It was the second edition of NH7 Weekender and Supreet Kaur was in Pune with the organising team, Only Much Louder (OML), making sure every department had what they needed to operate smoothly. She was just out of college and it was her first job, in which there was a stage that had a giant ferris wheel. However, as the festival began, each day went past and there was little or no activity on this stage. “It came alive with the finale. The all-star performance that included Imogen Heap, Vishal Dadlani and many others, had the audience going crazy over the music. That is when I realised the grand vision the organisers had for the festival,” says Kaur, “I was so struck by the visual that I wanted be a part of this, that connects both audience and artists through music.”
Today, as NH7 celebrates its 10th edition, festival director Kaur says, “We want to be the festival that impacts popular culture and that is the reason we are constantly evolving in small ways. For instance, we understand that our audience should not be categorised into gender binaries and so, this year we have changed how people will enter the festival and use the washrooms. We are also working towards waste segregation and making the festival plastic-free,” says Kaur. However, a big change has been the exit of OML founder Vijay Nair, also Kaur’s mentor, following allegations of abusive behaviour. Kaur says the team is empowered to work as they did with Nair around.
In the last couple of years, the festival has also travelled to Delhi, Bengaluru and Kolkata. The Meghalaya edition concluded earlier this month. This year, there is a wider mix of sounds with the mainstay of rock and metal as well as afro beats and newer electronic sounds. They are celebrating hip-hop in a bigger way this year. “There is so much homegrown talent in this genre that we decided a lot of the lesser-known acts had to be showcased at a festival,” she says.
While Australian artist Nick Murphy aka Chet Faker is headlining the festival, other international artistes such as Opeth, KOKOROKO, and Kodaline will also perform at the three-day event. However, the focus of NH7, says Kaur, will always be Indian indie acts, which include Lifafa, Parvaaz and Cut A Vibe.
They have also gone on to include stand-up comedy, art showcases and other cultural facets. About the criticism regarding the hike in the ticket prices, Kaur says, “It’s Rs 5,500 this year. In India, we need to get used to paying this kind of price for a quality music festival. We invest heavily in the artistes, the visuals and creatives involved. And if we are unwilling to pay for the creativity that NH7 stands for, we may need to stop having this festival in the future.”