Pune’s Gig Culture: Bottlenecks and Evolution

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Ever so often, university students in Pune pick up their guitars and flock to the nearest pub or café to participate in open mics or paid gigs. This subculture has been part of Pune for several years now, and emerged naturally since Pune has a comfortable mix of two factors—confident students willing to display their talents, and a surplus of new eateries in constant need of higher footfall.

Amol Jacob, a student of mass communication and an experienced performer, says that students do these gigs for one of three reasons — payment, audience and self-satisfaction.

“Personally, I do it for self-satisfaction. Doing it for the audience limits your choices, but if you’re doing it for the latter, despite the variety, you need to be really good at your craft; you have to make them sing along with you.”

Kadambari Zokarkar, another student who is active in the local circuit, says that she started performing after promoters from a few pubs contacted her. She usually gets INR 2000 for a half hour performance, and is part of a network with many such promoters. Several of these individuals are college students themselves.

Organisations like Speak Pune or the Airplane Poetry Movement have also gained a foothold in performing arts, and work to provide a platform for young, budding performers. They even conduct various workshops on music and slam poetry in these spaces.

While cities like Bengaluru and Mumbai have evolved a prolific band culture, Pune is stuck at casual gigs in local cafes. Aspiring musicians lack supportive platforms that could take their acts further. To complicate matters, these smaller venues aren’t willing to pay higher prices, or buy the more expensive equipment that accompany full-fledged bands. They opt for softer ambient music, for which amateur musicians with acoustic guitars generally suffice. For DJs and electronic dance music producers though, Pune is a promising arena.

Since the number of dance clubs has ballooned, the genre is a higher paying product with brighter prospects. Pune is a fast-growing city with a faster-growing young population, hence, it’s no surprise that it hosts some of the largest music festivals in the subcontinent. Several big acts like the popular band Indian Ocean have started performing here regularly, while amateur bands are being recruited by high-end restaurants or at events like the annual Wassup Flea market.

So, despite a shaky trajectory, it’s safe to assume that gig culture in Pune is here to stay—and evolve.

Viraj Gaur (Batch 2019)
Photo: Rushali Rastogi (Batch 2019)