5 to 815: The story of the Chennai-based music group ‘On The Streets of Chennai (OTS)’

Chennai Music Group “On the Streets of Chennai (OTS)” plays a huge role in transforming the city into India’s street music capital. Their journey is inspiring.

Some of the most well-known figures in current music, such as Justin Bieber and Ed Sheeran, began their careers as street artists. None of the performers of “On the Streets of Chennai (OTS)” have risen to the top of all music charts, but this factor has not stopped them from growing as a community dedicated to making Chennai the street music capital of the country. They even plan to launch their own record label.

On the International Day of Happiness, which falls on March 20, music lovers in the streets and parks of Chennai danced to their favorite numbers, from Ilayaraaja to AR Rahman, in a marathon of concerts, all sung and mastered by traveling musicians of OTS, who loves to promote music culture and happiness.

Senthil Raj T, the founder of OTS, said the response to the 10-hour long concert was outstanding. “We ended up singing eleven hours straight and people were so full of energy, people were smiling and dancing and enjoying the space. If an enclosed space brought so much joy, then we thought why not on the streets and that’s how OTS was born. The fight was immense at the start. We started with very few musicians and it was very important to gain the confidence of the government. Today we are in a much better place and have permission to perform in almost any location. The group, which now has 815 members, initially started with just 5.

Raj went on to say that they were offered multiple financial contributions but a happy face made their day. He said: “People shower us with so much love, we get bottles of water, sweets and flowers. Just seeing a grandma dancing to our beats would make our day.

The level of love and compassion the OTS community receives from the people of Chennai can only be believed by witnessing. Pooja B, a student at Anna University, said it was wonderful to see them playing and engaging people naturally. “I saw OTS play on the way home last week at Airport MTR station. I love everything about the community and came all the way to Pondy Bazaar with my friends just to hear some good music.

IT worker Siva said: “I work from home all week and weekends aren’t the same after the pandemic. I follow their social handle and keep track of where they perform. Listening to them has become my new weekend pastime.