Chittaranjan Colony, Kolkata
Sounds from a south Kolkata residential area.
The mic is sitting under a corrugated tin shed on the roof of the flat I live in, churning the ocean of Kolkata sounds and offering it’s hearing through the stream.
The stream feels like a tightly woven densely designed Kashmiri carpet. You just lie-down on it and feel the warmth first and then you slowly start to discover the incredible detailing of motifs and designs that makes it sound so dense!
This mic’s hearing is two-fold. It hears the atmosphere naturally and it also hears sounds transmitted through the tin shed because it sits really close to it. When the birds sit and walk on the shed you listen to their footsteps along with their chirping. When it rains, you almost feel the vibration of the shed as the water pours down on it. When a dry leaf falls on it you hear its every small movement with the wind.
Crows are the most commonly heard birds in the stream. But you also hear Indian cuckoo, Indian myna, Sparrows, Kites, the Kingfisher, Black-hooded oriole, Parrots, Spotted doves and other birds in the daytime. At night you can hear owls and street dogs. Sometimes (particularly on the full moon!)the street dogs go crazy and you get to listen to furious barking standoffs between the different gangs.
Night time listening lets you hear the acoustic space of the location quite vividly. Occasional loud motorbikes, train horns, dog barking from different directions and drunken people’s loud conversations reverberate through the alleys and concrete walls and create an acoustic space, which is very different from the daytime acoustic space.
One unique feature of this stream is the human voice. The houses are closely built in this part of the city and because of the tropical weather the windows and doors are open all of the time. Also this house is located beside the main road, so human voices are always present. It raises a question about this project, that if it is intruding into someone’s private space or not! How do you keep sound “privacy” in a city like this where the population density and most of all the economy, make people build houses on top of each other.
There is a playground just beside the house. You hear lots of kids playing in the afternoon and early morning. There is a Krishna temple at one corner of the playground. Every morning they sing kirtan, which is a kind of devotional song. This is a Hindu dominated area, so you hear conch shells and bells from different houses as part of their daily ritual.
This stream might sound quite overwhelming when you listen to it for the first time. But this is how the space is. Frequent political rallies and meetings, increasing religious festivals and gatherings, really insane honking, traffic, heat, wind, monsoon rain, huge tropical thunderstorms in summer, endless construction work and extremely dense population make this truly a wall of sound!
This ephemeral stream tells you quite a solid story about a place and a time, where it sometimes feels kind of unreal to be living.