Here’s a question. What connects The Strokes and Radiohead — arguably two of the most pioneering bands of the modern generation — and their equally illustrious predecessors, U2? The members of these different outfits met each other and formed the bands while they were still in school. Formal education is one thing. But a child’s school years often form the bedrock of future careers that are shaped by extra-curricular activities. That’s what city-based Furtados School of Music (FSM) had in mind when they started an annual competition called Band-it, meant for schoolchildren.
The first edition in 2017 was a relatively modest affair. FSM co-founder Dharini Upadhyaya tells us that they were simply testing the waters, restricting the event to Mumbai and Pune. Around 30 bands signed up. But that number shot up to 75 in 2018, when the competition was extended to four metro cities. And it reached 110 by 2019, with the elimination rounds being opened up to seven Indian metros. The format was such that the top 10 bands would be invited to play at an auditorium with 500 to 1,000 people listening to them. It gave the youngsters a real taste of what it means to feed off the energy of a live audience.
But things are different this year. The whole affair has moved online, with the grand finale for the newly introduced solo category slated for this evening. It robs participants of the chance to experience the highs and lows of a live performance. But on the plus side, this edition wasn’t restricted to just a few cities, since entries poured in from the nooks and crannies of the country.
It’s the reason why Upadhyaya will amalgamate the two formats — online and offline — going forward. She says, “We will use the digital medium to gauge how we can give an opportunity to schools from across India, and the best bands will then be invited to a metropolitan city to play in front of a live audience.” That seems to be a future structure that the pandemic has thrown up for music competitions, where the auditions will be held digitally to increase the size of the playing field, before a physical gig is held to decide on the eventual winners. It makes sense, honestly, and all we now have to do is wait for the day when it can be turned into action.
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