Tomorrow is the first GungunGumpu day, the story unravels

Posted on March 7, 2008

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GUNGUNGUMPU is a mini-festival for humming and casual singing on the streets. On MG Road and Brigade Road, each GUNGUMPUR will make repeated rounds of a pre-planned route (am posting maps of the routes next). A person with a video camera will follow each GUNGUNGUMPUR and document the responses and reactions they garner.

The ideas being the festival are:

  1. Collectively affect the sonic ambience of urban spaces (public and semi-public)
  2. Find ways of getting our voice heard without using words.
  3. Create “co-incidences.”

As part of the broader effort of CitySpinning, this is one of the ways one is trying out to generate tactics through which public spaces can be collectively “hacked” / “modified” and used for cultural, political and social uses. Some tag-lines which maybe capture some of the spirit behind the effort:

  • Giving your ears a break
  • “Hear my presence”
  • The sound of silence
  • Triggering spontaniety
  • Creating sonic diversity in urban spaces
  • Creating co-incidences

Some personal motivations for doing GungunGumpu:

  • I have always enjoyed singing casually on the streets. Especially when I am on my cycle or on my scooter. I sometimes have felt so free, that I have been singing my guts out and everyone around has been staring at me. And ya, I am what you’d call a “terrible singer.” How I manage to do this, maybe, is with the anonymity which public spaces allow one to wear? The abandon we can feel with only strangers around us. Sometimes people smile. Sometimes they curse. With my months of street-silence (haven’t felt at home enough in Bangalore to be singing on the streets yet). I have been a more active listener. Radio playing, phone ringing, loud TV, bluetooth-phone talker, couple fighting, dogs barking… what all do you hear on the streets? And what does that do to you? What does it make you feel? GungunGumpu might be a good way to explore these questions.
  • A few weeks back, Zack, Dharmang and I went to the Bangalore Municipal Corporation office with Poonam. We were sitting with some young engineers. I asked one of them, “Is there any civic law against singing on the streets?” Every possible way for public spaces that we might think of raises questions of “permission” and “right.” I was testing the waters qith my question. The engineer said, “Sure.” And GungunGumpu was born. For me, it is also like a sugar-coated pill for trying to open public spaces to radical temperory uses.
  • I haven’t ever thought much of noise pollution at all. “Isn’t it something just picky Americans worry about?” But I have been amazed with reading about noise reduction technologies and mechanisms. There was one specific Bose noise-reduction headphone I had read about, which cut all kinds of external sound by playing music of some kind in your ears. Could one do this for people at large by humming and singing in all kinds of busy urban spaces? A scenario in which humans could try and replace technology.
  • Perceiving something as a co-incidence is the biggest kick. “Wow! what a day!” If one is committed enough, can one create co-incidental experiences for tons of people? Can we make people wonder, “why are so many people humming today? is it some kind of special day?”

After we are done with our humming tomorrow evening, we plan to go eat at Bobby’s dhaba. There maybe I will document some conversations about our effort. Fingers crossed.
Meanwhile, Devashish Guruji (Deboo) is designing the logo for GungunGumpu. Here is the first version:

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The illustration on the top is by Avinash Dehmukh. It is a part of a yet-to-be-finalized poster.

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