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Creating A Visual Soundscape — Taxi Fabric X Red Bull Tour Bus

Design Log 05 Mar

Taxi Fabric and designer Shiva Nallaperumal recently redesigned the Red Bull Tour Bus. As Shiva took us through the design process, musician Raghu Dixit shared the experience of his recent gig on the bus.

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Interiors of the Red Bull Tour Bus designed by Shiva Nallaperumal

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

In 2017, the team roped in Taxi Fabric and designer Shiva Nallaperumal to reimagine the RBTB. Shiva’s bold and edgy design aesthetic lent itself beautifully to the project, giving the bus a contemporary Indian vibe. For the design, Red Bull wanted a simple interpretation of the brief ‘Music On Wheels’, which was to be realized in the form of typography, bold graphics and patterns. “Keeping this in mind, Shiva stood out as a collaborator because he’s one of those few typographers who also has a deep understanding of graphic design and illustration, and is excellent at both. We were sure he would take the brief head on, understand it, interpret it with his aesthetic and still work on it with the brand in mind”, quipped Sanket, curator of Taxi Fabric and Design Fabric.

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Behind the scenes of the production process. (Photographs by Keenan Pereira)

Shiva took the initial idea and put his own spin on it. Sharing the design process, he said, “It was 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. To do that, I created forms inspired by the music that is played on the bus and then illustrated a terrain from the 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.”

A rudimentary typeface design philosophy also filtered into the project. For someone who designs fonts for retail as well as specific clients, it’s something Shiva couldn’t leave too far behind. “In typeface design, 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 forms and shapes that are inspired by musical instruments and were placed in different permutations and combinations to create the final design,” added Shiva.

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'I love the bold, clean lines and shapes running through the illustration' — Raghu Dixit on the redesigned Red Bull Tour Bus

After months of gruelling work from everyone involved, the bus was ready 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. I don’t know if too many designers have been able to create that sense of curiosity just through visuals. Shiva’s layers are excellent and his design process inspired by how type patterns are made is fascinating,” said Sanket.

Recently, Raghu Dixit of The Raghu Dixit Project (TRDP) took stage on the redesigned RBTB for a gig in Mumbai. Post his performance, we met Raghu inside the bus, done up in vivid red, white and black patterns. It was impossible to miss his infectious energy and humour. Raghu is responsible for single-handedly 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.

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The contemporary design is Shiva's take on the brief 'Music on Wheels'

The experience of performing on the RBTB was a drastic shift from that of a usual concert for TRDP. “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 RBTB 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.” 

With a growing community of young designers and a burgeoning indie music scene, we see more and more collaborations between musicians, graphic designers and visual artists everyday. The interrelation of the two disciplines, and the ways they inform each other is deeply underscored in our creative consciousness. “I think visual design gives music another dimension, making a song or a performance a more immersive experience for an audience. We are working with Arun Prakash, an illustrator based in Bangalore, who is creating an artwork for each of our songs. It’d be interesting to use them as a projection behind us when we perform. The project has taken its time; we’ve been working on it for eight months now and are done with six pieces. Each of them is an animated clip inspired by the theme of the song. I’ve also recently started working with Maadhurya Ramaswamy and Baadal Nanjundaswamy. Maadhurya has created a series of 60 paintings, imagining my relationship with my mother right from my childhood up until now. The idea sparked from my song Amma, from the album Jag Changa. We are planning to use the artworks for our gigs by November this year,” he wrapped up.

The redesigned Red Bull Tour Bus highlights how visual art and music feed into each other

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This story is in collaboration with Red Bull Music.