Artistic community Kommune brings together poets, musicians and storytellers from across the country with the aim of creating quality content in performance art.
The idea behind Kommune is simple. Via the platform, an artistic ‘Kommuneity’ curates live performance art through workshops, live events, and videos, bringing together some of the best storytellers, poets and musicians in the country.
On Kommune’s YouTube channel, one comes across a vibrant mix of storytellers and poets, telling different stories. They talk about numerous things – being homeless in Mumbai, being an introvert, being an atheist, about falling or not falling in love, and about being fine and not fine at the same time.
They share one commonality — they all talk about something very personal to them, revealing a tiny part of their souls in front of the camera. The stories are near and dear to the performers themselves and therefore, instantly capture the attention of the audience.
“That’s the key, you see. People need to see something they can relate to. That’s why personal storytelling has become so popular. We, as humans, can relate more to the stories of vulnerability than stories of human success. People connect more with the storyteller who is comfortable with his or her imperfection and isn’t looking to hide it. They need to take away something from your story,” says Roshan Abbas, co-founder of Kommune.
Roshan co-founded Kommune with two of his friends Gaurav Kapur, a television personality; and Ankur Tewari, a musician in 2014. Roshan, having worked for a long time in theatre, radio as well as television, wanted to create a space where stories could be told with passion and free from commercial pressures.
“I and a bunch of my friends, including Ankur and Gaurav, would meet up and stage small performances. It was just for our fun, artists’ retreat, so to say! And when we’d meet up, we’d wonder, why isn’t there as much quality performance art created? That’s when we thought of starting something like Kommune – a platform for performance artists to come together and create something. We held a small meeting in a friend’s bungalow. A total of 15 people came to the meeting; it wasn’t like everyone knew everyone; it was more like friends of friends of friends getting together. It went really well and that’s when we saw the potential of the idea,” says Roshan.
About the same time, Vijay Nair, CEO of OML and a friend of Roshan’s, was planning the Stage 42 festival. When he heard about Kommune, he expressed an interest in witnessing a formal event. Soon, the team had a deadline in place. The first official Kommune event took place in February 2015 in Mumbai. After that there was no looking back.
“People’s attention spans are going down really quickly. And to be able to hook people’s attention, you need a great story and you also need a great performer. Our focus is on the method as much as on the content and the medium!” Roshan explains.
They started with the series The Storytellers that brought together some celebrity speakers with other speakers to perform.
The Storytellers’ sessions were a place to experiment with the format, where the storytellers were aided by workshops to help them hone their skills. The only rule: every story needed to be based on reality. Soon, Kommune started experimenting with poetry, coming up with spoken word poetry and beat poetry performances.
Following the great response in Mumbai, Kommune started hosting shows in Delhi and Bengaluru and has plans to tour smaller cities in the near future.
“Although so far we have only been actively promoting and curating poetry and storytelling, we do wish to venture in other performance arts as well. Say, experimental theatre or dastangoi, for example. We are trying to look at forms which translate well to video. It has been a conscious decision to master these two verticals first! We also wish to organise our own festival soon,” says Shamir Reuben, spoken word poet and content head at Kommune.
Roshan feels that Kommune’s role, as a curator of performance art, is much-needed at present.
With new avenues for the genre opening up, the quantity of content being generated has vastly increased. There’s just too much of content out there, a blundering amount, says Roshan.
“There are so many diverse narratives in digital storytelling. And there’s an open platform for everyone! Earlier, only those who had all the resources could tell their story — be it in any form. Now with the advancement of the technology, there’s power in everyone’s hands. It’s a good thing, because now the other side of the coin is also getting exposure. People who earlier had no place in storytelling now have the power to tell their story in their own way. Today, your only excuse for not telling the story is your own lack of energy,” says Roshan.
While technology seems to have levelled the playing field for artistes and amateurs alike, it also creates an important requirement, one that Kommune targets their efforts at.
Roshan explains, “The one thing that is lacking is curation. There’s so much content being generated every moment! And there’s no curation at all. We are trying to bring that to the storytelling space.”