Music on Wheels: Red Bull Tour Bus X Shiva Nallaperumal

A champion for Indian independent music, the Red Bull Tour Bus got a serious makeover courtesy designer Shiva Nallaperumal and Taxi Fabric.

Five years ago, in a little workshop tucked away in a big city started a massive project. One that would not only travel places, but take people places too – literally and metaphorically. The folks over at Red Bull Music were plotting and planning the Indian edition of the Red Bull Tour Bus; a part-stage-part-bus that travels across the country pushing forward Indian independent music. Built entirely by hand, the bus has, since 2013, travelled over 60,000km entertaining over 350,000 fans and has been home to over 120 independent artists.

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Entering its 5th year, the team roped in Taxi Fabric and designer Shiva Nallaperumal in what seemed to be one of the nicest collaborations between the music and art industries in recent times. The entire vibe of the Red Bull Tour Bus has been extremely similar to Shiva’s design aesthetic which is “contemporary Indian with a global outlook; informed by things that we see around us as well as things that we would like to see”, which made him the perfect choice for the collaboration.  For Taxi Fabric as well, “it’s definitely a leap in terms of what we’ve done so far”, says Taxi Fabric curator, Sanket Avlani. 

For the design, Red Bull was quite clear that they wanted to go for something simple enough to be understood and signify music on the go. 

Shiva wanted to stick to the brief but put his own spin on it.  Speaking of his design process he says, “it was rather challenging to create a visual language that’s creative and new. The basic concept was that music takes people places and that is what we tried to visualise in the graphics. Things like how music changes the landscape. To do that, I reduced it to the very basic form exercises where we created forms inspired by the music that is played on the bus and then create a terrain from these patterns. A pattern is one shape being repeated many times but here we wanted to repeat multiple shapes many times so that it feels like a pattern but it’s not. A combination of all these things seamlessly put together is what helped inform the final design”. He didn’t want it to be lost in the midst of a sea of cliches.

What’s intriguing is also the use of typeface design philosophies in something like this. For someone who designs fonts for retail as well as specific clients, it’s something Shiva couldn’t leave too far behind. “In typeface designs, fonts are about creating shapes and in a paragraph or sentence the same shapes are repeated in different orders. We used the same concept in the bus. There are 10-15 shapes and forms that are inspired by musical instruments and they were placed in different permutations and combinations to create the final designs’, he explains.

After months of gruelling work from everyone involved, the bus was ready (once again) to be viewed by the world. “When you see the design on the bus, it feels like you’re transported somewhere and you’re curious to know more. That sense of curiosity to know more and understand the concept, I don’t know if too many designers have been able to do that just through visuals.  Shiva’s layers are excellent and his mode of execution derived from how type patterns are made is fascinating”, said Sanket.

Recently, Raghu Dixit of The Raghu Dixit Project (TRDP) took stage on the redesigned RBTB. Post his performance, we met Raghu inside the bus, done up in vivid crimson, white and black patterns. It was impossible to miss his infectious energy and humour. Having also performed with Red Bull for a couple of years now, Raghu is responsible for changing the landscape of contemporary folk music in India. With a growing interest in design, art and illustration, he was intrigued by the redesigned interiors of the bus. “I think it’s brilliantly done. I love the bold, clean lines and shapes running through the illustration and it is interesting that the artwork is a visual imagination of the soundscape of rock music,” he said.

The experience of performing on the RBTB is always a drastic shift from that of a usual concert. “The dynamics of the band changes drastically. Our drummer and percussionist were on a lower stage, which changed how we communicate during a performance. The entire experience of being on the bus is quite different in itself, it tosses things around and makes us break out of our usual routine,” added Raghu. “It is also interesting to think about the potential the bus holds. You could actually drive around the entire country. When it comes to music festivals or gigs in India, we haven’t really ventured out of the cities and into towns. I would love to take the Red Bull Tour Bus and do gigs in rural Karnataka and see how the people react to it. A concept like this would be completely alien in that setting, and it would be fun to bring that experience to them.”

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This Taxi Fabric project is in collaboration with and supported by Red Bull Music.