You can’t call it ‘India’s answer to Woodstock’ (although the girls dress like it). However, you could settle to call it ‘India’s answer to Coachella’. The NH7 Weekender has got music enthusiasts from India and now even beyond talking about it – whether good or bad, you can’t ignore it. Let me start by telling you a little bit about the festival, and why and who should indulge.
All you need to know
Sponsored by Bacardi, NH7 Weekender is a three-day indie music festival organized by Only Much Louder (OML). It was first held in 2010 in Pune and now is now an annual property held across 4 cities – Pune, Delhi, Kolkata and Bangalore. I have only been to the festival twice – last year for just one day and this year for the entire festival. There is music for just about every taste, from Indian classical to easy listening and EDM to rock and finally metal to dub step, it’s all covered at NH7 Weekender.
Do you fit the bill?
In my opinion, everyone should go to the festival at least once in their life. Music lover or not, young or old, the festival has a vibe that is just happy. With over 10,000 people shuffling from stage to stage, trying not to miss their next favourite act, you will rarely have a dull moment at the festival. Although, the crowd is fairly young, there were quite a few exceptions. If you still think you are too old to go to a young and hip music festival, you may stand corrected by the 60-year-old man who was distributing prasad and yelled “Hindi mein gao” during Vishal Dadlani’s performance.
Let’s get down to the music
I am happy I stayed for all three days of the festival. The highlight of day one for me was definitely BlackstratBlues. A solo project by Warren Mendonca, Blackstratblues is just pure Gold! No matter how many times over I watch this guy in action, he doesn’t cease to amaze me. There are times when I listen to his album – ‘Night in Shining Karma’ on loop and still listening to him on that stage felt so new. Sometimes I feel like his Startocaster is slicked with butter – how else can he produce such music? The tone of his guitar is like sipping on scotch. He started and ended his set with two of my favourite songs -Soar the Sky and Anuva’s Sky. He also did his most famous song – Ode to a Rainy Day. However, the song started much differently than it is on the album. He has a new pianist – Beven Fonseca, this guy killed it on the keys! Although, Beven didn’t play any solos his backing was just right. Warren then called on stage – multi-instrumentalist Tajdar Junaid, who I honestly think didn’t add much value to the band. Lastly, I was thoroughly impressed with drummer Jai Row Kavi’s multitasking skills, while he dodged a big bug that was flying around; he managed to keep the beat too. It was a light moment, in an otherwise music-intensive performance.
Day one had its downs too. Singer-songwriter Siddharth Basrur had a particularly off day. He broke a string on his first song and came thoroughly unprepared for his set. He is usually a good act to watch. The Colour Compound, an alt-rock band from Mumbai was also strictly okay. Ankur Tewari came sans the Ghalat family. He didn’t seem to catch the crowd’s attention, maybe because he sang Hindi, or it was an acoustic set or the fact that Indian Ocean was prepping up at the opposite stage. He had some nice chord progressions though.
Another act to watch out for on day one was Shankar Tucker. He is an American clarinettist and music composer. He too is a multi-instrumentalist and gained immense popularity on his YouTube channel – The Shruti Box. He fused Indian classical with jazz and funk as his singers were Hindustani or Carnatic and his band was funky. I have to make a special mention of the cellist who played an electric cello and was really good at it. Tight band + fusion music +American clarinettist who plays in an Indian style + funky guitar and cello = Pretty neat performance. However, I hated the Garba song they decided to play at the end.
Day one ended with people having to choose between Reggae Rajahs and Indian Ocean. Considering, I am not an EDM/Trance/Dub step/Hip hop person, I chose Indian Ocean. I was impressed by the drummer, the harmonies and front man Rahul Ram’s ability to grip the audience. However, I got bored easily as the song sounded alike and some even sounded like rip offs of System of a Down songs – ironic isn’t it. So I switched to Reggae Rajahs out of sheer curiosity. The vibe was epic, people dancing about, felt like Saturday night at a club but a real let down was the fact that people were dancing to recorded music with a singer attempting to mime the lyrics.
Day two was like a curve graph. After Friday, I judged performances on a range of mediocre to ‘as good as BlackStratBlues’. Carlton and the Saints was the first band I saw in action on Day two. Tight band but the singer had his blooper moments that totally turned off the audience. I particularly liked their last song. It had a fun vibe. The next band to take stage was Maati Baani. The band combines different genres of music. That is exactly how singer Nirali Kartik introduced the band. She said and I quote, “Whatever genre you are looking for its all here- Jazz, Funk, Hindustani classical, Blues, Folk.” The bassist was brilliant (along with his crazy avatar). He was the back bone of the band. Nirali’s vocals transported you to another place and guitarist Kartik Shah’s sevenths were stunningly placed. His wah pedal and surprising percussion on the body of his acoustic guitar did justice to the band’s sound. Definitely, one of those bands that is fit to be on Coke Studio.
The next act I headed too was Devoid. Big Mistake! Considering, I am not into heavy music, I should’ve stayed away. However, Sanju Aguiar is on lead guitar for Devoid. I have always liked Sanju’s bluesy tone. But to see him in this heavy metal avatar was quite depressing. I walked away in literally 30 seconds of their first song, what did it for me was the gruesome video that the NH7 team was screening on the backdrop of this stage.
Another act that I should’ve given a miss was Tajdar Junaid. He is the multi-instrumentalist who played with BlackStratBlues on the previous day. On day two, his act was yelling mediocrity. Not only were his guitar skills poor, his vocals were ridiculously off key. Warren joined him on stage for his last song, but even that did not save it for this act. Up next was Scribe. The post-hardcore metal band from Mumbai has been around for a few years now. Frontman Vishwesh Krishnamoorthy has the audience in splits with his jokes. I for one wasn’t too impressed with his jokes and the girl mosh pit that came later so I decided to head to watch Slow Club a folk-rock duo from England. I was highly impressed with this band, especially singer/drummer/guitarist Rebecca Taylor. Their music has got me hooked and it is one band I would recommend you download.
Stay tuned for the top ten bands and my final verdict of this edition of NH7 Weekender.