This was the decade of homegrown, standalone music festivals


MetroPlus recaps how these festivals come into their own, giving India’s independent musicians the spotlight they deserve

Remember the first rock festival Independence Rock (still luring in many a loyal fan) that was held in Mumbai and organised by Farhad Wadia? The first instalment was, wait for it, 26 years ago; so it is safe to say India’s music festival scene has come a long way since then.

Interestingly, millennials consider music festivals to be economical given that in one exotic venue for a fixed price, you are privy to your favourite musicians, serene surroundings, new artistes, and socialising opportunities. But it is a competitive market considering most music festivals kick off in the autumnal season, with an annual industry revenue of hundreds of crores.

Weekender NH7, Sunburn and Sensation have maintained their stances as the bigger chapters of the festival scene — going to them is practically a no-brainer. But then there are the dark horses of the industry who we pay homage to as we dip into 2020.

Music at the mall

The Global Isai Festival describes itself as an annual global music festival with a local heart. Launched in 2012, the festival held in a mall in Chennai hosts anywhere between 10 to 20 acts each year, from Hiphop Tamizha to Japanese rock band Gleam for Dream, to French blues act Ziia and The Swing Mates.

This was the decade of homegrown, standalone music festivals

Though GIF had its origins in a pure rock event back in 2009, today, “we are open to all genres: hiphop, jazz, Carnatic...” says Edison Prithviraj, director of Unwind School of Music which gave birth to GIF. The only thing they are not open to is alcohol, which makes their footfall of 6,000 this year a definite a testament to the music.

Narratives and notes

The team at Wild City have yet another festival brainchild in the form of Magnetic Fields, which was brought to life along with THOT, Kunal Lodhia, Alsisar Mahal and Smita Singh Rathore. While Magentic Fields falls under a ‘larger scale’ category, it still provides stages and serenades for independent artistes.

This was the decade of homegrown, standalone music festivals

This year’s set-up in Alsisar Mahal, Rajasthan, featured musicians from different corners of the globe. Indian artistes included Abhi Meer, and Hyderabad rapper Yung Raj. The set-up featured something a little different: a story-telling stream aptly titled Magnetic Words, as well as a bigger collaboration with Goa-based artist-run residency HH Arts Spaces and another edition of its bountiful Magnetic Feasts, an onsite brunch.

The desert surroundings juxtaposed with the booming techno and electronica provided otherworldly escapism for the typically tens of thousands of attendees.

The valley has voices

In 2012, about 300 people had travelled to the picturesque Ziro Valley in Arunachal Pradesh, to listen to musical talent from the region and from other parts of India. This year, the audience had swelled to over 6,000 people over four days, a testament to how Ziro Festival of Music has become one of India’s signature homegrown music festivals.

This was the decade of homegrown, standalone music festivals

Hosted and put together by members of the Apatani tribe, the festival boasts of not only a Woodstock-esque vibe in a stunning natural location, but also of a sustainable design residency programme, where young designers and architects from across the world come to learn and work with local artisans. Led by festival founder Bobby Hano, the artisans work for over two months to put together the festival infrastructure, entirely with locally sourced, eco-friendly material like bamboo. Needless to say, the focus is on encouraging local music — the 2019 edition saw a total of 40 rock, jazz, folk and classical acts. Only five of them were international.

Luxurious rebellion

Multi-city festival Future Rising, hosted by the W Hotels group and Mixcloud, has an immersive centrepiece: an emerging musician and a visual artiste create an audio-visual performance. Future Rising is in its nascent years, having launched across six international cities in 2016.

This was the decade of homegrown, standalone music festivals

But only in 2017, thanks to a collaboration with Wild City, did the festival finally come to Goa, seeing about 2,000 visitors. Age and background fall away for the sake of a memorable time; 60-year-old Subodh Kerkar, director, Museum of Goa, cajoled attendees with light-oriented art installations titled Cococomb, Lamps Populi and Circle of Lights. His visual works were teamed with local musicians Tsunami Soup Collective.

This edition had Delhi-based electronic musician BLOT! and Mumbai artiste Sam Madhu who created Digital Devi, a scultpure of the deity sitting in a lotus flower while sporting.... a VR headset!

Listen to Mama Earth

One of the images that define Bengaluru’s Echoes of Earth Festival, is an upcycled sculpture of a gigantic crab, towering over revellers. The festival, which touts itself as India’s most sustainable one, is as proud of its quirky upcycled structures (the Lionfish stage of 2018 is another icon) as it is of its line-up, sustainability workshops, solar powered stage and its carbon footprint. The 150-acre venue is entirely plastic free, and waste segregation is reportedly a major priority.

This was the decade of homegrown, standalone music festivals

This year, the theme was Sanctuary, and the art featured 14 installations of endangered animals, made from scrap. The line-up was impressive too, but the bigger win for the festival is that they made sustainability Instagrammable.

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2020 1:01:12 AM |

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