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Photos: Hits and Misses at Bacardi NH7 Weekender, Pune

A party-pooping power cut, Anoushka Shankar’s boring set, Borkung Hrangkhawl’s headliner-worthy game, and much more


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Indian-American rapper Raja Kumari performs her empowering brand of raga-meets-rap at NH7 Weekender Pune. Photo: Bryan Jacob Daniel

Indian-American rapper Raja Kumari performs her empowering brand of raga-meets-rap at NH7 Weekender Pune. Photo: Bryan Jacob Daniel

The Pune edition of Bacardi NH7 Weekender drew huge crowds across three days, but artists ranged between solid showmen and electric frontwomen to well, raging rockers. Here are our hot and cold vibes from the festival. We’ll begin with the cold first.

 

Misses

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When things were back up and running, Nicholson started from scratch, still managing to woo everyone with their ambient electro compositions. Photo: Bryan Jacob Daniel

Nicholson’s Power Outage – On the very first day, the Breezer Vivid Village electronic stage brought bad luck to Mumbai act Nicholson, who were stopped a few times mid-set, a real vibe-killer for anyone who knows just how much they put into building their sets as an emotional, sonic journey.

Eagulls – We don’t entirely blame the English rock band, it’s also down to the slot they got and attention levels flagging, when there are three other stages to choose from. It felt like we were watching a filler act that slipped into a crack between The Ganesh Talkies and Thaikkudam Bridge.

Anoushka Shankar– There were expectations of a hair-raising performance from the Grammy Award-winning sitar player Anoushka Shankar. What we got instead was three songs’ worth of no changes in pace and a track that at one point sounded like background music played at an Indian wedding. The ones who stayed back had something to cheer when multi-instrumentalist Karsh Kale played tabla alongside her in a set-ending jugalbandi.

Anoushka Shankar

Less than two songs into Anoushka Shankar’s set, the crowd started thinning out at an alarming rate. Photo: Bryan Jacob Daniel

Bright and Early for Func – Another one of the festival’s experiments, giving the mainstage for Mumbai producer-guitarist Randolph Correia aka Func’s live set was a mismatch. An afternoon/early evening set for him sounded like the festival just wanted to warm up for Nucleya’s set hours in advance and blow out our eardrums. They could have also had him play on the same stage or a different stage on another day.

Kanchan Daniel & the Beards – The Mumbai blues rockers have been playing a helluva lot and perhaps that’s taken a toll on the singer’s voice. Although backed by solid music, Daniel’s vocals seem to be testing her audiences’ reactions to screeches and screams. It’s primeval, but it definitely flew over a few listeners heads during their set at the Bacardi House Party stage on day one.

Opera in the Afternoon – Just like FUNC’s misplaced set, opera act Sempre Libera not only looked out of place at Weekender, but sounded it as well, opening proceedings on the Insider.in Other Stage on day two. It might be Weekender’s attempt at diversifying, but it doesn’t have to be this outlandish, hearing tenors at four in the evening.

 

Hits:

Borkung Hrangkhawl

Borkung Hrangkhawl had headliner-worthy game during his performance at NH7 Weekender. Photo: Bryan Jacob Daniel

Borkung Hrangkhawl– The Tripura rapper probably had one of the most standout performances. With a set that featured growls, distortion guitar and heavy bass-drops, Hrangkhawl was able to bring something new to the table by seamlessly blending genres with his high velocity rapping on tracks like “Fighter,” “Blow” and “Never Give Up.”

Strong openers – If you religiously made it on time for the first band each day, you wouldn’t be disappointed. From the gigantic rock of Mumbai band Gumbal on day one to Shillong rockers Dossers Urge on day two and the laidback but enthusiastic energy of Easy Wanderlings on day three.

Dualist’s ‘Dreamcatcher’ set – Delhi producer-guitarist Sahej Bakshi rounded up the best voices (Kavya Trehan, Josh Fernandez) and musicians (producer-saxophonist Sid Vashi, Chennai rock band Skrat’s drummer Tapass Naresh and more) for a performance that was a welcome breath of fresh air from his standard sets.

Divine and Raja Kumari– It was clear that Weekender had the best showcase of hip-hop acts this year and Mumbai rapper Divine’s set on day three was a prime example; Not only did it feature collabs with some of the best hip-hop acts in India like rapper EnkoreBombay Bassment frontman Bobkat and “Asal Hustle” hit-maker Naezy, but it also introduced the audience to Indian-American rapper Raja Kumari’s empowering brand of raga-meets-rap.

Live Electronica – Weekender clearly knows it’s passé to have just button-pushers staring into their laptop, so we’d give full marks for programming the likes of New Delhi electronic act Komorebi, dream pop duo Parekh and Singh, Chennai electronica duo Sapta and their ilk.

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Parekh & Singh played a cheerful yet ethereal array of material from their 2014 album ‘Ocean.’ Bryan Jacob Daniel

 

Big bands, big stage – Sure, there’s no other way to make a 17-member act like Kerala fusion act Thaikkudam Bridge fit on any other stage apart from the Bacardi Arena mainstage, but also lending it to bands such as Mumbai alt-rockers Spud In The Box was the best way to let the boys sound their best ever, performing material off their latest album, Lead Feet Paper Shoes.

The F16s get Smashing– In a classic set-ending meltdown that went too far (in a move that was planned), what else do you call a guitar being smashed in two? That’s a ‘hit’, right?

 

Photos: Bryan Jacob Daniel

 

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