For the last three years, in the third week of January, a festival is celebrated in the picturesque beach town of Alibaug in coastal Maharashtra. This year, it featured a line-up of talented musicians from India and around the world. The stage faced the mighty Arabian Sea, shaded by a canopy of coconut trees. Now imagine this – two days of experiencing curated live music by the beach while taking in the cool sea breeze and watching the sun set, sipping on craft beer and deliciously concocted cocktails.
Welcome to Nariyal Paani! India’s most chilled out music festival.
The festival, itself, takes place at Morapada Beach, which is a 20 minute auto ride from Mandwa. To get there from Mumbai, there are generally two options – the first being that one can hit the road for a three to four hour drive, or take a 45 minute ferry ride on the Arabian sea from the Gateway of India to the Mandwa Jetty, as we did. Also, the festival organisers experimented with something unique this year around and arranged for an exclusive Nariyal Paani ferry which left on Saturday at noon. Neel Adhikari & Zico performed an eclectic acoustic-electro set on the boat. It was free of charge for the festival-goers and was a very thoughtful addition.
This was the quickest we got to any festival outside of Mumbai. On the way back to Mumbai, we were lucky enough to be one of the last few to get on the first ferry out of Alibaug at seven in the morning. As the seagulls flew in the crimson sky, with the sun rising over the sea, we were left with a head full of happy memories and a profound sense of calm for the start of the work week.
The line-up this year featured prominent artists from the Indian music scene like Zoya, Ranjit, and Neel Adhikari. Along with them, a musical collective of giants in the Indian indie scene like Ankur Tewari, Sidd Coutto, Clayton Hogermeer and Nathan Thomas, coalesced to form The Coconut Water Band, just for this edition of Nariyal Paani.
Also featured were Parekh & Singh, who performed their deliciously sweet single, “I Love You Baby”, to the crowd’s delight. Another crowd favourite, Donn Bhatt + The Passenger Revelator, who were on the line-up last year as well, delighted everyone as they have been doing across the Indian festival circuit. Ti Rat & Rouge Reggae and Goa Reggae Sunsplash All Stars, a band comprised of India’s finest reggae musicians with an eclectic mix of vagabond / nomadic / wandering artists, brought a reggae flavour to the festival.
Amongst the other international acts were Mabassa – a quirky Brazilian duo, 21-year-old indie-folk rock singer/songwriter Jordan Johnson and Bellatrix, who was absolutely phenomenal. Unlike most beatboxers, Bellatrix has a degree in jazz double bass from the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in London and her diverse palette of influences from hip-hop to jazz, folk, and as she says – the downright weird, is apparent across her music. She brought on stage, with her, the Indian rap crews DopeadelicZ and Swadeshi, who exchanged verses in different languages, leaving the crowd in awe. The festival was peppered with collaborations, but this one was incredibly unique, juxtaposing cultures while bringing out the true flavours of global music to the stage.
Karim’s Latin & Groove Big Band’s set, though, was our pick of the festival. The vibe, the delicate instrumentations and the sun setting behind you while this 7-piece band belted out groove after groove, was surely one for the books!
Production & Amenities
The production team ensured the festival looked tasteful and minimal. The stage setup was simple; there were no screens or LEDs and this made for a unique stage setting. The sound system had a clean and crisp sound that provided a precise aural rendition, which is a vital aspect at any music festival, especially when live music is being played. We noticed that the crowd nicely spread themselves all around the festival instead of the usual congregation at the front of the stage.
In terms of food and beverages, there was a huge bar that ensured there was no waiting for drinks. The bar served freshly-made cocktails from Woodside Inn with punny names that resonated with the spirit of the festival. The Coco-nut was easily one of the most popular drinks. There was also brewed craft beer courtesy White Owl Brewery and enough food options to satisfy the broadest of palettes. Our favorites were The Woodside Inn burgers and Bombar, who were serving freshly baked traditional Brazilian cheese breads accompanied with various flavours of butter dips.
White Collar Hippie, who are known for their amazingly curated campsites, partnered with Nariyal Paani and managed their campsite. Needless to say, we were at ease throughout the weekend, camping right by the sea. White Collar Hippie really does know how to keep their campers happy and arranged for multiple activities to take place throughout the duration of the weekend. Around the campfire, young musicians sang their favourite songs and were open to other dedications too (there were lots of marshmallows being roasted and then coated with nutella and passed around). There were dreamcatcher-making workshops, BBQs serving freshly-grilled food till the late hours of the night and mood-soothing yoga sessions during the day to get you warmed up for a day full of dancing.
At the festival, there were multiple art installations peppered all across the grounds. The Maachis Project featured their creative Nariyal Paani-themed match boxes with illustrations that made one question the environmental impact humanity has on the world. We thought it was a very innovative method to increase awareness of the problems we are currently facing using an interesting way of creating dialogue via art. There was also an intriguing Wishing Tree concept, courtesy of the NGO – Small Change, which raised awareness for meaningful causes. Kulture Shop made optimum use of the surrounding coconut trees and turned their barks into a canvas for some eye-catching artwork. LataSita created colourful and playful installations using vintage saris!
Spending a very relaxed weekend by the beach while listening to some finely-curated music from all over the world was indeed a great experience. So was camping under the starlit sky and making new friends around the campfire.
And now, after sitting in the office while writing this, reminiscing about the weekend gone by, we just cannot wait to get back there!