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A new journey everyday

SNAPSHOTS From the festival. Photos: Polina Schapova

SNAPSHOTS From the festival. Photos: Polina Schapova  

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Original sounds, global tunes and eclectic audiences... IndiEarth XChange was a celebration of diversity

The hotel has turned into a club. The lobby throbs with laughter. The bar bristles with conversation. The basement shudders with music. A conference? This feels more like a party.

When Sonya Mazumdar (CEO/director of world music record label EarthSync) first invited me to IndiEarth XChange, describing it as a trade event for independent music, film and media, I imagined yet another intellectual opinion-fest, driven by rose-tinted idealism. I should have known better. After all, EarthSync is refreshingly pragmatic, which is probably why they have been successful in a space where many others have failed.

The annual IndiEarth XChange, which took over The Park hotel this weekend, turned out to be a celebration of diversity, drawing an eclectic crowd: musicians, film makers and DJs. But also students, families and random passers-by, drawn in by the sound and energy.

The event brought together about 300 delegates from all over the world for think-tank sessions, documentary screenings and panel discussions. The intention was to provide a platform to network but also prove that ‘Indie’ doesn’t necessarily have to be niche, complex and — let’s face it — pretentious.

I slip into the venue on Saturday at 2 p.m., intending to listen in on a single session. More than 12 hours later, it’s 2 a.m., and I’m still there. Along with more than 500 people — and that’s a conservative estimate. Rajasthani folk singer Kutle Khan is on stage. As his powerful voice fills the hall, the audience sits mesmerised, crammed cross-legged on the floor, a tangle of knees and elbows. Suddenly, a young man in a perky Afro stands, right in the centre, and begins to dance. In minutes, the entire audience is on its feet — hands in the air.

As the Kutle Khan Project winds up, folk dancers ringed by drums, guide us to the next venue — the bar, where German techno producer Justus Kohncke is playing. The party goes on till 4.30 a.m.

I return on Sunday evening, to find the energy still high, though the vibe is more relaxed. Nathalie Natiembe, from the Reunion Islands, is performing. She’s singing in Creole, the music is powerful but very unfamiliar. Yet again, the hall is packed. What’s more amazing is the fact that no one is on their mobile phones — no selfies, no smsing, no Facebook. Despite this being a largely 20-something crowd. After the show, they head to the bar for Madboy Mink’s blend of funk, swing and attitude. More hands in the air. More swaying. More whoops and yells for encores, before German DJ Cee, described as a “jungle dweller, sound designer and maverick” takes over.

Israeli music producer and filmmaker Yotam Agam, who’s co-founder of EarthSync, settles down in the lobby to chat about the event. It’s been 10 years since he and Sonya started EarthSync along with Sastry Karra. “My advantage was that I didn’t have a background in Indian music. I was ignorant about genres: that this is classical, this is folk, this is temple. To me, it was just music… When I saw how much joy a classical musician gets by jamming with folk artists, I realised these acts needed to be given a platform.”

At the panel discussions the previous day, a group of independent filmmakers had got into a heated discussion on ‘mass audiences’ and their inability to appreciate alternative forms of art. However, three days of packed concerts at XChange prove the opposite is also true: give audiences a fresh sound, and if it’s good, they’ll enthusiastically expand their horizons. I should know. I’m an unabashed ‘Top 40’ and pop fan: John Legend, Lady Gaga, Ed Sheeran — name it and it’s on my iTunes playlist. I like music that’s easy, and familiar. Yet, I watched an entire night of alternative concerts at XChange, then went back the next day for more. I wasn’t the only one. One thousand five hundred people attended the shows over three days.

“Because the sound is fresh. It’s original,” says Yotam. “If music is good, if it’s genuine, if it’s from the heart, it will connect…” He continues, “We’ve created an environment that is comfortable for people to experience new things. We just say — come here and we will give you a new journey everyday.”

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Printable version | Jan 29, 2020 7:12:25 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/a-new-journey-everyday/article6672843.ece

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