As we stand here, marking the commencement of yet another year for festivals in India, we take a moment to look back at how wonderful the year of 2015 has been for them.
Cynics may argue otherwise, even as many may aim for the Burning Mans and Coachellas, but there is no denying that Indian festivals have grown up and how. Apart from the fact that the festival calendar is choc-a-block with old and new festivals jostling for space, there are festivals springing to life everyday catering to genres beyond music and culture. 2015 was a year which had us believe that India had finally hit the global marquee.
And here we are looking at the most significant things to have happened to the Indian festival scene this past year!
1. Bacardi NH7 Weekender in Shillong
Called India’s ‘Happiest Music Festival’ for more reasons than one, Bacardi NH7 Weekender is awaited, every year, for the stupendous show it puts up in Pune, Bangalore, Delhi and Kolkata. However, it was the festival’s foray into Shillong in 2015 that became a major buzzword. That the North East enjoys local musical talent aplenty is well known, if not very well documented. But with Weekender staging a successful inaugural Shillong edition, the potency of the region as a festival and tourist destination really did open to mainstream audience in a rightful manner. With a lineup consisting of rock legends Megadeth, reggae group The Wailers and Indian talent Soulmate, Lou Majaw among others, it was the traveling festival we needed.
2. Bacardi NH7 Weekender’s enviable and inclusive lineup
Since its inception, the indie festival that it promised to be, Bacardi NH7 Weekender has managed to bring together some exceptional lineups, with performances from some truly qualitative international acts, coupled with homegrown talent. However, it was their 2015 lineup that may have done their reputation the most service, for in one stroke, they brought, on the same stage, some of the biggest, most exceptional musicians to command contemporary culture. Last year’s Pune, Delhi and Bangalore lineups featured A R Rahman, Flying Lotus, Mogwai, Erotic Market, Hidden Orchestra, Mark Ronson and Dr L. Subramaniam, earning the festival much love and gratitude from ardent fans.
3. Sunburn celebrated its 9th year
Considered India’s pioneering movement in electronic music, Sunburn is undoubtedly a force of nature. But it was the celebration of its 9th year, in its 2015 edition that may have been an indication of just how followed the festival is. They not only brought down acts such as Kygo, Martin Garrix, Dimitri Vegas and Like Mike, and David Guetta as headliners, but they mixed it up with a heady slate of underground electronic and techno acts even as they came with stage production that was richest amongst all Sunburn traditions. We cannot wait to see how they will celebrate their decade.
4. Awakenings at Supersonic
Global techno project, Awakenings from Netherlands is one of the pioneering collectives of techno music in the world. Having hosted a stage at several music festivals around the world, including a much respected slot at Amsterdam Dance Event every year, Awakenings did make their Indian debut this year, and for that we cannot thank Supersonic enough. Fans of techno were treated to a stage curated with global and Indian techno giants and with a visual setup that was off the charts.
As a destination, we’ve often had to wait for years until an act has decided to play a concert year. Some bands (we’re looking at you, Radiohead), still show no signs of heading here any time soon. Which is perhaps why Emerge Music and Arts Festival deserves a special mention, for the festival managed to bring down folktronic sensation Alt-J at the very height of their popularity. The enthusiasm in the crowd when the band came down, not once, but twice to perform at Bangalore and Mumbai was palpable to be believed.
7. Johnnie Walker blooms like never before
If you thought Johnnie Walker The Journey struck gold with Bonobo and Snarky Puppy in 2014, then you’d be genuinely impressed with their 2015 edition. Because, that’s what you call improvement. This year, the festival brought veritable icons of music, disco godfather Giorgio Moroder, ambient genius Tycho and post-rock legends Explosions in the Sky with mind-bending performance artist Leo and a cinematic tribute to Marlon Brando delivering a creative confluence unlike any other.
8. Rise of Comedy Festivals in India
We’ve had the music festivals, of different genres, religious festivals, food festivals and even art festivals, but with comedy festivals being 2015’s most talked about sensation, it sure does deserve a mention. Here’s a round of applause to resident comedic gurus like Vir Das who with his Weirdass Pajama Festival managed to bring together the very best of Indian comedy on a multi-day programme set up. In addition to that, it was also the year global stand-up figure Russell Brand came to India as part of the ChuckleFest, to an astounding reception. Even though Jerry Seinfeld’s show in Mumbai was unfortunately cancelled, the fact that this tickets sold out to a booming reception is a clear indication that comedy has arrived in India well and good.
9. India wants to camp
Yes, camping festivals have existed since quite some time in India. But given the popularity of the feature at Enchanted Valley Carnival, Storm Festival and Magnetic Fields, this year saw Sunburn Festival venturing into the space with camping added as another option. With a genuine buzz expecting Bacardi NH7 Weekender to kickstart camping during its next edition, there’s no surprise that India has indeed caught the camping bug that’s a regular at almost every International music festival.
10. Corona Sunsets travels the country
Last year also saw Global sun-downer music property Corona Sunsets coming down to India, which rounded up being six month long travelling odyssey that was every bit fulfilling. The festival, during its journey, travelled across the country seven times, covering cities such as Mumbai, Delhi, Pune, Hyderabad and Bangalore. While we eagerly await its Goa debut that is the big showdown, we cannot help but be impressed by the brilliant turnover.
11. The year’s shining debuts were diverse and eclectic
Several festivals did debut this last year. And indie as they were, they did not compromise one bit on any of their offerings. From exceptional art to professional setups to individualistic properties, each proved as unique as the other. From the eclectic camping and music festival that was Lost Party to the very cool and kitschy ten-festivals-in-one Ten Heads Festival to the laidback water-caressed sojourn that was Nariyal Pani, to the delectably delicious offering that was the food festival Bombay Local to the beer lover’s delight that was The Craft Brew Festival, there was much to love about each.
From here on, Festival Sherpa will venture deep into the festival proceedings dominating the country – from the guys making sure you have your festival bands to the artist manager ensuring smooth sailing to every aspect of a festival. Stay tuned for in-depth pieces that will offer you a unique insight into India’s festival industry.