Words: Aninda Sardar Photography: Vishnu G Haarinath
Can you imagine a road trip in total silence? There’s no denying that music is an integral part of the driving experience. What better way to celebrate this than with a journey of musical exploration in India’s cities? So we got a musician and a hatchback to go on a journey to discover the rhythms that India’s cities groove to.
Meet Sandra Edmonds. She is a journalist by day and a musician by night. A regular performer at some of Pune’s best-known clubs, if we are the experts in all things automotive then she is the one to trust for all things musical. Meet the Honda Jazz. Sprightly enough to prance her way through the rush hour, it’s a perfect companion to our young in-house singer and together they filter through the narrow bylanes of Pune squeezing into spots that would put others in a spot. Our car has the butter-smooth 1.2-litre iVTEC motor, and Sandra squeals in delight when she sees the CVT gearbox. “I can drive it in heels!” she says before scooting off on a musical exploration of Pune.
Our journey starts at the St Patrick’s Cathedral in Pune’s Ghorpadi area. As it turns out, our friend Sandra was once a choir girl right here. “You simply cannot ignore the plethora of choirs if you want to explore this city’s music scene,” she says. Trained under the tutelage of expert conductors, the boys and girls who make up the choir sing beautifully. If you happen to catch one of the masses it will have you rooted to the church’s wooden bench for hours. It’s possibly the most lyrical starts you can get off to on a Sunday morning in Pune.
By the time we’re done here, we can already hear the rhythmic growl of our hungry tummies. And if you want to satisfy a hungry tummy along with some music to feed your soul, the Sunday cook out at High Spirits is a great place to head out to. There isn’t much traffic on a Sunday afternoon and the Jazz glides over Pune’s roads comfortably cutting across the heart of one of Pune’s three cantonments. The six kilometres separating the church from High Spirits takes just about 20 minutes, time that we spend stretching out in the Jazz’s surprisingly spacious cabin. Sandra can’t believe that her friends aren’t asking her to slide her seat in front.
Located in Koregaon Park’s North Main Road, High Spirits is probably one of the most popular hang outs in the city. The ambience is chilled out and the music is contemporary. When we drive in DJs Ox7gen and The Micronaut already have the crowd grooving to the beats of their music. Good food and great music mixed with a fabulous ambience with colourful portraits of music legends like John Lennon and Bob Marley decorating the walls. “This is one of the most popular haunts of this city. It’s fresh, the food is good, the ambience is hip and the DJs as we saw really know their stuff and play excellent numbers,” says an excited Sandra.
Our next stop is the Shisha Café inside the ABC Farms premises on North Main Road, right next to High Spirits. But the nippy Jazz is a lot of fun, so we take the long way around, just for the heck of it, before we double back to Shisha. An icon of Pune, Shisha specialises in… well… Jazz. And here, the music is played live by artistes, including some international acts. It’s the place you absolutely must head to if you’re off on a date night or if you want to enjoy your music in an eclectic atmosphere. With Persian rugs doubling up as wall hangings, Persian style seating and Persian kebabs on offer, this dimly lit place makes for a truly enchanting atmosphere to savour what’s played. “You’ll find some of the most talented musicians in the city performing here and that’s why you can never give Shisha a miss. They know that the audience here mostly comprises people who genuinely understand and appreciate music,” Sandra tells us.
From the Shisha Café to our next stop, tucked away in Lane 6 in Koregaon Park, it should take no more than a zip, a zap and a zoom. But the area is choc-a-bloc on weekends. Here’s where the compact Jazz shines through. There’s enough grunt for the Honda to nip into gaps while the light steering helps you navigate the chaos easily as we head for The Sassy Spoon. It’s a stress-free ride that’s enhanced by Sandra singing along to her music collection streaming via Bluetooth to the Jazz’s sound system.
As we park in front of the bright pink sign that tells us we’ve arrived, the Jazz stands out from the crowd of cars in the parking lot. Her styling is modern and funky, in sync with what Sandra and her friends want in their cars. Questions about the Jazz are soon broken by Sandra’s surprise announcement that she’s due to perform here tonight.
It’s quite a delight watching her belt out everything from retro pop to R’n’B and some contemporary music, from the unique bar here. The Sassy is where you head to for some easy listening by some of the city’s upcoming artistes as they croon their way into your hearts. “This place is of course special,” gushes Sandra after a display of her vocal skills. “Apart from the fact that I perform here, this is also where you’ll find most of Pune’s upcoming musical talent. And given, that there’s no particular genre of music that is preferred, you’ll find all kinds of music playing here,” she explains.
It’s just about 10 minutes from The Sassy Spoon to Euriska in Mundhwa, Pune. It’s extremely popular, and for good reason too. For one, the Mediterranean décor is rather welcoming and the Greco-Italian cuisine will tickle the palates of most foodies. But we are here to catch some badass electronic music that’s playing today. Pity, we missed DJ Nikhil Chinappa by a week. Nonetheless, we jump into the fray and become one with the gyrating crowd. The flashing blue lights adding to the electricity in the atmosphere. After an hour or so, Sandra catches up with a bunch of friends. They tell us, there’s one more place in Pune that is an absolute must-visit. So, all five of us pile into the Jazz and head off to our next destination. Try doing that in another hatchback! With us five adults seated comfortably, Sandra hums happily as she refuses to give up driving duties, her free left foot tapping a steady rhythm.
Club Palazo in Fatima Nagar is where you want to be if your choice of music tends towards African and Caribbean beats. There’s a good mix of hip-hop and reggae that’s played by the DJs and the overall effect is rather unique. You can almost picture people with Marley-esque dread locks as you soak in the variations in the tempo that is so typical of the music that is inspired by African rhythms. We leave Club Palazo fairly late for the club is one of the few that stay open till the wee hours. Happy and high on a whole range of music, we can’t help but hum. Back in the Jazz, strapped in, we start the final journey of the day as we head back home, but no journey in a car can be without music. So we hit up a new playlist on our phone, pair it to the Jazz, crank up the volume, set the automatic climate control to a comfortable 21 degrees, and enjoy the drive back.