Unless you’re a caveman and have no access to internet or media, then you know that the first ever Global Citizen Festival happened in Mumbai, India on the 19th of November 2016 and it was a magical night, to say the least!
From the time Chris Martin, of Coldplay fame, came to Mumbai to shoot for their video for ‘Hymn For The Weekend’ and teamed up with Freida Pinto for various NGO initiatives, rumours were rife that Coldplay would soon step foot on Indian soil and that came true on 19th November 2016! The line-up, which was a dream come true, had Coldplay, Jay-Z, The Vamps and Demi Lovato being the biggest headliners along with scores of Indian artists and Bollywood celebrities who had come out in support of the cause of sustainable development goals. The mega-event which saw a footfall of 80,000 people, was probably the biggest concert to date the country has ever seen. Fans who have been waiting for Coldplay all their lives, travelled from all over India to catch them live in action and it was worth it!
The Global Citizen Festival India Initiative
The Global Citizen Festival, which is a New York resident festival, aims to bring about change and help for the needy all over the world. Their aim, when coming to India, was to team up with some of the biggest political and eminent forces in the country to make a change. Right from Bollywood celebrities, rural workers making a change, the Chief Minister of Maharashtra – Mr. Devendra Fadnavis and even a brilliant VC by none other than the Prime Minister of India – Mr. Narendra Modi made sure they lent their voice in support to the causes. The main initiatives that were being aimed at were to battle open defecation, provide toilets to millions of homes across the nation, educate the young, promote gender equality, water sanitation and educate the girl child. Noble in every sense.
The Event Setup
Given the history Global Citizen has spawned all over the world, it was no wonder to witness some of the BEST production values we have ever seen in this country. The stage, which stood at a magnificent 60 feet in height and over 100 feet in width, echoed the grandeur of the festival! It was adorned with a huge LED screen on the top with “GLOBAL CITIZEN FESTIVAL INDIA” in bold. The sound system, with which it was equipped with, was so powerful that you could feel the bass in your clothes and body. There were three stages in total – the main stage and two side stages. One of the side stages was for artist performances whereas the other one was primarily used for all the speakers and stars to make the intros and speeches.
The ridiculously huge MMRDA grounds was the stipulated venue for the day-long event and the grounds were chosen for the event in good sense. The 80,000 strong crowd filled in to the grounds over the course of the day. The grounds were divided into 6 main zones – Gold, Silver, Blue, Pink, Yellow and Green. The Yellow and Green zones were for those who had won their passes through all the various Action Journeys that had transpired over the course of the last two months. The Gold and Silver zones were hosting the people who had bought tickets online for a price. And finally, the Blue and Pink zones were specially allotted to VIPs and stars from the industry.
The festival followed a strict ‘No-alcohol, No-smoking’ policy, keeping in mind all the causes they were supporting. Given the fact that almost 80% of the tickets were given away for free, people started queuing up in lines right from 10 a.m.! The Mumbai heat did not take it lightly on the attendees – AT ALL! Like me and everyone else who were at the venue in the morning, each had to bear the brunt of the heat till 5 p.m. when the heat eased up a little and the sunset was a breath of fresh air for everyone.
I was in the Gold Zone, which was outrageously spacious and comfortable and there was free water being provided in plenty. There were various complimentary food stalls lined up in the Gold Zone which were serving up vegetarian as well as non-vegetarian dishes. But the food didn’t start rolling out till 5 p.m. which left a lot of hungry people dying for some grub. But the situation in the Yellow Zone, which was diagonally across our zone, seemed nightmarish. Due to the huge crowds piling up into the zone, there was evident overcrowding and people were getting crushed at the front of the barricade. Security guards were deployed to control the crowd. Add to that the shortage of water in the Yellow as well as Silver zones, soon things got a little out of hand. But luckily enough, the organisers arranged for more water bottles and started chucking them in the crowd. The heat and dearth of water is something they should have foreseen and been well prepared for.
The line-up for the Global Citizen Festival India was an ever-expanding one. Till the day of the event, artists were continuously being added to the roster. But we all knew who we were there for. Coldplay and Jay-Z were touted to the be the biggest stars of the night, but we’ll get to that soon.
The event started of with Rishab Joshi of Lost Stories on the side stage to warm things up. They followed that up with a grand welcome for everyone present with a traditional dance – Maharashtrian style! The dancers put in everything they had and performed to some popular Marathi songs which got the crowd pumped up! Parineeti Chopra and Arjun Kapoor soon came out on stage to talk about some of the initiatives the festival aims to promote. They then introduced Bollywood song maestro – Arijit Singh who belted out some of his biggest hits, complete with a large scale orchestra giving that extra oomph factor.
In quick succession to Arijit, Monali Thakur soon came on stage and addressed the crowd about breaking the age old taboo of menstruation before performing a couple of her songs. All this while, the crowd was doing their best to cheer on the performing acts. The Gold Zone was comparatively still very empty with barely 200 people (not complaining). Next, to take over the stage, were Sonakshi Sinha, Amitabh Bachchan, Ananya Birla and Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy; all of whom put their best foot forward to lift up the crowd’s spirits.
Amidst all the acts, it felt nice to see so many personalities take time out and come on stage to speak in favour of the causes, even if it was just a few minutes. I’m sure that gesture resonated with everyone present as well! By this time, the heat was frying up everyone present and people were finding solace in shade, wherever they could find it. Soon, Shraddha Kapoor took over the stage to belt out a few of her recent hits and then it was time for the first International artist – Demi Lovato! In a true display of showmanship, Demi took the crowd by storm by performing some of her biggest hits coupled up with some soulful numbers to balance it out. I have to say, woman’s got some pipes!
Desi-rocker Farhan Akhtar was up next, much to the delight of everyone, and man did he put up a show! The actor/director/singer endlessly ran along the ramp while rocking out to some of his classic ‘Rock On‘ songs! By this time, it was around 5 p.m. and the sun had crouched behind the stage, giving everyone some much-needed relief. Then, the biggest star of the country – Shah Rukh Khan walked out on stage and immediately got everyone on their feet with the intro to the next act – A.R. Rahman! He even sang a few lines from ‘Chaiyya Chaiyya’ to tease the crowd. Once Rahman took to the stage, a wave of silence took over the entire arena as everyone waited to see what the genius would conjure up. Soon enough, after an eerie intro, he jumped right in and sang ‘Tu Hi Re’ followed by ‘Dil Se’ and ended it with ‘Humma Humma’ in Tamil! The sound during his performance was so strong and bass-y, you could feel the ground vibrate under your feet!
Once the sun had set, the true glory of the stage came to life. Soon SRK walked out again and introduced one of the most awaited acts for the night – JAY-Z! The Brooklyn based legend walked out on stage with glares on and a black cobra emblazoned on his t-shirt. The stage was enveloped in red lights and suddenly – ‘Chaiyya Chaiyya’ started playing to which Jay-Z started rapping to. I don’t need to emphasise on the frenzy that ensued! In quick succession he started the next track with the crowd killer ‘Mudiyan Toh Bachke Rahi’ and free-styled along to it! What a guy! He then, performed ‘Ni***s in Paris’, ‘Empire State of Mind’, ‘Holy Grail’, ‘On To The Next One’ and ‘Drunken Love’! Being a Jay-Z fan since my school days, I can vouch for the fact that the man sure knows how to throw down an epic party! A lot of people even came for the event just to see Jay-Z and not Coldplay and that speaks volumes about the legacy the rapper has had!
Once this powerhouse of a set ended, Devendra Fadnavis, along with Sachin Tendulkar, Freida Pinto and Ratan Tata, made their way to the side stage to talk about the steps they’re implementing to bring about change in the country. This was then followed by a Video Conference by PM Narendra Modi, who fittingly quoted Bob Dylan saying, “The times are-a changing”! Talk about a politician who tries his best to connect with the youth.
The PM, assessing the need of the hour (Coldplay), quickly wrapped up and it was time. I can’t explain the emotions and the energy of everyone present as we waited for the world’s best performers to come out and put on the show of a lifetime.
Everyone who braved the dust, heat, thirst and hunger had come to live this exact moment. And it was all worth it. People, who are true fans of Coldplay, have waited for years to see them live in action. Being one of the best live performance acts in the world currently, they knew they would be amazed. But what transpired, couldn’t prepare anyone for the magic that was about to happen!
The band opened in spectacular fashion and Chris Martin quickly took over vocal duties and absolutely annihilated the stage. The man has to be summoning the devil to get that level of energy and not tire out while running up and down endlessly, still singing perfectly without missing a beat! The band played some of their greatest hits like ‘Yellow’, ‘Paradise’ , ‘Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall’ and many many more. There were endless confetti showers and fireworks which enveloped everyone in the colorful blasts of energy emanating from the band! They seamlessly alternated between some of their high-tempo chartbusters by mellowing it down with some of the famous slow-crooners like ‘The Scientist’, ‘Fix You’, ‘Everglow’ and ‘Magic’.
I wasn’t surprised to see a lot of tears around me (including me) during these songs, because that’s what Chris Martin’s voice does to you. It shows you a side of your personality you never thought existed. Song after song, it was just waves of goosebumps and chills down the body. After performing “Adventure of a Lifetime”, they retired backstage only to be serenaded by a “COLDPLAY! COLDPLAY” chant which brought them out in a few minutes.
A typical encore performance sees a band do one or two songs and then conclude. But this was no ordinary night. The magic was yet to come. Once they came out, they made their way to the front of the ramp, where we were standing (BEST SPOTS EVER), and started by playing ‘Don’t Panic’.
Then, Chris Martin out of the blue says, “It’s a special night and we wanted to perform with a brilliant artist we met today. Ladies and Gentlemen – A.R. RAHMAN!” Crowd goes bat-shit crazy. This is the kind of stuff you dream about. You know it can never happen, but it did. And I am at a loss of words to describe it. Rahman solemnly walks out to the front and stands beside Chris and starts off by singing the ever so popular ‘Vande Mataram’. The crowd went mental that instant and suddenly a veil of silence took over the 80,000 people present. Everyone listened in rapt attention and sang slowly along with Rahman. By the time Rahman started with the “Maa tujhe salaam” chorus, Chris joined in! He started singing the chorus with Rahman and the crowd went ballistic. Never again will that crowd witness anything like that ever again!
The applause was deafening and for good reason! Then Chris Martin sang a few lines of ‘Channa Mereya’ and by this time people were clutching their heads in utter disbelief. In my opinion, that’s what makes a true artist connect. When someone goes out of their way to please a certain crowd and to break barriers, that’s when an artist has succeeded. They then proceeded with ‘A Sky Full Of Stars’ and ended the unbelievable night with ‘Up & Up’. Phew. Bodies were dying and exhausted, but the soul was satisfied. Now I know what it feels like to be on a Coldplay-themed emotional roller coaster. The band was initially scheduled to play for 90 minutes but went on to play for two whole hours!
The Global Citizen Festival India 2016 was definitely one of the biggest and most amazing nights for everyone who attended from all over the country. They did a great job of spreading awareness about the matters that were of utmost importance as well as providing some gold standard entertainment to the thousands of fans at the venue as well as at home! The event was live streamed on Vh1 as well as on ‘Voot’ for people who were unfortunate enough to not score tickets!
We hope more and more editions take place in the future and the world becomes a better place! Peace and love!