Sofar: So Good
Updated: Feb 16
Isa Ayidh, Undergraduate Batch 2022
Ever been to a concert? You’re pushing through crowds of people, phones buzzing with Whatsapp notifications, losing your friends in the process, and being subjected to unsolicited foot-stamping, until soon enough, you realize you haven’t gotten to do the one thing you spent your sparse monthly budget on in the first place: enjoying the music! Sofar Sounds, a London-based startup that transforms small spaces into venues for intimate music gigs, was born out of its creator’s exasperation at this very scenario. As a counter to large, boisterous, distant live performances, Sofar emphasizes a close connection between its artists and attendees. It caps its venues at around fifty people, discourages the use of phones during performances, and operates without an opener or headliner. Sofar events place its performers — customarily limited to three performances – on the same pedestal, each one of them a different genre, with the aim of creating an atmosphere that values the integrity of the performance above all.
To attend a Sofar event, you need to lean on Lady Luck, as most Sofar shows are a lottery. If the 14-year-old in you is still into the mysteriousness of the bad boys of Wattpad fanfiction, know that they don’t stand a chance against the uncertainty of a Sofar application. Once you’ve applied, and if Lady Luck isn’t cheating on you, you will receive an email requesting confirmation of your attendance. With the plus-one option that most of these events offer, you can take along a friend, date or — like Dhruv Visvanath and Kavya Trehan, performers at a recent Sofar event — your mother. Confirm your seats and wait for the day before to know of the event’s address. Don’t bother asking who will be performing — you’ll only know when you’re at the location.
The latest Sofar event in the Delhi-NCR region, a collaboration with Tinder, was held at Whitebalance, a film production company in Okhla. The lineup included Kavya Trehan, Dhruv Visvanath and Lifafa, all three of whom typically perform in larger-scale events. But in the small, dimly-lit room provided by Whitebalance, their sheer talent stood out more than usual.
Indie-pop singer Kavya Trehan, a regular feature in Sofar events, kicked off the night with a passionate illustration of her music, mesmerizing the small room. The atmosphere of her set, with a foreground of pink neon nights, portrayed Kavya as not just an artist, but also a woman in love, composing her life into the very lyrics she serenades to us. Near the end of her set, she sang, “If you’re feeling in love, put your hands up,” as her arm clad in pink shot up in the air, and even if you weren’t in love, resonating with her infectious, besotted joy was easy.
Dhruv Vishwanath, one of India’s most popular solo percussive instrumentalists, sets a different tone to the event: cracking jokes, recalling anecdotes, and laughing with his audience between songs. Vishwanath is a storyteller and seemed pleasantly surprised at having the undivided attention of everyone in that room, shyly clapping his hands and tipping his fedora when someone in the audience quoted back his lyrics: We write ourselves into existence. An exceptional guitarist, his mellow and melancholic sound carried tremendously through a staggeringly silent room. In the absence of phones or background chatter, the raw power of music alone has the opportunity to shine through at Sofar events.
Closing the show was Lifafa, a household name among Indian electronic music enthusiasts, and possibly the most well-known artist of the three. Gauging by the audience’s cheers at the announcement of his set, it was a gratifying surprise. With SoFar, if you know the artist performing, you’ll fulfil your dream of getting to see them live. If you don’t, you’ll be introduced to a plethora of new, immensely talented artists. Either way, you win. Lifafa’s show was a perfect culmination to an evening full of victories; his slow, meditative synths gently washing in and out of a room full of people reflect how just a little bit of intimacy can make a live show incredible. If this sounds like your kind of thing, you’ve read our article just in time! Sofar is coming back to Delhi on November 10th with its 3rd-anniversary show at a new, unrevealed venue and featuring three undisclosed artists. Brace yourself for the unparalleled ease you will feel while swaying to the live music playing a couple of feet away, seated against the wall on a plush cushion, with a bottle of beer in hand — because you’re guaranteed a great time!