My oh my Mumbai!

By | April 11, 2010 at 9:39 am | 11 comments | Abu Dhabi & Mumbai April 2010, LSO On Tour | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

As the seatbelt light came on and people gradually returned to their seats for the final descent into Mumbai, I have to admit to feeling a little nervous. After the incredibly ordered calm of UAE, I knew Mumbai was going to be almost exactly the opposite, but no matter how many books or films you see, nothing can prepare you for the assault on your senses that is this astonishing city. When you land at Heathrow having approached from the East, you realise that London is actually a fairly small place even when you take into account the huge number of suburbs; it doesn’t take long to fly over. As the plane came down through the clouds the sheer size of the place became apparent, it goes on and on into the distance, a huge sprawling mass of people and buildings. Everybody around me is leaning over to try to get a first glimpse out of the window of our home for the next 2 days. Most people in the orchestra have never been to India before and there are certainly no members left from the last time the LSO came here in 1964. As we approach the airport, one of the infamous slums appears below us. There is an audible gasp at the size and intensity of the settlement; we’ve all seen the film, but somehow, great film though it is, it doesn’t prepare you for the reality, and that is just from the air. We are so low I can see kids on a tin roof waving up at the plane, smiling. I find myself smiling and waving back though they couldn’t possibly see me. I think to myself that this is going to be a trip like no other.

The first morning, a group of us are playing in a wind quintet at venues in the city for two of our sponsors on this tour. First stop is the Vodafone HQ where we are playing in the cafe for all of the staff. But, oh the traffic! The noise of the horns never stops like the bleating of sheep in a field. Nobody seems to get annoyed though and despite the way it may look, it doesn’t seem that chaotic, just organised in a very idiosyncratic way. Despite not knowing which direction a vehicle is going to come at me from, I feel less in danger of being run over than in the city of London. However, for some reason we have been given a full size coach (not a couch) despite the fact that there are only 5 of us. We are extremely on time for the recital and enter a cafe which is full to the brim of young, cool looking staff and their MD Martin, who turns out to be Dutch – Joost was happy! Before we know it we are on stage being introduced. The guy with the mic is very excited and gave us the best introduction I have ever heard.


  1. Babu Syed (5 years ago)

    cud have commented on Indian music?

    • LSO (5 years ago)

      It’s brilliant.

  2. Cara Chapman (5 years ago)

    What a fabulous blog! Despite being friends with a member of the orchestra who sits pretty close to Gareth (usually next to him!), I’ve only just started reading these.

    Mumbai sounds fascinating and the way you’ve described it just makes me want to go. Sadly I seem to have an ever expanding list of places to visit, so it’ll have to join the queue, but I think it just went up a few places!

    Keep up the good work!

  3. Maija (5 years ago)

    If you ever get bored with the orchestra, you could take up a career in advertising or travel writing! I just added Mumbai to my list of “places I need to go at some point in my life”.

    • LSO (5 years ago)

      Thanks very much! Don’t think I’ll get bored with the orchestra though, do you?

  4. Malcolm (5 years ago)

    Gareth…thank you so much for describing our city so beautifully. It was indeed a real pleasure to read all of what you wrote…Thank you for coming to Mumbai to play for us…and I ardently hope you will include our city in all of your future tours. The concerts, both of them, were remarkable and indeed virtuostic! A very big congratulations to all of you. OK….about me…well i sing in the tenor line for one the premier choral groups in India…The Paranjoti chorus…under the baton of Mrs Coomi Wadia. We had sung the choral part in Beethoven’s 9th last September with the Symphony Orchestra of India..and are nowl training for a tentative tour to Moscow…scheduled for June this year. So Gareth, do let me know when you’re coming to Mumbai again…It would be my honor to take you and your friends around my city and show you much more. Here’s wishing you and the LSO all the very best for the future!

    • LSO (5 years ago)

      Thanks for your comment Malcolm. We had a great time and if we come back I shall give you a bell.

  5. Tweets that mention My oh my Mumbai! (5 years ago)

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by London Symphony Orch and Azurite, Babu Syed. Babu Syed said: RT @londonsymphony: Gareth has had time to blog the last couple of days in Mumbai. Looks like he'll be making a return visit soon!: [...]

  6. Navneeth (5 years ago)

    Lucky Bombay, it gets to host the famous orchestras all the time. (Last year, the Viennese were there.) You ought to come to Chennai, my home-city, and experience the rest of India. (But avoid April/May, though — it gets terribly hot here.)

  7. Mridula (5 years ago)

    I attended both Bombay concerts ten days ago and it’s still hard to put my emotions to words. The best I can come up with is that it was like hearing real music for the first time. I was familiar with most of the pieces played, so there really shouldn’t have been any novelty as such, but I felt it nonetheless. There was the same breathless emotional reactions of hearing them for the first time, along with a more mature understanding of the piece and how it would develop. And words definitely do no justice to the actual emotions. It was like nothing I have experienced before. I can’t wait to hear the LSO again!

    I’m glad you liked Bombay so much. It’s a beautiful city, my favourite. You’ve identified what lots of people haven’t. Bombay is so much more than money and economics. It’s the people that make it what it is. When you return (and do come back soon!), you must see more. Send a mail. We’d be happy to show you around.

  8. Suzie (4 years ago)

    What a pity the orchestra did not manage to perform anything by either of two extremely good British-based classical composers of Indian origin: Param Vir and Naresh Sohal. In 1987, Sohal was awarded a Padma Shree (Order of the Lotus) for his services to western classical music, and if you check Wikipaedia or his website, you’ll see he’s just made it to seventy. Both composers have based work on the insights and themes generated by Indian philosophy and Mumbai audiences would have been deeply appreciative of, not to say moved by, this depth and quality. Contemporary ‘Indian music’ these days is more than Bollywood, banghra and raags, you know.


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