot-spots of public life as platforms to sell their talents and earn a living. Performers were rewarded in cash or in kind, where sometimes even a free meal or lodging for the night was accepted graciously as payment.
Ain't No Cakewalk
Busking is a difficult activity, for getting the attention of perennially busy pedestrians, commuters and bystanders can prove to be a Herculean task. Getting them to reach into their pockets and extract a few bucks proves to be an even bigger challenge. To add to this, the ubiquitous laws around busking that aim to "regulate" this practice can stifle creativity and snatch away lucrative performance spaces.
Street Performances and Mumbai
The streets of Mumbai are culturally rich spaces, teeming with vehicles, pedestrians, hawkers, street urchins and stray animals. It's a vibrant mix, chaotic and disorganized, but bubbling with life and activity. However, if there's one thing absent from this mix, it is art and entertainment. Years ago, Bombay still witnessed street performances, in fact, street plays played an important role during our freedom struggle. Unfortunately, over time, this culture of street performances made a slow but steady retreat.
Busking makes a Comeback
Eager to make busking a part of Mumbai's cultural repertoire, Mr. Ajit Dayal founded the NSPA Foundation. Interestingly, the NSPA was born out of an idea that was initially rejected by elite art institutions in the city. Finding no takers for his unconventional idea, he decided to take things in his own hands and set up an organization that promoted upcoming local artists. This led to the birth of the NSPA Foundation. We launched our first performance in October 2012 and have continued on our mission of taking art to the people since then.
Making Busking a Tad Easier
One of the most important and common reasons for busking is to earn a living. However, this makes a performer highly dependent on the generosity of his/her audience. If one experiences consecutive bad days, there are chances an artist will give up the idea of busking. To prevent this from happening, our founder Mr. Ajit Dayal, decided to make busking for the NSPA a paid opportunity. Thus, artists are paid on a pro rata basis per performance. This emboldens our artists to focus on experimenting with their genres and performances rather than having to worry about the number of notes and coins that will tumble into their hats after each performance.
Widening the NSPA Reach
From just three venues, we gradually began to increase the number of venues in our kitty. The team put in much effort to pitch the idea and our dream to as many authorities as possible. Although it was a slow process, we eventually began to bag new venues. Here is a list and short summary of the venues we currently perform at :
Mumbai Metro Stations
The Mumbai Metro has been greatly supportive of our initiative and has given us permission to perform at several Metro Stations. NSPA artists currently perform at Ghatkopar, Andheri, Saki Naka, Marol Naka, D.N Nagar, W.E.H., Airport Road and Versova Stations.
Carter Road is a long, beautiful promenade which is used for a variety of purposes, from jogging to relaxing and enjoying a gorgeous sunset. Our musicians infuse melody into the atmosphere by stopping by twice-thrice a week and performing here.
Parks and Gardens
Parks are beautiful spaces to perform in because they are always full of people, mainly children. While enjoying a peaceful stroll or the pleasant evening breeze, one can also listen to some soothing music or watch an entertaining play.
Sections of bustling streets in Bandra and Thane are cordoned off for a few hours twice every week and these areas can be used for a several purposes like playing, conducting workshops and performances. The NSPA joins in the fun by bringing interesting performances to this mix.
Our Experience so Far
When it comes to busking, we've realized that there can be some really good days, but, there can also be some bad ones. Sometimes, our performances have attracted huge crowds, much applause, song requests and many kind and encouraging words. However, on the not so good days, our artists have performed for hours without a single person stopping by. But, we take this with a pinch of salt and look forward with enthusiasm to our next performance, for, there will always be a better day, a better audience and a better performance!
Our vision for the future
We've come a long way since our first performance at Churchgate station. From that day, we've been taking long, steady strides in the direction of growth and progress. Our goal is to make busking not just an accepted, but a popular phenomenon, where artists performing at street corners and in open spaces will become a common sight, and people wont hesitate to stand next to a bunch of musicians or dancers and have a good time.
Quantum Mutual Fund
Reliance Mumbai Metro
Natural Streets for Performing Arts Foundation