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NOC (Issued) by Bajaao: Wanna Jam?

By Azeem Banatwalla | March 21, 2008

Split Magazine: Bajaao's NOC (Issued)Get off at Andheri (East) station, go past Pinky Cinema, turn left into a dingy lane, right into a gate, and left again into a musty corridor. At this point, if my terrible directions have served you well, you should probably be standing in front of a nondescript door with ‘BAJAAO’ printed on it.

It’s what lies behind this very door that is responsible for the music and even the existence of a large chunk of rock bands from Bombay that we’ve come to know and love over the past three years.

I speak of course, of arguably Mumbai’s best jam room for all bands, irrespective of their stature or quality; NOC (Issued), sometimes simply referred to as ‘Bajaao’. For those who don’t already know what Bajaao and NOC are all about, read on and be enlightened by this exclusive interview with the founder of Bajaao, Ashutosh Pande.

So what gave you the basic idea of starting up a jam room?

Well, I used to play for a band myself, and we had pretty much this whole brotherhood of four or five bands that was really close, and none of us really had a place to jam. So, several times, we thought we’d all chip in with the cash and equipment and stuff, and lease out a flat or basement or something like that. A lot of times that almost worked out only for some band or the other to back out, or because the owners of the place we were trying to lease would freak out once we told them what we’d be doing! (Laughs) So, yeah, it just never seemed to work out and I got bored of it. So I decided, fuck it, I’ll just put my own money into it and see what I can do.

Fair enough. So when and how did you get this started?

I started Bajaao in May 2005 and had my office at Marol at the time. Then I thought of the jam room in around April 2006, and thought of moving closer to the station, and having the jam room attached to the office. I knew that the jam room wasn’t going to give me a great amount of income, but I thought maybe if I could use the overhead from the jam room to share the rent, it would help the company Bajaao overall; plus, I’d be doing what I’ve always wanted to do — not just for myself, but for bands all around. It took us three months to find a decent place, and get an NOC, and we went about it in a very straightforward way; told everybody in the complex exactly what we were going to do, and that we were going to make a lot of noise, amongst other things! (Grins) So yeah, we finally got it started, and got Zero to play and check the sound and stuff, and it all worked out.

I’ve never really bothered to promote the place. Bands just gradually found out in some way or another, and kept coming here and playing. My aim was basically to cater not just to the upcoming amateur bands, but just to your random bunch of guys who’ve had a couple of drinks and decide that they just want a place to come and start playing without thinking about anything else!

Does the name of the jam room have any special significance?

No Objection Certificate! That’s basically what it means. You’ll notice that it’s followed by ‘issued’ in a bracket, which just re-affirms that you can come here and do whatever the hell you want to. We haven’t had any problems so far, not yet anyway (grins). Pretty much all the ‘extreme’ bands I know of, like Skincold, PDV, Amidst The Chaos, Scribe, etc. come and jam here regularly, so I guess it’s a matter of time now.

On average, how many bands do you have jamming at NOC everyday?

Well, it varies from time to time. It really depends on the number of gigs we have in Mumbai at a given point in time. Sometimes we might have bookings for all 24 hours of the day. Bombay bands are really lazy (laughs). There’s only a few disciplined bands that come and play regularly. The rest just start practising when they have a gig to play at.

NOC is one of the few major jam rooms in city, and it’s the first name to pop up, not just for amateur bands, but for the well-established bands as well. How does that make you feel?

I think it’s actually the only major jam room in the city right now, man. Or at least the only non-commercially established jam room. But yeah, it makes me feel good. Every time a band walks in and starts making music, I feel great. Except when bands run away with my equipment (laughs). The place is pretty much always running on a loss, and we always have the odd kleptomaniac running around, but yeah, that’s just part and parcel of running a jam room. I never expected it to be really rewarding in too many ways. I’ve seen so many bands come together and form here in front of me, and it’s been a great experience.

Tell us more about Bajaao and Bajaao.com.

It’s tough, I don’t know how NOC is still alive. Something’s making it work. Maybe it’s that Temple outside, or it could be the Peepal tree, who knows!

Bajaao is a very simple concept. We’re India’s first direct online retailer for musical instruments and accessories. Right now it’s a 100% online model, and we supply gear to musicians all over the country at the best price possible. Along with selling, we also act as something of an advisory service. We try to be as ethical as we can, and provide not just select brands of products, but all the brands we can possibly provide. We have as balanced a catalogue as we can manage, without giving preference to any particular brand.

The general consensus in the Indian rock music community is that we need more jam rooms like NOC. Do you see any more coming in the near future?

Not from me, no way! I mean, NOC is not based on any form of business model. It’s just… there. It’s basically just for kicks. NOC is sort of Bajaao’s baby, so Bajaao really has to take whatever NOC kicks up in the face. Thing is, people don’t know how to run a jam room — because you’ve got to be prepared for a lot of shit. I mean, with the Indian rock scene, you never know what to expect! (Laughs) The basic attitude that we have towards bands is that you can do whatever you want to, unless you fuck us over. Few people have tried to set up jam rooms, like Musician’s Mall in town, who tried to open a jam room along with the music store, but that didn’t work out because they couldn’t handle it. But we’re helping people from Bangalore and Pune to set up jam rooms, giving them basic advice.

It’s tough, I don’t know how NOC is still alive. Something’s making it work. Maybe it’s that Temple outside, or it could be the Peepal tree, who knows! God and Satan chilling out, watching the bands and having a good time (laughs). It simply can’t sustain itself, because there’s too much of running cost. I mean, we once had an electricity bill of Rs 55,000, and I had to plaster that on the walls of the room! It’s pissing off when people run away with equipment too. I guess what could work is if somebody could put up a large recording studio and put aside a small room for jamming.

You say that it’s not a sustainable business, but your rates are still really nominal at just Rs 200 an hour. How do you manage that?

Well, it’s because of Bajaao. NOC is kind of like an employee of Bajaao, so I can afford to dedicate a decent amount of funding to it, and more often than not it evens out. But even if I do incur a loss, it’s alright, because I’m sure that we’re getting a lot of goodwill in return. Plus, we rent out a lot of our equipment to bands and event organizers who need it, and they in turn recommend us to others, so yeah, it all helps to keep the jam room running. But I’m going to keep it running for as long as I can. The day I feel I’ve been totally raped, butchered, fucked, then I guess I’d probably have to shut it down (grins).

Alright, thanks a lot for your time, Ashu. I have to say, we could do with a lot more blokes like you in the Indian rock scene!

(Laughs) You’re damn right! I couldn’t agree more.

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We spoke to some of the bands that jam regularly at NOC (Issued), and here’s what they had to say:

Split Magazine: Bajaao's NOC (Issued)“NOC is great, man. Especially for guys like us who have jobs and no time to jam. Just come in here late at night; all the equipment’s here, so we can play our music, enjoy ourselves and indulge in a few suspicious activities!” — Aditya, Amidst The Chaos

“It’s great for a lot of reasons. The equipment’s good, it’s well located, and it’s goddamn cheap! We could use some better drum pedals, though.” — Sid, Kindergarten

“Everything’s good about the jam room. Our band was pretty much founded here and we’ve managed quite a few original compositions already. The drum kit, especially the cymbals, leave a bit to be desired.” — Imaad, Defiance

“If Bajaao hadn’t been around, I don’t think half the bands you know would be around today. Heck, we wouldn’t be around!” — Shawn, Black

“Bajaao’s NOC jam room is the place where we started as a band, formed, practised and celebrated our success. It has become synonymous to every memorable moment we’ve had as a band. Along with an instrument retail store and a recording studio, Bajaao’s facility is something that every upcoming band should take advantage of.” — Crudus, Spiked Crib

“Bajaao has indeed been a blessing for all the musicians in and around Bombay, especially for new and upcoming musicians who can’t buy their dream instruments but [can] practise on them at without having their parents or neighbours banging on their door and complaining at the same time. Practice sessions are available at an affordable rate and in an average ambience. Bajaao also has added great features for booking time slots online along with recording facility and sound technicians to help the band’s instrumental set ups. All this is done under the guidance of [an] experienced musician, Ashutosh.” — Frank, Devoid/Sceptre

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For more details about Bajaao and the jam room, NOC (Issued), check out Bajaao.com, where you can browse through and buy a wide variety of musical instruments, as well as instantly book a slot at the jam room for your band via the online booking calendar.

Comments

2 Comments. Post Yours Here.
  1. July 17, 2008, 10:33 pm Stinkin' Vagina

    Bajaao rockkkksss!

  2. January 15, 2009, 4:15 am Crimson King

    I would love to have something like this here in Jaipur.

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