Considered ‘too niche’ only five years ago, a new genre is rocking the Indian party scene, finds Aastha Atray Banan
ON THE LAST day of Sunburn Festival 2009, as the No 1 electronic DJ in the world, Dutch-born Armin Van Buuren, took to the colossal stage, 15,000 electronic fans couldn’t believe their luck. It was surreal — a beach on Goa was transformed into a psychedelic club embellished with tentacles and other deep sea-like creatures, where bikini-clad girls with neon antennas in their hair danced with men with super-sized spectacles, as they glugged beer and watched the sun set over a seemingly never-ending party. This moment was one of victory for the lovers of a festival celebrating music once considered “too niche”.
VJ and DJ Nikhil Chinappa, the man responsible for roping in Van Buuren, in partnership with PDM Entertainment, says, “The more people get bored of Bollywood music, they get drawn to genres like electronic. Also, international DJS want to come to India, especially because the electronic scene in Europe is stagnant — in India, it’s just beginning.”
Electronic music, which is produced using computer workstations and makes use of synthesizers and unique music samples, entered India almost a decade ago, but went underground because of its inability to appeal to the masses. Now, even though the Internet is its only source, festivals like Sunburn and platforms like Submerge (that promotes electronic music through gigs in the country), seem to be spelling out a music revolution.
“We remember being at a festival in Ibiza and dreaming about doing something similar in India,” say Nikhil and his wife and co-founder of Submerge, DJ Pearl. “But India has its obstacles. The 1-am deadline really hurts the clubbing scene,” says Pearl, the only female electronic DJ in India.
Despite these hurdles, as Time Out’s music writer Amit Gurbaxani points out, it has become economically viable to host electronic nights. “Sunburn saw a 10-fold increase in crowd, while a rock festival like Eastwind got cancelled this year, because of lack of funds. When a brand of music is backed by big sponsors, it’s just so much easier to draw in people.”
‘At electronic gigs you need to forget a real world exists,’ says DJ Pearl
But that’s not all that is needed, says Pearl, “A good DJ should be passionate and should work the crowd.” And if the junta loves it, Bollywood can’t be far behind. Tapan Raj from the Midival Punditz, who is now composing the background score for Karthik Calling Karthik, says, “There are filmmakers who want to experiment, and an audience that wants something different. Change has begun.”
That being said, what the electronic scene now needs are only the “freaks”, laughs Pearl. “An electronic festival or gig needs the weirdos to up the excitement factor. When you are there, you need to forget that a real world exists. Isn’t that the reason we all got into this?” Amen.