Songs from the hills

Songs from the hills

With all the music festivals the country has seen in the last year or two,it may be worth questioning if the MAD festival in Ooty will be any different.

With all the music festivals the country has seen in the last year or two,it may be worth questioning if the MAD festival in Ooty will be any different. If it lives up to its promise,it most certainly will. To begin with,MAD,here,stands as an acronym for music,arts and dance. Besides two stages for the music and dance performances there will an area which will be used to exhibit installations by a number of artists. The festival that starts on April 5 and lasts three days,will also have a designated area for paintball,a bazaar,a coffee lounge and food stalls and bars.

The brainchild of Kabir Ahmed,and organised entirely by the Bangalore-based company he works with — Cobalt Experiential Marketing — the idea of the festival originated from the desire to organise one that was more than just about music. The festival’s aim is to explore the untapped destinations in the country and promote music tourism. “We have such fantastic destinations in India and music tourism is so big everywhere,but we’re still not on the map of contemporary music festivals globally.”

After two years in Ooty,the festival will travel to a different location in the country. The most intriguing part of the festival,however,is that in a line-up of 48 acts,there isn’t a single electronic dance music act. This,Ahmed,says,was a deliberate decision. “What electronic dance music is today in the country,rock was a few years ago. It drowns out other genres. So it is a risk,but we don’t have any DJs in our line-up,” adds Ahmed. The idea,he says,was to have an “eclectic line-up” that would appeal to everyone.

This line-up now comprises acts from 10 different parts of the world,including favourites in the Indian music scene — The Raghu Dixit Project,Indian Ocean,Swarathma,Papon and the East India Company and Soulmate. Among the international acts are Franco-Moroccan singer Hindi Zarah; No Blues from Amsterdam,who play a mix of American folk music and Arabian music; and an Indian meets Flamenco music act from Poland called Indialucia.


These renowned international and Indian artistes will not,however,be the only performers at the festival. The Nilgiri hills are home to a number of tribes and six of these will play a large part in the festival. “These tribes are the original custodians of the land,but have been pushed out of their own homes. We want people to be able to interact with them because the kind of knowledge they have is incredible,” says Ahmed.

Besides the music and activities on offer,the other attraction is the venue itself. Located not far from the city centre is the Palace,a historic site built in the 19th century. This palace will play host to the festival. As the story goes,in 1844,the first Fernhills bungalow was built as a private residence by Captain F. Cotton of the Madras Engineers Regiment. Legend has it that even today,in the dead of the night,you can hear the ballroom of the palace echo with the laughter of women,the soft notes of the piano and the tapping of the dancers’ feet.