Patio Unplugged: Awkward Bong is conventionally polished, but a little roughness could do it good


Editor’s note: Patio Unplugged — a platform for indie artistes and a Lazy Patio Films production — is bringing over 30 musicians from Mumbai in its first season, to audiophiles. Born out of a love for acoustic music and a passion for film-making, Patio Unplugged not only provides a stage to artists but also a chance to record their music, and shoot two music videos. What sets this programme apart, is that artistes from across genres recreate their music in an unplugged format. Each artist/band featured on the show will perform two original songs. The Habitat Comedy and Music Café is the audio partner for the show. The Habitat also records, mixes and masters the tracks for Patio Unplugged and hosts the artistes every Saturday as an event called ‘The Listening Room Sessions’. We’re featuring each of the artistes from season 1, on Firstpost.

What’s the easiest and most accessible way to make music? Pick up an acoustic guitar and start playing. It’s just what Patio Unplugged’s second featured independent artist Awkward Bong has done.

Awkward Bong started out as a solo project in 2014 by Mumbai-based musician Ronit Sarkar and it has now grown into a four-piece band. However, the video features just Sarkar with an acoustic guitar.  Awkward Bong claim to have ‘lush, organic pop sound’. You don’t get to hear the lush part of it because of the setup. While unplugged performances do peel away the layers from one’s sound, they also bring out the core of an artist. It can be reductive but can also be illuminating. Singing along with an acoustic guitar is deceptively simple. It was their MTV Unplugged set that solidified Nirvana’s credentials. Everyone knew they were a good band. That set made them great.

Ronit Sarkar of Awkward Bong, during his Patio Unplugged set

Ronit Sarkar of Awkward Bong, during his Patio Unplugged set

The first Awkward Bong song is Strangers. According to the artist, the song is about people falling out and becoming strangers to each other. The song is a very mainstream acoustic ballad and is supported by a chord progression you’ve heard many times. The song isn’t trying anything new and the smooth vocals are also very pastiche. People who like soft acoustic ballads about love will like the song, but there’s nothing in the song for those who ask more of their music. Even the lyrics are about sentiments that have been thrown up by countless bands over the years.

Singing about loss of love is a trap so many artists have fallen into. There are some who sing about love without becoming formulaic. Damien Rice’s Cheers Darlin‘” or Radiohead’s True Love Waits immediately come to mind. There are many others. But the point is that there is nothing wrong about making music personal; most music is. But it becomes a problem when your thoughts and ideas are indistinguishable from thousands of others around the world. It does imply that people all over the world are very similar on an experiential level. We all go through the same emotions. But few create something artistically significant from those experiences. That remains the difference between the herd the shepherd.

Awkward Bong’s second song Let Me Out, Let Me Go is instantaneously better than the first because it is different. The song is about the artist’s love-hate relationship with the city of Mumbai, which also a shared emotion among people who live in Mumbai. But it is less storied than a break up. “Let Me Out, Let Me Go” features a soft, cheery guitar lick, which is almost childlike and sounds like advertisement music, but the vocals talk about a strained relationship with a city. The plucky guitars change to an unconventional strum toward the end, resulting in the song having a distinct sound to it.

Clearly, Awkward Bong is polished, but maybe a bit of roughness is exactly what it needs.


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