After five consecutive years, I gave NH7 Weekender (Pune) a miss this year. I could give you many reasons—maybe I got bored of it, maybe I was tired of seeing the same old line-ups, maybe I didn’t want to spend most of my time socializing and waiting in long queues at the bar counters over catching the acts, or maybe it was just that the average age for the festival had dipped to half my age. The last one for sure. Whatever the excuse, I was kind of bored of it or rather, developed an acute disinterest for these indie-turned-big-ticket-festivals even though a part of me wanted to catch some of the acts such as A R Rahman, Mogwai and Rodrigo y Gabriella in action. Thankfully I caught another stellar act from this multicity festival line-up, Flying Lotus who delivered an intimate performance at a hip venue in the city.
Which is why a three day music networking festival down south kind of made up for the weekender miss, with robust doses of entertainment that are not possible with big outdoor festivals.
Of course, this is not a venue where you could host 30,000 people. I mean forget 30,000, you couldn’t host more than 3000. Which was why it turned out to be the personal, interactive experience that I would definitely give a shot. It had the vibe the first year of weekender had —it was well curated, had novelty value and the numbers were small and intimate.
In essence, the 2015 IndiearthXchange held at Chennai’s Taj Vivanta, was not only insightful with its surplus of workshops and conferences but had some crazy-ass local and international bands. From the untamed French duo Ko Ko Mo blazing the Ball Room stage with their Jack White-meets-Led Zeppelin chops to gracious Carnatic classical strains from violin maestro Lalitha Kalaimamani and her group. Add to that a music journalism workshop by Simon Broughton, Editor-in-Chief of UK based music magazine Songlines. It’s also personal because you can interact and chat with the bands and industry people who mingle freely with everyone.
Violin maestro Lalitha Kalaimamani
A little background:
So I have a problem with AM and PM, especially when it comes to train timings. But this time, my ride in question was a Jet Airways flight, which I blissfully realized had lifted off at 3 am in the morning while I was packing my bags thinking it was scheduled at 3 in the PM. “Why would a domestic flight leave so early in the morning?” I had questioned. So I had to reschedule for the cheapest flight the next morning that left me little time to scour for a place to stay in Chennai.
I landed there pretty much a vagabond thinking about the flood situation plus no accommodation. Surprisingly, I was met with the best weather I’ve experienced there. I headed straight to the venue, got my pass and brochures and expectantly enquired if the hotel’s discounted rooms for delegates were still up for grabs, which they weren’t. Thankfully there was an Airbnb place nearby that offered paper-thin dosas and soft idlis for breakfast.
The day started with a minute’s solidarity for the Paris attacks and a thank you for the small mercies of Chennai weather.
My workshop with Broughton started off with a quest to dissect Billie Holiday’s 1939 song “Strange Fruit,” followed by an insightful look into the works of Russian composer Dimitri Shostakovich’s symphony pieces. The workshop ended with Broughton giving us a writing assignment to be submitted before 7 AM the following day. Yeah, that’s right. Felt like I was back in school already.
There was definitely something for everyone involved. Film screenings, music journalism and music production workshops, workshops on scriptwriting, film editing and sound design for the interested and initiated crowd.
Not to forget all the conferences spread across three days that saw professionals from around the world give their two cents of primo gyaan on topics ranging from music markets, media and audience as well as censorship and artistic expression.
Next up, I attended a conference on “New Approaches to Music Education” with a panel that included Dr Kristina Kelman of Queensland University of Technology, Thermal and a Quarter drummer Rajeev Rajagopalan, The True School of Music founder Ashutosh Phatak and Dr Adam Grieg of KM Music Conservatory.
Conference on “New Approaches to Music
After doing some research and groundwork for my assignment I caught up with some of the acts that were pulling in a diverse assortment of attendees at the various venues within the hotel premises. Alternative dream pop band from Kolkata called Zoo did their business along with an outrageous set by Chennai act - Tails on Fire; while Dutch Hindustani classical exponent Saskia Rao De Haas launched into progressive ragas on her customized Indian Cello and concluded her set with a medley of popular Indian National integration songs.
Sadly the buffet wasn’t part of the delegates deal so I stepped out to grab a bite and beer as well. My antenna for shady bars activated and I ended up in the shittiest, filthiest government run TASMAC wine shop where I had a taste of a super strong beer called Horsepower. I gulped and left the spit-zone as soon as I could to a nearby shawarma shop where I was served a shitty shawarma with capsicums in it. Capsicums!
I caught some more acts and decided to head back to my room to finish the writing assignment and promptly passed out with my lights on and woke up sporadically through the night with the homework on mind. Just like school days. But, I deserve a pat on my back for waking up at 5 AM, and submitting my assignment on time.
Simon Broughton editor-in-chief of UK based music magazine
Broughton was kind of satisfied with my submission and gave me a tip or two followed by another assignment for all the attendees. This time I was doubtful about my motivation.
Time for another conference—I was interested to catch one on “Digital Music Be About Engagement” and another one on “Music, Media And The Audience” facilitated by music journalist Amit Gurbaxani, who runs a website called The Daily Pao.
Conference on “Music, Media and the Audience"
By now I had bumped into friends and made some new ones. By evening we were a little drunk in time to catch abstract electronic paranoia music by Berlin DJ and mindfulness trainer, Phoebe Kiddo followed by the French maniacs Ko Ko Mo and legendry electronic artist Howie B who definitely set me shaking my ass and legs on the ballroom floor.
French Band Ko Ko Mo
It was 5 AM before I got back to my room drunk out of my precious skull with all the beer, rum and neat swigs of Bombay Sapphire (courtesy Fuzzy Logic). Goodbye assignment.
The final day started on a somber note as Broughton’s blood sugar dropped during the workshop and he had to be rushed to a hospital.
Being a bedroom music producer myself, I attended a workshop on Ableton Live music software by Yoav Rosenthal.
Workshop on Abletop Live Music
This was the day I realized delegates are eligible for two free beers everyday and that the figure didn’t matter as one could get more beers based on one’s luck. I was like, what the fuck?! Which meant only one thing; make up for the last two days. I know. It’s cheap, but it has its thrills.
Everyone was raving about the Baul music that happened on the first day, which I missed. But thankfully I caught an impromptu jig by Lakhan Das Baul, which kind of navigated through my soul.
The music that night touched upon some mad range of genres from Kalaimamani’s Carnatic and American Punjabi nasal- rapper Alo Wala to french mambo- alternative- cabaret act Bo Bun Fever and traditional Maloya music by Ziskakan from the Reunion Islands. I never thought I’d get inspiration for my music project from the Chinese, but there it was—after I caught the two piece Mongolian ethnic rock act Tulegur.
Mongolian ethnic rock act Tulegur
The night was sealed with vibes from Mumbai Electro Act Fuzzy Logic who introduced some live drumming along with his analog synthesizer circus Midway through Fuzzy Log’s set I left for the airport with no intention of dealing with the AM/PM confusion and caught my 3 AM return flight back to Mumbai.
Ziskakan from the Reunion Islands
I woke up to news channels flooded with visuals of a submerged Chennai. Close call indeed.
By Mohan KK