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BUDx Brings Music Community Closer

Highlights from the debut edition of the electronic music lab in New Delhi that saw intense Boiler Room sets, insightful panels, masterclasses and more

Rolling Stone India
Rolling Stone India Dec 15, 2017

English DJ/producer Dillinja during his jungle set on day two

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The warehouse-turned-music venue Dhanmill Compounds, located in New Delhi’s Chattarpur area, could well have been a piece of Scandinavia for the three days it hosted BUDx earlier this month. And not just because the sartorial preference of the majority of the young crowd favored impeccably layered black and greys—the in-fashion biker jacket was as ubiquitous as the dance music beats in the background—reminiscent of Copenhagen or Oslo. But also because the event, touted as an ‘electronic music lab,’ was able to whip up a dense, unique scene in a way we haven’t witnessed before.

Budweiser’s global commitment to dance music in the recent years has led to the beer brand’s increased involvement in the Indian music circuit. In a span of just over two years, Budweiser has sunk its teeth into the local scene by bringing Boiler Room to India, organizing the mega dance event Sensation, hosting the ‘What’s Brewing’ club gig series and partnering with the debut edition of Electric Daisy Carnival, apart from initiating digital campaigns involving pop culture icons. With BUDx, the brand aimed to consolidate all its diverse commitments into one whole: over the course of three days, the event served as a stage to underground DJs/producers, hosted multiple panel discussions and talks and offered insightful masterclasses by veteran artists for budding talent.

At Dhanmill Compound, the daily events were held across two spaces: Main Room and Break Out Room. The passage leading to these two rooms served as the hangout zone, complete with two food trucks stationed to replenish the revelers. Another smaller space, Screening Room, showcased dance music documentaries and early Boiler Room sessions from around the globe.

Here are the biggest highlights:

Starting a dialogue

In a country where the music ‘industry’ is still figuring ways to organize itself, a lot can be learned from the successes and setbacks of its trailblazers. The conversation between senior journalist Kenneth Lobo and Arjun Vagale in the Break Out Room on day one was an inspiring one that threw light on the latter’s music trajectory—from the time he struggled to source electronic music as a teenager to forming one of India’s most prominent EDM acts Jalebee Cartel and eventually going solo.

“To find my own identity [as a music producer], I had to start from scratch all over again,” said Vagale, who also performed a gripping techno set later in the evening.

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Another insightful discussion at BUDx was the panel titled ‘The Art of Management and Music Discovery’ on day three. Moderated by Mo Joshi (co-founder Azaadi Records), the panel featured Rolling Stone India Executive Editor Nirmika Singh, management agency Krunk’s founder Sohail Arora, Srikant Seshadri of Saavn and Mayank Bhatt of restaurant/music venue chain Social/Antisocial. While highlighting the biggest problems plaguing the scene today, each of the speakers also discussed solutions to help it grow. “In India, the sense of entitlement at the gate to be on the guest list is very high… As a venue, I am supposed to pay an incremental to an artist on his last year’s fee but if my collection at the gate is going down this time, how am I to do that?” said Bhatt while pointing out why running music-only venues is not sustainable.

Panel discussion on ‘The Art of Management and Music Discovery’ with speakers (L-R) Srikant Seshadri, Mayank Bhatt, Nirmika Singh and Sohail Arora

As someone who started one of India’s first management agencies, Arora, added, “Understanding what’s the market for each artist, which territory is working for him and building on that is very important.”

Media’s role in discovering and nurturing new artists is significant in the way it not only puts the spotlight on talent but also situate it in particular trend—like what happened with desi hip-hop.  Said Singh, “Good journalists do more than just report—they offer insight, assume curatorial roles and also build a community of stakeholders among artists and audiences.” Seshadri, on his part, explained how distribution is also key. “You need to have your music available to audiences in India. Artists like Prateek Kuhad and Parekh & Singh are ensuring people are listening to their music, and when they do, you will see the turnout at gigs,” he said.

This panel was followed by an engaging talk between Boiler Room founder Steven Appleyard and Tejas Nair (founder, EyeMyth festival). Sharing his remarkable journey in creating the world’s biggest underground music broadcast, Appleyard said, “I never really liked the word ‘cool’ because [it] tends to be the shorthand for ‘small’ and we never wanted to be small. We wanted to be the world’s go-to platform for authentic and alternative music.” When asked about the key to ensuring successful brand partnerships, Appleyard revealed a rule of thumb that Boiler Room follows. “Every partnership that we enter into has to unlock something new that neither partner could have achieved in isolation.”

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Broadcasting the underground

A Boiler Room set featuring homegrown producer FILM

For fans of underground electronica, BUDx was a music haven where they witnessed engaging sets by both renowned names and newer, exciting voices. One of the most intense gigs at the event was by English drum ‘n’ bass producer Dillinja who played a frenetic jungle set in the Main Room on day two, reminiscent of the early Nineties. Even while keeping the momentum high throughout the gig, as is expected of jungle music that flits between 150-200 BPM, the DJ/producer skillfully played with tempos, breakbeats and old-school synths to create a wholesome vibe.

Mumbai producer Sid Vashi’s live techno set featuring keyboard player Rohan Rajadhyaksha in the Main Room on day one was intriguing in the way it managed to combine the subtle and the loud to create a unique mood palette. The effect on the audience was fascinating: they went into a tizzy one moment only to pull back the next to absorb the live sax and synths. Back at the Break Out Room, DJ/producer Inga Mauer from The Netherlands, played her brand of dance-y stuff and worked the small crowd that was growing by the minute.

The final evening at BUDx witnessed a string of Boiler Room sessions at the Main Room, kicking off with the genre-spanning dancefloor jams by DJ/producers Raji Rags (London), Kini Rao (Mumbai), FILM (New Delhi) before moving to the Detroit techno and house courtesy of Omar S and the finale set by deep house pioneer Marcellus Pittman. This marathon Boiler Room takeover at BUDx was momentous in the way it showed promise for the future of the dance music scene: the audience seemed to exhilaratingly support it as much as the artists wanted to deliver. The programming was down pat and there was not one moment that killed the vibe.

Food truck at BUDx

If BUDx aimed to provide a space to the major stakeholders in India’s growing electronic music circuit to engage with each other in a relaxed setting—the free-flowing Buds, lazy brunches and after-parties being an integral part–it did its job well.

All photos courtesy of BUDx

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