Chart your way through the best music festivals in India this season

Chart your way through the best music festivals in India this season

By AKHIL SOOD | | 29 August, 2015
The Bacardi NH7 Weekender in Pune last year. | Photo: Shilo Shiv Suleman

Keeping all illusions of fluidity and individualism on one side, everyone's always a Type. You will never like all music equally; you can't not have a preference between beaches and hills; tea does not work exactly as well for you as coffee does. If you decide to put on a basket of plastic flowers on your head like a hat at a music festival, odds are that you will find a fellow patron walking around with a fake water sprinkler. That's why we have so many different kinds of music festivals — they serve as racks for all kinds of hats. Or maybe it's the economics of it. But the bottom line is that we are fortunate enough to have so many festivals happening in the country, with different sounds, different kinds of people, distinct venues and, often, a clear identity. For some reason, they all seem to happen each year in this short period between late August and March (could have something to do with the weather), which means our not-so-fat-to-begin-with wallets become a little lighter. This year sees Scottish post rock powerhouses Mogwai playing in three cities, so expect us knocking on your car window pleadingly at a traffic signal very soon.


Ziro Festival of Music:

Ziro, Arunachal Pradesh:

24-27 September

Ziro, a little town deep inside Arunachal Pradhesh, plays host to a festival of independent rock and alternative music, also featuring traditional and local acts from the area. It's exotic in the true sense of the word, requiring a lengthy, often very rickety and awkward commute from Guwahati to make the journey more meaningful. It seems to be worth it — "paradise" is a word that's been thrown around without hyperbole to describe the stunning valley, with large open spaces, rice beer, lots of (usually) earnest music, and a decent (if not massive) crowd that's really not there for posturing. Which takes us to...


Bacardi NH7 Weekender

Shillong: 23-24 October

Kolkata: 31 October to

1 November

Delhi: 28-29 November

Pune: 4-6 December

Bangalore – 5-6 December

Five years later, the Weekender has managed to become the biggest music festival in the whole world, providing a stage for all kinds of obscure indie rock/metal bands in the country; bringing down international acts — from current big-hitters and promising young acts to has-beens looking for a latter day pay cheque — and even getting into a slightly, just a little bit more commercial zone, with Amit Emotional Atyachaar Trivedi and friends getting much critical attention last year; and, this year, there's AR Rahman performing. The veritable who's who of the popup food industry sets up shop at the festival too for a "food court/flea market" experience, to cater to the many thousands of people that visit each year and get wheelbarrow-drunk on funny-sounding cocktails. Quite often, considering the scale of the entire thing, the music just becomes sort of incidental to the whole thing. But it won't (shouldn't) be this year, what with Mogwai and Flying Lotus paying us a visit. It's happening in five cities this time — Delhi, Pune, Bangalore, Kolkata and new entrant Shillong — so pick whichever's closest, or, if you happen to live in Mumbai, you could just hop aboard the Air NH7, a special chartered flight from Mumbai to Shillong that they've arranged.


Magnetic Fields

Alsisar Mahal, Rajasthan: 18-20 Dec

There's the Early Bird festival pass but it's sold out. There's also the Super Early Bird pass but that's also sold out. You can still make it for this elite luxury upmarket not-just-a- festival-for-snotty-hipsters but you'll have to pay a little more. It's worth it though; for starters, it happens in a 17th-century palace in Rajasthan called the Alsisar Mahal, which is a lavish hotel in its 21st century avatar. There's a massive camp-site, two stages, many pointy shoes, a little swimming pool, and around a hundred or so DJs — with a few high-profile international ones on the roster usually — along with live and semi-live bands too. Plus the music literally never stops —something or the other is happening round-the-clock for the three days that the festival goes on for. It's (almost) freezing cold there, so camping out requires careful planning, but the piping food and drinks will always keep you company.


Sunburn & VH1 Supersonic

Goa: 27-30 December

We've clubbed these two electronic music festivals together for two reasons: (1) Space constraints, and (2) Cheap thrills, since they're like Pepsi and Coke. Samsung and Apple. Santa Singh and Banta Singh. They're also both happening in Goa, on two rival beaches that are also the Pepsi-Coke/Samsung-Apple/Santa-Banta of the Goa beach world, that too on the exact same dates this year. Corporate rivalries aside, it's a great way to sort of bring in the new year, particularly if you like being in the midst of the fuddled masses, smelling of perfumed sea food and hippie sweat, and talking at speeds no slower than 220 BPM. That aside, these guys also tend to bring in some of the biggest names in the international DJing community, often some of the

top-ranked DJs in the whole world (DJs are ranked on the basis of their spacebar-pressing skills).;

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