It was pure love for music that brought this all-female band members of the dynamic music project together in December 2017. Ladies Compartment, a band based out of Mumbai, is dedicated to the working women of the city. Its members — Aditi Ramesh, Ramya Pothuri, Aarifah Rebello, Nandita V and Kristen — bring to the stage a melange of genres like American folk, jazz, blues, indie and Carnatic.
As we catch up with them on the eve of their performance in the city, Ramesh says that Ladies Compartment is an ode to the local trains of Mumbai which are its lifelines. The train compartments bring women from all walks of life together on one journey and the name is an analogy to the diverse musical styles that the band members bring with them.
But Ramesh believes that people need to stop branding their band as “an all girls band”. Why can’t people just refer to us as a band, she asks. “After all, a band with only men in it is not addressed as an all boys band, we just call them a band. We too need that kind of equality,” she says.
Ladies Compartment gigs are a combination of original compositions and covers layered with experimental sounds and harmonies.
When asked how the band came into existence, Ramesh says that it all happened very suddenly when she first met violinist Kirsten after a performance and the idea of having a band was born. The band slowly started building up when Ramesh and Kristen met Nandita and other band members at different locations. Even though in the initial stage, the idea sounded wild, the band stuck together as they wanted to create a space to encourage each other.
Talking about being in an industry which is believed to be dominated by men, Ramesh says that initially they were not even taken seriously. “At times, we had issues getting good gigs because we did not have a male face to represent us,” she says, pointing out that right from managing the band tours to PR, everything was done by them.
Stereotyping women was another hurdle they had to face. Their music was stereotyped even before people heard them playing. “People present at the gigs always thought since it is an all-girls band, we’ll play something soft but they were always in for a surprise,” Ramesh says.
Today though, things have changed. “It is more than just being a band now for Ladies Compartment today. We really believe in building a female music fraternity and empowering each other through music,” Ramesh says. She adds that through music, they want to be able to celebrate each woman and do their best for female artists because of which, they like collaborating with other musicians to keep the spirit going.
Talking about what feminism really means to the band, Ramesh says, “The entire concept of feminism is flawed these days. Being an all-girls band does not mean that we are here to stand against men; all we want is equality and equal opportunities.”
Though women have been through a lot in the past many years, feminism is not about hating men, she reiterates.
Rebello, who is the drummer in Ladies Compartment, says that since the time she became a part of the band, her life has become harmonious. She says, “We’ve gotten to know a lot about each other because of which we grew really close and strong as a band and that reflects through the music we play.”
Pothuri, who is the guitarist, says that the journey has been crazy, but positively crazy. “Since we have grown as friends too, our jamming sessions as well as the tour gigs are more like a bunch of girls hanging out together.”
Nandita V, the Bassist says that she feels great to be finally and officially recognised as a musician. “When we are jamming or even at gigs, there is this constant source of inspiration and the fact that I get to play with this all rounder team is nothing more than a privilege,” she adds.
The band, which has had a number of covers to their name, recently released their original song, Don’t waste your time. It is a fusion track that talks about why it is important to get out of places which are just bad spaces and breaking free from shackles.
When asked what is in store for the future, Ramesh says, “We are working on releasing more and more originals and are looking for locations pan India for gigs and performances in collaboration with fellow musicians.”
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Ladies Compartment will be performing at Shisha Cafe, ABC Farms, Mundhwa on August 2, 8.30 pm onwards