“Art is the daughter of freedom”
Artists have been pioneering the reflecting and capturing of Zeitgeists of their respective times for as long as we have had documented history. Through the evolution of the various art forms throughout the past centuries, one thing that has been an immutable part of an artist is practise, right from Leonardo Da Vinci to Leonardo Di Caprio. Now, that we have made that subtle transition from the Renaissance to the age of Millennials, let’s talk about today’s artists and their methods of practise.
The various kinds of art forms, for the topic at hand, can be bifurcated mainly into two primary branches: Performance art and literary art. In order to understand the reason for the existence of open mics in today’s age and time, we will have to delve further into the Performance arts branch as open mics tend to provide a platform,usually for the comedian, the poet or the musician to practise their craft.
So, what are Open Mics? The vanilla answer would be, ‘A gathering of like-minded people where some show up to perform their music, comedy or poetry and some show up to support the said music, comedy or poetry. The sceptic would argue as to why would someone altruistically organise an event just to promote and support art? Well, the answer to this cynical question is that it is not altruistic in nature. It is a win-win scenario in a non-zero sum game. The organiser enjoys relatively cheaper marketing of its product/platform/brand name etc. and the artist enjoys the privilege of a platform (usually free of charge) to showcase their art to a live audience and potentially get constructive feedback on their work.
The next question that would come from the sceptic is, ‘What is the point?’ Well Ms Sceptic (Feminism), performance art like any other form of art still requires practise, arguably it requires more practise than other art forms due to its subjectivity and interactive nature. Zakhir Khan, the famous comedian who became an overnight sensation, it took him five years of open micsto finalise a routine that was so edgy and flawless. For comedians, open mics are basically their writers club, if you may, because most of the comedians rely heavily on stage writing. Abish Matthew’s ‘Journey of a Joke’ series has many prolific comedians state that some of their most famous jokes actually happened on stage and not on a word doc. Ergo, a comedian wouldn’t have a one hour special had he not bombed at a hundred open mics before it.
An up and coming trend that can be seen across the country today is the number of Poetry/storytelling open mics. These events are being hosted by diverse organisations from a publishing house to an Instagram page dedicated to just hosting open mics for poetry. The answer to the ‘What next?’ question for the poets and storytellers is not quite clear as it is for the comedians. The poets, in a poetic way are charting out the path as they are discovering it. However, the poetry community faces a grave danger of being regarded as a fad, I say this because the performers who are merely in their teens are writing on topics such as ‘meaning of life’ and ‘(pseudo)feminism’ without any real experience of such sensitive topics just to become ‘viral’. That joke is writing itself. I guess I am the skeptic here.
I apologize if this write up is sounding informative because my intention was to make it argumentative. Open mics are necessary. For comedians, it is a no brainer, there is a worldwide consensus on this, as is for the musicians. There is a grey area for the poetry community when it comes to this as this fight for views and to be viral is just adding to the insecurities to an already insecure generation; however, there is a trade-off here, which comes from the artistic freedom that is provided by the open mic events. The rules of grammar, linear storytelling etc. can be molded a bit and mended without any raised eyebrows.
This is the most important aspect of an open mic; Artistic freedom. With all that is going on in this country, politically, socially, being declared as the most dangerous place for women, maybe artistic freedom can galvanize us into righting the many wrongs with this beautiful mess of a country.