Growing up, Deepa Rajan recalls music being an integral part of her household where impromptu music sessions or baithaks were held, which saw the coming together of music and musically inclined audiences. It was this memory that led her and classical musician Harini Rao to start Urban Baithak in 2019 which presented classical music and dance forms to people, but in the familiar comfort of a home.
“We wanted a way to bring performers closer to their audience, so we try to create unforgettable home concert experiences,” explains Deepa and adds, “Imagine being able to sit across musicians, who are not on a stage far away (which can be an impersonal experience) but across you, making it a shared experience, where not just the music, but also the stories behind the songs (from the raagas to lyrics) are shared with the listeners!”
The shows featured performers like Ramya Shree, Tejaswini Nandibhatla, Janhavi Phansalkar, Upkar Godbole and Harini herself, traversing Hindustani and classical styles. The idea is to have one event a month and bring more artists to Hyderabad. “The goal is for ticket proceeds to go directly to the artists, it’s a non-profit for us,” Harini states and adds, “The biggest challenge is getting the word out and for people to know that there are alternatives to an evening spent mindlessly consuming junk food in a pub.”
In today’s lifestyles, where community spaces are fast vanishing, this is an initiative with a difference. Deepa explains, “I don’t find spaces of community today, like what the temple used to be – a cultural space. If you had some free time today and were to go from Gachibowli to Secunderabad, all you will see are malls, places to eat, retail stores and pubs/coffee shops.”
Urban Baithak is a lot more personal as it enables that rare interaction where an artist is inviting you into their space to see and experience it as they perform. The sessions are not only for connoisseurs, but also those curious about music where they can ask questions, learn and understand classical music.
Harini adds that bringing the listener and artist together is a wonderful experience. She signs off, “I’ve seen that magic happen in Urban Baithak every single time. The artist and the audience have left feeling enriched and nourished by the performance.”
So far, people who have attended the concert have offered their homes for concerts and as far as the money is concerned, the audience is expected to show their appreciation by contributing to each session. But henceforth, the shows will be ticketed at a nominal rate. A recent one last month was held at the Luna Bookstore!