When Parsi Aunties Hosted One Of Mumbai’s First Foreign Rock Concerts

When Parsi Aunties Hosted One Of Mumbai’s First Foreign Rock Concerts
Hersh Javeri

Rock concerts – a time honoured tradition of revelry, anarchy and great music. But as you might imagine, India was a little slow to embrace the culture with all its diabolical beliefs and anti-establishment leanings. Within the country, one of the most Westernised communities (or more accurately, the most colonially hungover) has always been the Parsis. With their love of all things British and their rigorous dedication to tradition, it’s no surprise that they had a hand in the first large-scale pop-rock concert held in Mumbai. Although there is a chance that they didn’t quite know what they were getting into.

The year was 1980 and the ladies of the Time and Talent Club, Mumbai decided to go in a slightly different direction when it came to their upcoming fundraiser. Being, as they believed, so very tapped into the modern musical culture, word had reached them of the new and exciting English band, The Police who they decided was the only choice for their next concert. You can almost picture these delicate white-haired ladies sipping their tea with batasas and saying “That Gordon dikra, such a nice boy. And what a voice, baap re.”

They reached out to the band via a well-known Mumbai agency who then contacted Sting’s agent. Their point of contact was his brother Philip Sumner, who all those involved in the event still remember fondly. The venue decided on was the now-defunct Rang Bhavan in Dhobi Talao, the date set for March 26 and they began preparations for the big day.

The news spread like wildfire and suddenly the sales hit their 5,000 person capacity. The t-shirts they had designed for the event were sold out and there were people at the gates clamouring to be a part of Mumbai’s first foreign rock concert. The whole club rallied to the occasion with everyone from the organisers to the club coolie, Bhima working towards the success of the evening.

It was a full house, with even more ticket-less music lovers climbing in over the neighbouring college’s wall into Rang Bhavan and losing themselves in the crowd. The ladies of Time and Talent were a bit taken aback by the smoky atmosphere and to this day marvel at how much of ‘the pot’ there was being passed around. But they rose to the occasion and after the frenzy died down, hosted an evening reception for the band who they declared to be ‘very polite boys’.

At the end of the day, the club was ecstatic with the surplus of funds they raised which went to charity for medicine, education and poverty relief and they left it at that, celebrating their successful fundraiser. They hadn’t realised that in just one evening of music and mayhem they’d broken down the walls for Mumbai’s rock audience and started a culture that is still going strong today.

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