Music for Mumbai's ears

Published: Sep 27, 2019, 07:00 IST | Shunashir Sen |

Get set for your first multi-stage independent music festival right in the heart of the city

(From left) Fredrik Wallin, Hakan Wirenstrand, Yukimi Nagano and Erik Bodin, the members of Little Dragon
(From left) Fredrik Wallin, Hakan Wirenstrand, Yukimi Nagano and Erik Bodin, the members of Little Dragon

It all seems so long ago now. The year was 2010. NH7 Weekender debuted in Pune. India got its first full-fledged non-Bollywood, multi-stage music festival. The world sat up and took notice, saying, "Hmmm, what do we have here?" And over the next few years, music fans in the country finally woke up to the fact that they wouldn't have to rely anymore on washed-out rock stars playing at, say, Palace Grounds in Bengaluru to get a taste of international music. They realised that they could now look forward to a cutting-edge contemporary act like Mutemath as well.

How far things have come since then. Look around and you'll find a diverse range of music festivals, big and small, dotted across the country. They can be in a place as far off as Arunachal Pradesh where Ziro kicked off yesterday. Or, they could be in a tourist hotspot like Goa, the location for Sunburn. But here's what. The idea of attending such an event in India still involves a fair bit of travelling (sometimes even to the middle of a desert, as is the case with Magnetic Fields in Rajasthan's Alsisar Palace). So, you don't just have to buy tickets for entry. You also have to book transport and sort out hotel accommodation. It requires a degree of commitment, in other words.

Chrms at a gig

That, though, is all set to change next month when Mumbai gets its first music festival right in the heart of the city, in BKC's JioGarden. It's called Neon East Fest and Tej Brar, founder of Third Culture that's organising the event, tells us, "This is very much an urban festival. The idea is for people to wake up, take a cab to the venue, check out their favourite bands, and then go back and sleep on their own beds at night. We wanted to make it that convenient for the attendees."

Tej Brar

So, all the real commitment that people thus have to display is buying their passes. And the 14-act line-up on offer guarantees value for their money. But here, too, we see evidence of how the dynamics of the Indian independent scene have changed since that momentous year of 2010. Consider this. NH7 Weekender had positioned itself as an out-and-out rock festival when it first started, with only a few token electronic acts. But audience preferences started changing so rapidly through subsequent editions that the "rock music" tag quickly became a monkey on the brand's back. Electronica became the dominant flavour of the day. Proof of that lies in the fact that multiple music fests these days concentrate on DJs and producers to draw the crowds in. And Neon East Fest, too, follows the same pattern with a bunch of international, left-field electronic outfits like Mura Masa and Little Dragon sharing space with homegrown talent like Chrms and Zokhuma, though Brar has also struck a balance by putting live performers like Phum Viphurit and Kimochi Youkai on the bill as well.

In fact, he says that he curated the artistes keeping in mind a void that exists in the festival circuit. "Having worked on NH7 over the past eight years, I have seen the audience evolve first-hand, from the hardcore rock 'n' rollers showing up in black T-shirts all the way through to the EDM kids with their flower crowns. So, the question I asked myself is, 'What is India missing? What is not being serviced here right now?' There are a lot of promoters running after house and techno music. A bunch of people are trying to do hip-hop. Large-format rock 'n' roll shows for the most part have gone away. So, I felt that there is a certain kind of individual — the Mumbai urban millennial — that basically spends their entire year waiting for an NH7 or Echoes of Earth to announce an FKJ or Chet Faker and getting really excited about that.

"So, we thought why don't we take that entire energy and model a line-up servicing that sort of larger-than-niche, but smaller-than-mainstream alternative electronic space. And to further solidify the identity of the festival, we decided to place it inside the urban metro of Bombay," he says of an event that makes the concept of attending a festival seem as easy as taking a walk in the park, quite literally.
ON October 12 and 13, 2 pm to 10 pm 
AT JioGarden, G Block, Bandra Kurla Complex. 
Log on to 
Entry Rs 3,000

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