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Music’s Meeting Ground

Apart from expanding the audience base,the surge in the number of music festivals in India is creating platforms for fresh talent and collaborations.

Written by Zaira Arslan |
September 21, 2012 1:42:21 am

Apart from expanding the audience base,the surge in the number of music festivals in India is creating platforms for fresh talent and collaborations

Last week,some of the most popular musicians in the country played alongside some fairly unknown ones at the first edition of the three-day Ziro Festival of Music in Ziro,Arunachal Pradesh. This gave thousands of people the chance to visit a location they might never have otherwise. Apart from its success as a music festival,it also did a great deal for tourism in that part of the country. “The tourism ministry wants to support it and make it an annual affair now,” says Anup Kutty,co-organiser of the festival and guitarist for the Delhi-based alternative rock band,Menwhopause.

By doing so,the Ziro festival achieved what it had set out to,which was to “facilitate an exchange of ideas”. The element of tourism was essential to the festival because,as Kutty puts it,“You can’t randomly descend on a village and have a festival there”. Therefore,the locals were very closely involved with the festival.

Although the Ziro festival may have been a first in many respects,it now joins a steadily growing list of festivals in the country. They range from multi-genre affairs to those that focus solely on electronic dance music (EDM),folk or rock. For instance,in February there’s Sulafest in Nashik,the fifth edition of which was held this year and was,for the first time,a two-day affair. In May,the fourth edition of Escape festival was held in Naukuchiatal,Uttarakhand,and was as well-received as its first three editions. August saw the third edition of a comparatively lesser-known festival,the Indrasan Festival in Parvati Valley,Himachal Pradesh,which is an EDM-only event. The last few months of the year will see the fifth edition of the day-long Rock ’N India festival in Bengaluru in October and NH7 Weekender,which is being held in three cities for the first time this year. Among the new ones were Storm Festival in Coorg in January,the Mad Festival in Ooty in April,the Aqua Jam Festival in Naukuchiatal in October,and the Indian Metal Festival in Bengaluru in December.

The reason for this sudden upsurge in the number of festivals,as Kutty puts it,is that there’s an audience for them. “We had people coming by train from Hyderabad,Bengaluru and Mumbai to Ziro,” says he. For musicians,one of the primary attractions of these festivals is the “exposure”,says Raghav ‘Diggy’ Dang,of the Reggae Rajahs. “It’s much more exposure than you would get if you were playing in,say,a bar because people from all over the country come to attend these festivals,” says he. Also,a number of these musicians get to meet and watch each other play for the first time. Kutty is certain that some collaborations will come off these acts meeting each other at Ziro.

These festivals are one of the best ways for the newer and younger acts to get noticed. “There’s a ready audience as compared to a solo gig,where you have to work hard to get an audience. At a festival,all you have to do is make sure the audience enjoys itself,” says Kutty. He adds that when people go to a festival,they also go with the idea of discovering new music.

Even though so many festivals are happening around the year,India does not have to worry about the problem of plenty yet. “There can be such a thing as saturation point (as far as festivals in the country go),but as of now,it’s a good thing that these festivals are coming up,” says Dang. Sachin Bopanna,Director,Liquidspace Entertainment,the company that started Storm Festival,believes it’s a question of planning. “As long as the festivals are carefully thought of and executed,we could keep off the boredom,” he says.

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