What sounds and images come to mind when you think of Indian music? Ravi Shankar playing the sitar? Dev Patel dancing to “Jai Ho” at the end of Slumdog Millionaire? How about Ankur Tewari wearing a ski cap that looks like a penguin?
Not quite what you were expecting? Then, you have never been to the blueFROG in Lower Parel. Billed as “Mumbai’s premier music performance space” and a “fine dining experience with amazing music,” the venue lives up to its website’s hype. We were at the blueFROG for a Mumbai Connexions dinner event. It is not the kind of place that I normally would have found on my own, but I am glad someone else did.
Upon arrival at the blueFROG, I thought, “Are we really supposed to go down that alley?” The venue is located in the old mill district and was once a textile mill. Instead of the traditional table setup, the club has circular table pods. The arrangement has a dinner theatre vibe, but in a cooler, hipper way than your grandparents’ dinner theatre. The pods have good acoustics and create an intimate setting. The blueFROG offers two dinner seatings: one at 6:30 and one at 10:30. We went to the 6:30 seating. This seating time gave us time to mingle with the Mumbai Connexion crowd, eat, and talk before the bands started playing around 8:30 Indian Stretch Time (i.e., 9:00).
The food was gourmet. The menu featured a great mix of veg and non-veg options. Starters included chicken sausages, Buffalo wings, pumpkin soup, and chicken and mushroom soup. For mains, we had the biggest hamburger we have seen in Mumbai, lobster risotto, and lamp chops. For dessert, we had French toast with ice cream.
The opening act was Carlton and the Saints. The Saints’ vibe was very folksy, acoustic, Jason Mraz-ish pop sound. Carlton is a big Jason Mraz fan and played one of his tunes during the set. Carlton spoke almost entirely in English, and most songs were in English including “Ode to Gelato,” my favorite. I don’t know if that is the actual song title, but that is what it was about: gelato and all its wonderful flavors and colors. It is fun and whimsical and gives you a good idea of the band’s vibe.
Biker’s Song was another excellent tune.
The main act was Ankur and the Ghalat family. Ankur arrived on stage wearing a ski cap with ear flaps and a cloth penguin on top. Not exactly typical Mumbai attire as it is usually about 90℉ (32℃) here. Ankur expressed surprise at seeing such a large crowd “given the current situation and that is all I am going to say about that except that we have some f@%king archaic laws!” This statement got quite the response from the crowd. A few years ago, the clubs did not shut down—ever. They stayed open 24/7. Recently, however, the Mumbai police have started enforcing a law that requires every club to close at 1 am. For most Mumbaikers, Saturday night is just getting started at 1 am. The police have started raiding clubs, busting “raves” at Juhu hotels, and accusing club owners who offer women free admission of running prostitution rings. So, the kids feel a bit picked on right now, and many go outside Mumbai to party, which increases the incidence of drunk driving. Not exactly the effect the police are looking for.
Clearly, the threat of police action did not deter the crowd, and Ankur and Ghalat Family delivered a great set. They mixed English and Hindi songs, although most were in Hindi. Comprehension was not a prerequisite of enjoyment, however. Ankur was quite the front man, engaging the crowd in multiple languages and keeping the atmosphere cool. The vibe was rock, but with a folksy feel. At one point, he invited a friend on stage to sing with him. The crowd loved this duet.
My favorite is the one featured in this video produced by blueFROG.
We were the die hards in our group, staying until midnight to enjoy the show. Ankur was still going strong without a break in the set when we left. We had so much fun that we are thinking about going back again this weekend.