Tag Archives: Performance poetry

And Then There Was Music

I sang today.

Actually it’s the second time this week. Earlier this week, I met a friend visiting from out of town at what turned out to be a karaoke event. I sat through an hour of people rollicking in songs I did not recognize, trying hard not to feel outdated and irrelevant. And then my group picked out a nostalgia track that took me back to when singing was fun.

"Am I the only one? Am I sexual?" feat. @febwinsta and @abhishekaggy

A post shared by Ramya Pandyan (@ideasmithy) on

In case you’re wondering….the original:

Just before it was time to leave, something swung into place. A new year I realised, new resolutions, new promises and all that means the old burdens don’t exist any more or don’t have to matter anymore. The microphone is not new to me anymore and with karaoke, you don’t really expect anyone to be superlative in their mastery of the song or even memory of the lyrics. I chose this slightly (now) obscure song to pay tribute to the Angry Girl I started off as at seventeen. And it was good.

Today was Tuning Fork’s first challenge of the year. They had us write a piece in an hour to a prompt and just before going up on stage, they told us we’d have a predefined mood to render the performance. I started in fits & jerks, picking pieces of pretty lines and unfinished poetry from my stash. Then I decided to set those aside and go with a story that’s been lurking in the back of my lungs, waiting its turn while my voice, throat and mind got comfortable on stage.

This was the story I told. And the mood I picked was ‘Happy’ which felt like 2017 continues to be on my side and help me stay well, happy. I just listened to my performance and I’m so happy there’s still music inside me.

It feels like I’m seeing someone I’ve known all my life in a new light. Thank you for the music and the microphone. 2017, I thank you for your gifts.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

On Losing A Voice And Remembering How To Speak Again

This Monday I said two conflicting things within the space of an evening.
I said,

“This is my favorite stage to perform.”

Two hours later I thought,

“I’m not coming back here again.”

Let me tell you a thing or two about performing, about writing, about women’s voices and about men, men, men. The silencing, the hatred, the chauvinism, it’s relentless. It’s pretentious non-talents (usually male, small town North Indian origin) parading ada and fake Urdu to present stale ideas. It’s uber urban metrosexual men getting intoxicated and turning everything into jokes that are not really funny. It’s the in-betweens eating Instagrammable food and hoping you’ll swipe right on Tinder. But this is nothing new. It’s the story of every patriarchal, toxic masculine space.

But it’s also the sniping. It’s old boys’ clubs jeering every woman performer. It’s leching that happens in words and laughter rather than eyes so it’s harder to call it out. It’s passive-aggressive bullying of the “Settle down, honey. There, there, she got upset. Now silence, boys, give her a hanky. Look, you’re so pretty when you smile.” variety.

Then it’s the wheedling by ‘Nice Guys’ to speak softer, be gentler, talk about men’s good points.

This Monday was simply the last straw on my back. I decided to let them keep their male voices, talking to a male audience about how women are pretty/horrible creatures. This Monday, I decided not to go back and to hell with a world ruled by monsters called men.

~O~O~O~O~O~O~

Raju recommended Sonya Renee Taylor’s ‘The Body Is Not An Apology‘ at an Alphabet Sambar meet last month.

This is why writers should first and foremost be readers. And speakers should be better listeners. I found Sonya’s powerful voice and gestures moving me as much as her words.

Today, I listened to her deliver ‘When The Shotgun Questions The Black Boy‘. Now this is a tricky one. While it’s politically correct to talk about #BlackLivesMatter, really what’s it like to be Indian on this? We face internalised racism within our country itself, not to mention what it’s like to be brown in multicoloured spaces. My ex bullied me and demeaned my intelligence frequently for not acting or thinking like a black person. But this poem, today, made me want to cry. It reached beyond what he said, what anyone else demanded I think or feel. It moved me beyond who I thought I was.

This is the power of good poetry and a good performer. It can change perspectives. It can make a person reach beyond their life and feel empathy, inspiration, anger, whatever the speaker wants them to feel.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to do that. But it’s sobering to know that as a performer, I share a space with people who change lives. I cannot let my individual annoyances take me away. As one of the few women performers in the city, I owe the stage at least that much. Artists and writers are responsible for moving thought forward for a civilisation. The world needs more women’s voices. I may not be the best but I’m part of the little that my city has. And I’m not going to let them down.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

The Kindness Of September

September was kind.

I have had four milestone conversations in the last month. They’ve been hard, uncomfortable, cruel even. Why are we so cruel to each other? Out of fear, out of insecurity and from the mistaken assumption that caring is a finite resource that we need to dole out. But they needed to be had and I’m glad they have finally happened.

I’ve rewritten these events at least four times and then deleted them. I don’t see any point in talking about them any more. So, fresh start then. What does October hold? Less rain, I hope. We’ve had a good solid four months of monsoon and it’s really high time we see the sun.

I feel like I’ve really grown into Spoken Word. Running into the ex at at a performance was the last mental barrier to be breached. It did not kill me and it did not hurt my performance. The stage and I have built a gentle, loving relationship. Other people have tried to erode it and corrupt it in the past with excessive expectations, abuse, jealousy, rivalry, gender-based silencing and trolling. But September, September like I said, has been kind. My relationship with the stage (just like my relationship with another person) is my own and no one should be able to touch it.

I haven’t actually been writing as much in the past few weeks. But video has really taken off. It’s strange because I’ve never been a fan of the film medium. But the stories are lot easier to tell and they allow for several other things like sound and sight. Maybe it’s just the novelty. I have been sharing my performances, then my I Wear videos, general life snippets and soon, the outtakes too. Do hop over to my Youtube channel and check them out. I’m not doing this so much as a content professional as I am experimenting with a different medium of storytelling, just for fun.

The Tinder adventure has been great. I haven’t met anybody yet. But I’ve been having a few nice conversations. And what more can one ask from a social medium?

I guess the best thing about September has been that it has been a gateway through which I’ve felt able to move forward and out of the dark times of last year. Maybe goodbye is a kind word.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

 

 

 

Shaping Spaces & Relationships: The Poetry Club @ Theosophy Hall

The Poetry Club tied up with the French Consulate to host a poetry workshop and Open Mic at the Theosophy Hall. They also did this last year after the COP21 conference where they asked attendant poets to write about environmental change. The piece that I wrote for that event was called ‘Climate Change‘. I can’t seem to find a recording so I guess I didn’t make one. This weekend, I brought up a more recent piece that I’ve been working on, one that’s more performance poetry than spoken word. And here it is, ‘Architect‘.

I’ve been missing the TPC monthly events since they moved out of cosy Vakoloft. But I’m going to try and get to more of their meets. It’s always wonderful meeting and hearing performer/poets like Saurabh Jain, Ramneek Singh, Trupthi Shetty and Ankita Shah. In addition to hearing some really quality poetry, I really like the mood that they bring to these events. These were the early Indian performers that I saw and interacted with and I’ve seen them shape and evolve alongside me. They’ve each managed to grow but also encourage and nurture the upcoming community (unlike some other venues/events). And finally, as a club, they come up with some really innovative events involving poetry. Watch for more soon.

If you enjoyed this performance poetry post in video, check out my other performances on this blog or follow the ‘Ideas on Stage‘ playlist on my Youtube channel.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitterand Instagram.

 

New Spaces But The Stage is Always Home

I’m always looking for new spaces, venues and people in poetry. I’m a very social creator and I find my creative juices flowing with novelty and fresh perspectives. So when I heard about an Open Mic being organised at the Mumbai metro, I jumped to it! Spoken Word derives from several disciplines (right from the African bushmen’s storytelling to the American frontiersmen’s tall tales to Indian village streetplays – many of which are street performances). I saw this as a chance to do the same in a more contemporary setting. I was rather hoping that we’d be performing in one of the public spaces at a metro station, with people passing by. Instead they had cordoned off one small area at Ghatkopar metro station. Still, it was just as noisy and bustling, with a flea market across the bridge and planes flying overhead (who knew Ghatkopar was in any flight path?).

I opened with a revamped version of Flamingos, given it is my only real piece about the city. I’m going to keep refining this one till it becomes the story I want to tell.

We had time for seconds so I went in with Paper Plane, which is not only my go-to signature piece but also the gift that keeps giving. It gives me a shot of energy, a life lesson every time I perform it.

After that Gautam and I went on to another Open Mic we had heard about at another place. This one turned out to be primarily for actors. It was heart-warming to see such spaces available to all the performing arts. A lot of us tend to take a very condescending attitude towards actors and dancers. Jokes abound about ‘the Aram Nagar strugglers association’. But in becoming a performer, I realised how much generosity of spirit, how much strength and courage is required to take pieces of your soul, turn it into art and hold it up for the world to be cruel about. My respect for the other performing arts has been renewed.

The folks at Kabeera presents were very welcoming even though poetry is not acting. I was a bit worried since I am an English performer and there is a minor form of linguistic racism at work in poetry circles. But one of the audience members actually spoke up and said,

“Why are we assuming such things? We are all artists here. Art goes beyond language and other boundaries.”

And true to form, they were really very receptive when I performed Paper Plane.

I’ll be going back there if they’ll have me and even if only to watch their performances. What a lovely Sunday it was!

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

 

Quoted In HT Cafe: ‘A Shot In The Dark: Why Artistes Love To Perform With The Lights Out

HT Cafe carried a story by Sapna Mathur on darkroom performances in Mumbai. I was quoted for my spoken word poetry. They were also nice enough to include a video of my collaboration with Karthik (performed in the light, so you can see) of the same act we did during the darkroom event – Lullaby.

The story is called A shot in the dark: Why artistes love to perform with the lights out‘.

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Conversations can crystallize your own impressions and Sapna’s questions made me think about my craft a lot more deeply. Here are the things I said –

“Ramya Pandyan, a Mumbai resident who has been attending open mics since 2009, says she started participating in blind poetry shows because they offered her anonymity. They also made her more aware of her craft. “The biggest distinction between the performing arts and other art forms is that there is no barrier between the artiste and the audience. With writing, you feel a certain safety behind the computer screen or notebook. But when you’re on stage, you are naked and vulnerable in front of the audience and their judgement. But a dark room levels this playing field,” she says, telling us that she’s even recited her poem, Lullaby, to live music in the dark. “Once you get used to the darkness, you feel a certain warmth and closeness with the people who are in that room with you. You can hear people breathing, shifting and fidgeting. We tend to listen to each other better — both the audience and the performers,” adds Pandyan.”

“During her regular shows, where the lights were switched on, Pandyan had become used to finding encouragement from some “friendly faces” in the crowd. But trying her hand at open mics in the dark has brought her out of that comfort zone. “Removing the visual aspect of a performance poses a huge challenge, which can only be good. Also, stage fright deters a lot of good writers. Reading in the darkness, without the weight of the audience’s eyes on them, might encourage many more people to approach the stage,” she says.”

“What is even more trying is when artistes want to collaborate on a performance in the dark. Pandyan worked with guitarist Karthik Rao on a blind poetry show, and it was “tricky” to carry through. “Any spoken word performance is a spontaneous art form. This means your words, speed, tone and the order can change with every rendition. In collaborations, you have to communicate with each other during the performance without letting the audience know. Thankfully, Karthik and I managed to read each other’s sounds during the performance and didn’t miss any beats,” she says. Bad experiences or good, this is an activity these performers are willing to experiment with. “We grew as artistes because of it,” says Pandyan.”

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

Challenge Poetry: Wrong Time & Muse

I haven’t done a lot of Challenge Poetry. I used to enjoy writing prompts. But I was learning how I wrote and I needed triggers, little guiding arrows to how I could think and prompts serve as that. But since I started doing Performance Poetry/Spoken Word, I’ve approached the form with specific ideas that I want to express. So to pick up a prompt and write to it, has felt a bit…artificial?

Still, I thought it might be interesting to give it a shot. Try everything, should be any artist’s mantra and keep trying it. I went to the Great Indian Poetry Challenge earlier in the month and came up with Wrong Time, based on the same prompt.

And yesterday, I took on Tuning Fork’s first ever Poetry Challenge and received the prompt of ‘Makes me feel alive’. I wrote and performed a piece I called Muse (or StoryMaker) and it ended up getting voted the runner-up in English performances. The winner, a seventeen year old was eons ahead in quality but I think a teenager has the purity, the intensity of emotion that the rest of us can only remember.

I’m finding it interesting that I’m turning out Performance Poetry rather than Spoken Word at these challenges. Spoken Word feels like it has used less effort in crafting the writing. But my Spoken Word pieces have taken far longer to write, rewrite, edit and perfect over time.

For instance, I performed Feminist Poetry at the concluding Open Mic segment yesterday. Many of the people there have heard it before, more than once. It got a good reaction though. Manisha said, “It’s complete now.” and I know what she means. The piece fits like a beautifully tailored garment that sits comfortably and precisely on me. This has taken time, several rewrites, rethinkings, performances and iterations (with and without music, changes of order, removing and adding key ideas). Performance Poetry on the other hand, seems to get completed in a couple of iterations and then I recant from memory, just like I would a song.

Perhaps my next foray should be Improv, a field I have absolutely zero confidence in. Keep watching and thank you for listening.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

Building Poetry, Shaping Me: Architect @ Tuning Fork

Another Monday at the Tuning Fork and how can I possibly hate the week when it starts that way?

I’ve been struggling a bit with performance poetry. I now know the difference between performed poetry and spoken word. I can’t entirely articulate it but I can see, hear and feel the difference. Spoken Word comes naturally to me; it’s almost like I have always been able to do it but only been thwarted and stopped by other people’s limited ideas or controlling actions. I speak what I think and it’s pretty lucid and even interesting if I’ve practised.

On the other hand, my poetry is somewhat prettier with flourishier words and ideas than I’d usually use while speaking. How to express these, on stage especially, without feeling like a dolt? Because really those feelings all bubble up and show in the nervous fidgets, the unnecessary grins, the odd-sounding voice intonation. How to be true to the poem and not sully it with these other things?

Then I remembered my mother telling me, years ago, to close my eyes and really feel the sentiment and that my performance would ring true if I did that. Of course, she was speaking about music. She’s a trained classical singer and has performed on All India Radio in her youth. I took her advice and it served me well through my singing days. You didn’t know I had music in my history, did you? Not if you’ve met me or my blog only recently. Well, another day.

But a performance is a performance, music or poetry and why not try the same tactic here, I reasoned? I think it worked.

I wrote ‘Architect’ several months ago. I even had a chance to perform it at The Hive a few weeks back. That particular evening, I was accompanied by someone whose presence I valued but who didn’t really know that much about poetry. It was an evening of high emotion, some tears and a turning point in a friendship.

But yesterday, Swamini showed up. And her workshop at Word Lounge on writing about spaces had reignited my interest in this poem. I really wanted to run it by her. I knew she would just get what I was trying to do with it.

So, what do you think? Did the performance I’ve painstakingly constructed stand? Does my story speak to you, free of fuss and awkwardness? Here’s ‘Architect‘ at the Tuning Fork.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

DNA Feature: ‘From Business Consultancy To Performance Poetry, This Woman Manages It All’

Earlier this week, DNA‘s Anvi Mehta ran a story on my performances as a Spoken Word artist. Heh, I’m deeply flattered. The story is titled ‘From business consultancy to performance poetry, this woman manages it all

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Here is what Anvi wrote (quoted from her article):

Andheri-based Ramya Pandyan, quit her corporate business consultant job in 2009 to take a sabbatical. A regular blogger since 2004, Pandyan was introduced to open mics and poetry recitals during this break.

She is now known for performance poetry and spoken word.

“I visited an open mic event where I saw many writers read out their poems and perform them. As I used to write poems since my childhood, I thought of doing the same and very soon I started attending open mics at The Prithvi Café, The Hive and other such places and became a member of Caferatti events,” Pandyan explains.

As an ardent blogger, poet and performer she was in touch with other writers, poets and artists. The various groups for creative writers and performers influenced her to start a community of her own in 2013.

“This community is called Alphabet Sambar and we meet weekly to share our writing work. The members help each other grow by reviewing their writing works. We also have a series of activities like writing challenges, workshops and boot camps. As we support the worldwide annual novel writing challenge (Nanowrimo), where participants finish a novel in a month, last year we had conducted a novel writing boot camp,” she adds.

It was because of this writer’s community that Pandyan met a few performance poets and was introduced to spoken word. “A few members did performance poetry and spoken word. It interested me and now for a year and a half or so, I am following these styles to read out my poetries. I use music, expressions and actions when performing. Like for a poem called ‘Paper Plane’, which is not a typical rhyme, the piece goes further as I actually make a paper plane for the audiences,” she narrates.

Juggling with her consultancy, training and some freelance writing alongside her regular poetry performances, Pandyan also maintains her blog as well as a YouTube channel of her performances.

She performs every Monday at Tuning Fork, Khar, Tuesday at The Hive, Bandra and fourth Mondays at Prithvi Café on a regular basis.

If interested in joining her writing community, you can reach her at her Facebook page, the alphabet sambar page, Youtube channel, blog, and tweet @AlphabetSambar or @ideasmithy.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m onTwitter and Instagram.

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