Words: Sandra Edmonds
Mumbai. The city of dreams. With its roots deep in Bollywood as well as a very active western music scene, is one of the hubs of all that is musical in India. Indeed, no musical exploration of the country is complete without a visit to this city. If you look in the right places, you’ll find a variety of musical genres that perfectly suit your taste. Whether it’s some heavy dancehall or a chilled out all-girl band playing an acoustic session, Mumbai offers it all. But Mumbai in the monsoons is a daunting task that’s best avoided. However, after my drive through Pune in the Honda Jazz, I was quite confident that if I had to head for a rain-washed Mumbai then this was the car to do it with.
The 150-odd kilometres separating Pune from Mumbai turn out to be a breeze in the Jazz as we wind our way up and then down the waterfall-lined ghats. That, combined with the mist and the glowing greenery that Maharashtra in the monsoons is famous for, feels like magic. It’s hard not to break out into a song. “You’ve got the kind of lovin’ that can be so smooth,” sings Rob Thomas while Santana weaves his magic through the Jazz’s music system. I keep pace with them. It’s actually quite relaxing.
All too soon the highways are gone and I find myself battling Mumbai’s traffic, the Jazz by my side, the clear sounds of the radio from her music system helping me stay sane. I cut across town and head for Chembur East for that’s where my musical exploration of Mumbai will start.
The sign on the wall says Adagio and I know this is where I have to go in, but can it really be this innocuous a place? I wonder, for there are no flashing neon signs, no bouncers and none of the usual trappings of a destination that us millennials normally head to. Just an artsy brown door with a guitar’s fret for a door handle. Yet, this place has been highly recommended by my friends. I push the door open gingerly, only to be transported to a different world.
An hour and a half later I walk out having spent the time in the company of total strangers. Huddled around a turntable, we listened to song after song from Led Zeppelin’s ‘House of Holies’. Adagio is a regular guitar class through the week, but come Thursday evening the place throws its doors open to music aficionados. Aman Singh Gujral, the man behind Adagio, and his team of enthusiasts play music the old school way – on vinyl records. It’s a warm atmosphere and with none of the accoutrements of other mainstream music destinations. This is a place you only come to if you’re in love with your music. It’s the perfect way to kick off a musical journey. The beauty of Adagio lies in its simplicity of approach where the aspiration is to give as pure an experience as possible. Not unlike the Jazz and its simple yet sleek design. In either case, you’re hooked.
My next stop is Raasta in Khar, about 11km away from Adagio. Google says it should take me no more than an hour, but this is Mumbai. An hour can easily stretch into two. Stuck in an endless ocean of vehicles, I stretch like I can only in the Jazz. Compact though it is, there is no shortage of space here. In fact, quite the opposite. I like the way this dynamic Honda can transform itself from a youthful hatchback into my own private cocoon, perfectly in sync with my active lifestyle.
A personal favourite, Raasta is the perfect hangout for all bacchanal and dancehall lovers. The walls are covered with various caricatures that resemble Jamaican music culture and it hosts some of the country’s best emcees, DJs and live reggae acts. After booty shaking my way to the front of the stage, I feel I fit into the crowd almost as perfectly as the Jazz fits into my active lifestyle.
Less than half a kilometre and just about five minutes away in the sprightly Jazz, we stop at Tuning Fork – Comedy and Music Café inside Hotel Unicontinental in Khar West. The café turns out to be a tiny place that can barely hold 50 people. Yet the talent to be found here is nothing short of humungous. Sauntering in, I am still trying to remember the familiar strains of music when I realise there isn’t a single male voice. This has to be my lucky night! The Bassic is performing at Tuning Fork and for those of you who don’t know, The Bassic is a Mumbai-based all-girl rock band. Their repertoire includes covers, both old and new, dished up with their unique twist, along with a host of originals. I can’t help but wonder at their panache and style, just like my friends back in Pune had been taken in with the hip style of the compact Honda hatchback. As a woman performer, watching the girls do the gig is a bit of a high really.
The power of the performances aside, what sets Tuning Fork apart is the platform they provide for upcoming Indie artists, to record their music on a professional level. They record the audio and visuals of tracks for the artist. This is ground breaking because to get an original or cover song mixed and mastered along with video on a musician’s payroll, you might as well sell your kidney. A bit like the Jazz and its CVT automatic, which makes it so simple and easy for a newbie to break into real world driving.
About 30 minutes away is Razzberry Rhinoceros in Juhu. The locals call it Razz. They have always called it Razz. The tang of salt in the breeze and the sand under my feet reminds me of a time long gone. Razz had already made headlines as a music hub when I was still in diapers in the ’90s. It was the place where people with #partygoals went to long before hashtags became trendy.
More than a couple of decades later, things haven’t changed much. This is still the place to go to in Juhu. Again, the parallels I find with the Honda are amazing. Back in 2009 when the Jazz debuted in India if you wanted a premium hatch that fitted into a dynamic lifestyle then the Honda was perfect. Eight years later, it’s still as apt as it ever was. Back to Razz, the entrance is lined with excellent graffiti and is a treat for sore eyes. But graffiti isn’t why the Jazz and I have weaved our way through some horrendous traffic, which the Jazz made short work of, to get here.
Tonight, the distant hypnotic notes of a bass guitar pull me in inexorably, as I tune myself into the heavy hip-hop influenced sounds that assault my senses. The Razz is also a popular after-party haunt, thanks to its proximity to the beach. Our night here kicked off at half past eleven and carried on into the wee hours.
By the time I got on the road again, this time headed for home, the city with a reputation for never sleeping was already in slumber. The Jazz and I drove silently away, courtesy that super-refined 1.2-litre petrol i-VTEC engine, a smile on my face. Tomorrow, there would be another city to explore, another set of sounds to enjoy. Another date night beckons me, and my trusty Jazz.