They say music knows no boundaries and it stood true in December of 2011 as the arclights shifted to the lawns of the capital’s Tihar Jail, where Flying Souls performed their debut show amongst full crowd support and cheer as they jammed with Delhi based band Menwhopause.
But don’t mistake Flying Souls for any ordinary band. All 10 members of the band are inmates of Tihar, Asia’s largest prison. Once they took to the stage, however, they thoroughly entertained their fellow inmates, staff as well as the prison’s top brass. They sang, played instruments and overtook all the work that a pro band does in the way of putting together an act.
All this could happen due to the interest taken by Menwhopause. Says band member Randeep, “Anup and I were passing Tihar Jail and thought it would be great to play inside the premises. We then spoke to the DG (Tihar), Neeraj Kumar. He was very supportive and liked the idea as well and after three months, we finally managed to entertain the audience inside.”
It wasn’t as simple however. For over 20 days, Menwhopause that comprises members Sarabjit Chadha, Inder Pal Singh, Randeep Singh and Anuj Kutty, honed the tunes of Flying Souls by conducting intensive workshops inside the premises. Those three weeks of jamming with Menwhopause helped Flying Souls structure their songs and enhance their live performance ability. Flying Souls consists of jail inmates Amit S, Amit J and Vikramjit on vocals, Bhagirath on drums, Sunny on congos, Dinesh on guitars, Harnaam on tabla, Sharma on keyboards and Guddu as acting band manager and vocalist.
Ecstatic with the experience, Randeep explains, “The whole experience of playing inside and interacting with the musically inclined inmates was brilliant. Like any other collaboration we were people playing off each other. The inmates had written some brilliant songs and some of them are really talented. It was an incredible and deeply moving experience.” “It was also fun bossing them around occasionally,” they add in jest.
Talking about the performance inside the premises on the final day, the band remarks, “We did not play any songs but merely a backing act for Flying Souls. Even though they are not professional musicians, they had actually written a few brilliant songs. We figured instead of simply playing our list we could spend time with them to let them shine.” The band was also extremely pleased with the performance of Flying Souls, “They gave an amazing performance. It’s never easy to get a 1000 strong crowd going. But The Flying Souls had everyone dancing.”
The band also said that the Flying Souls themselves prepared the song-list that was played on the final day. “From the start, we were sure it would be a Flying Souls performance supported by us. So the set-list was largely prepared by them. We did not play any of our own songs, though the Flying Souls did play two of our compositions. We did jam with them on a few other songs.” Flying Souls crooned self-composed Hindi songs, a few Bollywood songs and two of Menwhopause’s songs, Fly Away and Free.
Though it was a different crowd from what Menwhopause is usually accustomed to playing, yet there really was no difference, they insist. “We had fun with the Flying Souls. And the audience had fun with us. There were cheers, roars, claps all the time. Overall, the crowd and Flying Souls seemed to have a good time and that’s all we could ever ask for. It wasn’t any different from playing for any audience outside.”
Menwhopause has also convinced two of Delhi’s prominent music stores, Bharat Music House and Onstage Music to donate a guitar and a drum set respectively to the prison.
The band plans to continue these endeavours in future as well. “Tihar was the first. But the story has just begun,” says the band. “This was a first for any rock band in India, though we’ve only just begun. Next we are recording their originals songs and then making a music video in Tihar.”
We are waiting!