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Dee Woods is slowly changing Bandra’s cultural calendar through the Bandra Base.

The article was first published on Timeout here https://www.timeoutmumbai.net/around-town/features/bandra-base

Image sourced from http://images.mid-day.com/2013/oct/dwood.jpg

Image sourced from http://images.mid-day.com/2013/oct/dwood.jpg

Dee Woods was completing his degree in music (from Beacon College in Washington, DC) and was on a short trip to India to tie up loose ends for his research work. Twenty years later, the American is still here and doesn’t plan to leave anytime soon. From his work in musical research, academia and voiceovers (you’ve probably heard him on Star’s several channels) to composing music for films (English, August) – Woods has dipped his fingers in many a colourful pie. “I could do a lot of interesting things and have a rich and varied life based here,” explained the multi-instrumentalist. In 2006, Indian filmmaker Subhash Ghai and his daughter Meghna set up the Whistling Woods International Institute, an establishment that’s taken upon itself the mission to infiltrate the Indian film industry with well-informed and educated professionals. But it  as a need to provide a solution to those students seeking short-term courses that led the head of the department of music to  find an alternative space.

The Ghais had a vacant ground-floor apartment in Bandra which was converted into a Whistling Woods outpost. “I saw this place and I saw the potential for a lot more,” reminisced Woods. It would be “a house where music, cinema, dance and    literature are all alive. A vision to have a multi-disciplinary [arts] centre.” And so the Bandra Base was born. With the capacity to seat about 50 people – if packed to the seams – the Base is content with its size, primarily because if “it’s small enough, we don’t need a lot of amplification. People can hear a saxophone played from the instrument to the ear,” said Woods. Plus, they don’t serve any food or beverages (alcoholic or otherwise). According to the man behind it all, this works in their favour, because ultimately those who do turn up do so only for pure love of the art.

Last November, the community gathering spot played host to the We <3 Bandra festival before falling off the city’s cultural grid.  But it’s back now with more events than ever. Do check out the venue’s Facebook page to stay in the loop of what’s happening at the Base, since their calendar is pretty fluid with no set schedule. Time Out Mumbai gives you the lowdown on  what you should attend at the Base.

Chai Community
Shreya Naik met Woods through a mutual friend at the Base. Chai Community is a Dream Maker’s – Naik’s artist  management and events company – initiative through which she aims to create an intimate community of people representing various art forms bonding over their favourite drink, tea. “I think we are becoming virtual personalities. People are becoming profiles, conversations are becoming chats and the little things in our lives is now newsfeed,” said Naik. The actual event is a Sunday afternoon broken down into various segments that range from music, talks to even a sandwich bar. The last edition had local poetess Vidhi Pandit read out her work while entrepreneur Sahil Bhagat talked about his new product Veebler. There was also some blues and funk by Pune band Empty Cafe Unplugged, a drum circle and a performance by kids of Dharavi Rocks.

Bombay Jazz Club
As head of Blue Frog’s live programming for five years, Emmanuelle De Decker was always interested in promoting jazz. She’s close to groups like the Congo Square Jazz Fest team in Kolkata and the Jazz Utsav team in Mumbai, so it was only natural she’d embark on her own jazz-fuelled venture. Through Bombay Jazz Club, De Decker welcomes one and all to “enjoy, meet, learn, discover, discuss, exchange, jam, talk, laugh.” She added, “This is the best way for musicians and music lovers to grow and build a creative and dynamic music scene.” De Decker has managed to get jazz biggies like Carl   Clements, Sebastian Gramms and Kira Intrator in the past. De Decker aims to create more jazz lovers and prove “that jazz is not old and boring.”

Culture Grind
Malini Hariharan, ex-programmer at Blue Frog and Anurag Shanker of Slow Down Clown met Woods at the Base during a gig. Ideas were exchanged and now the couple host their own unique night. “The art audiences in the city are highly segregated. People miss [out on] running into each other and end up staying ‘unexplored’,” said Hariharan. “Culture Grind is an attempt to bridge this gap by showcasing different forms of handpicked art on the same night.” The duo is taking the event one month at a time, slowly building momentum before expanding their ideas. The last Culture Grind saw Javed Akhtar read out some of his poetry while singer-songwriter Prathamesh closed the night.

Yoga at the Bandra Base
Though not an event, this class is going to be an integral part of the Base. Woods has enlisted the help of Sunaina Rekhi to impart folks with the goodness of yoga. Throughout the week, Rekhi will hold Vinyasa Flow Classes that are “created through cycles of effective and creative sequences (vinyasas) linked together through a breathwave,” said Rekhi. But the highlight of the Base’s yoga endeavours is the weekly Sunday session, which is free and caters to underprivileged women. “I hope that they are able to both internalise the benefits and perhaps even be effective messengers for spreading the message [of a simple and balanced life] even wider.”Also, the classes will be conducted in a mix of Hindi and English so as to help hone the women’s language skills.

At the time of going to press, Woods was planning on the launch of a second venue in the city. Andheri Base (named so for its location) was going through minor glitches but should be functional pretty soon. The new hub will be a larger, more commercial set-up with food and drinks along with the same programming as its Bandra counterpart. In essence, all of the events are nomadic in nature, armed with the Bandra Base stamp, but with the capacity to travel elsewhere too. For instance, a future edition of the Bombay Jazz Club will be held at the art deco Edward Theatre in Kalbadevi. In the same vein, Naik would like to hold a “Chai Community – Bandra Edition that features different programmes but across various places in Bandra”. But the Base itself would like to host off-site events, like the design-led EDM party series Drum Ani Bombay, the first of which was held recently at Bungalow 9.

Sitting happy as it is at the moment, the Bandra Base is cooking more ideas for the future. Woods plans on developing more events like a film club, short-term courses (music production, music foundation, cinematography) master classes and more. He wants the Base to be a meeting place to exchange ideas, incubate projects, and a place from which to launch other things in other venues. “By staying home [at the Bandra Base], we’re building bridges everywhere,” he said. “It’s a microcosm of the world with an Indian soul.”

By Deborah Cornelious on October 25 2013

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