Review: Menwhopause Live In Tihar Jail
26 December 2011
As I walked deep into the fortress of Tihar Jail the first thing that struck me was its size. Home to over 12,000 inmates and currently Asia's largest prison, it's not exactly small. Split into 10 separate jails, inmates are currently housed based on age, crime and background.
I hitched a lift from the gates and headed to Jail No.7, the venue for Menwhopase and The Flying Souls playing a show for its 1000 or so inmates all aged between 18-21.
After being told by the prison guard at the final security check that once I'm in “I'm no different to them, to any other prisoner” I must admit, I was slightly apprehensive. Once inside however these nerves were put completely to rest. All the inmates taking part in the production of the event were busy joking on and off stage with members of Menwhopause, press and photographers (which there were plenty of).
The Flying Souls is a 10-piece band that formed inside Tihar Jail last year. For the last 3 weeks they've been working with Delhi based rock band Menwhopause who have been helping them structure their songs and live performance ability. The band consists of Amit. S, Amit. J and Vikramjit on vocals, Bhagirath on drums, Sunny on congos, Dinesh on guitars, Harnaam on tabla, Mr. Sharma on keyboards and Guddu as acting band manager and vocalist. Each have been locked up for crimes that range from murder right through to kidnapping and burglary.
All inmates in attendance were prompted to welcome their DG as he appeared at the venue and after a number of lengthy speeches the show eventually got underway. The Flying Souls started the performance with two Bollywood covers leading into tracks produced entirely by themselves within the prison premises.
The band then went on to introduce the following act by saying:
“Brothers, have you ever heard of a foreigner playing in Tihar Jail? Well today you'll see it happen!”
On came John Michael, a Nigerian national, who was greeted with an uproar of cheers and hoots from an ecstatic audience. He performed an original hip-hop composition called “What's my name” backed by fellow rapper Sunny.
As the show progressed the Flying Souls sung covers of Menwhopause tracks “Fly Away” and “Free” as well as showcasing a dance performance from a clearly popular inmate sending the crowd into a dancing frenzy.
It was at this point that it became clear what this was all about... It was about them, the inmates. This was simply an opportunity for Menwhopause to facilitate and inspire musical expression. Throughout the duration of the performance the Delhi based rock band had kept a low profile as the backing band, allowing The Flying Souls to take centre stage.
For the last 5 minutes the band decided to simply play music to an audience who had made it clear that they wanted to dance. A crowd of enthusiasts quickly formed at the front and a few even had a crack at breaking and rapping on stage. It was their concert, after all.
After catching up with front man Randeep later that day, a million miles away from Tihar Jail at the blueFROG launch, it was clear he was still very preoccupied with the experience. The humble band are hoping to be able to continue their work within the prison premises over the coming months by helping the inmates record their compositions in a makeshift studio.
We've got a video coming soon but for now you can listen to audio (*removed*) as well as check out a gallery documenting the event below: