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ADE Global Sessions, Mumbai: Here’s What Happened

India’s dance music scene showed up in numbers for Amsterdam Dance Event’s inaugural conference and club showcase in Mumbai

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Kenneth Lobo Apr 15, 2016
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Amsterdam Dance Event, Global Sessions, Mumbai launched at Social, Todi Mills in Lower Parel with a keynote address by Arjun Vagale. India’s primary techno exponent outlined the scene’s history from its early raves in Goa to the Hindi film industry’s disco heyday. He mentioned the rise of the super clubs in the early 2000s, leading up to his own contribution with Jalebee Cartel. He highlighted how Pearl, Nikhil Chinapa and Hermit Sethi’s Submerge led to the partnership with Percept Live for Sunburn. And how it ended with the current EDM explosion that’s taken over the country. Vagale soundtracked his presentation with ten tracks that suited the chronology perfectly. He wasn’t shy to include a psychedelic trance cut from GMS [“No Rules”] or David Guetta’s dance pop tune “I Gotta Feeling” and Underworld’s “Born Slippy”.

Arjun Vagale

Arjun Vagale delivering the keynote on the first night at Todi Mill Social, Mumbai

Before Vagale took to the stage, Saul van Stapele, creative director at Amsterdam Dance Event [ADE)], introduced the festival’s director Richard Zijlma and Shailendra Singh, Joint Managing Director, Percept Limited to the audience. Stapele quizzed Singh on the need for the ADE Sessions in Mumbai. Singh replied that India knew how to party but it was time to guide the industry. “All of us believe in entertainment, not education,” he said.

Day 1

Kick-off
Remember the Open Day at school. ADE’s Meet the Pros session, which flagged off proceedings at noon at Tote on the Turf in Mahalaxmi, was no different. Young, nervous and excited dance music producers – from Kolkata to Chennai – queued up with their laptops and phones to play their demos to experts. EDM producer Sartek [Sarthak Sardana], UnMute’s Dev Bhatia, Soupherb label co-founder Ashwin Mani Sharma and international guests [like Artur Mendes from Portugal’s Boom festival and Burning Man’s Director of Communications, Megan Miller, who had little to do with production] were all kept busy for the best part of an hour by eager EDM beavers.

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Young participants at ADE Global Sessions, Mumbai

Industry feedback
Sardana heard around 30 to 35 demos. He was impressed that most producers were open to feedback, took notes and also emailed him revised versions of the tracks after the festival. “There was a big difference between the demos I get on Facebook and mail, and the music that I heard at the event,” he said. Later in the day, Sardana also featured in the Q&A panel with four of India’s most celebrated EDM acts: (S)haan, Lost Stories, Zaeden and Joshi. “Even the questions we got asked on the panel were intelligent and nuanced,” he added. “For example, the future of tropical house, or the death of EDM, and what direction the big room sound will take.”

Sharma, from Soupherb — who listened to around 15 to 20 demos — found his batch of artists leaning heavily towards EDM. “People who have the resources, the Supersonics and the Sunburns, push commercial acts,” he said. “What we push out as a culture is what we will get back.” The Delhi-based artist also hosted a masterclass with Ash Roy, his label co-founder and 5Volts [Varun Desai], their Kolkata-based visual artist, who also doubles up as a producer and promoter. Sharma said he advised producers not to be bound to genres. “First make the track, then figure where it fits in,” he said.

Out of the mouth of babes”¦
Genre-fication was certainly at the top of many producers’ minds at ADE but, thankfully, not for everyone. Take Nishit Singh, 20, and former music writer, Prem Gupta, 24, for instance. Singh had travelled from the capital for the conference. He said that he makes certain tracks only for himself and others for the dancefloor. He didn’t want to be confined to any genre, displaying a maturity far beyond his years. Ditto Gupta. He said he preferred to study sound engineering to get into music for advertising and films. The Hans Zimmer fan also loved Chennai-based firm The Inventory’s music technology and gear stall. It allowed fans to get hands-on with synthesisers that are normally out of reach for kids from middle class families.

Panel of the day
Peter Martin, CEO of VALIS Studios, took over the day’s most well-attended and controversial session. Martin specialises in hologram technology. He’s the man behind M.I.A. and Janelle Monae’s hologram concerts for Audi’s A3 series launch in 2014. And has since helmed several groundbreaking virtual reality [VR] projects. He’s convinced that in the future VR will generate more revenue than ticket sales. Imagine superstar DJs who have multiple New Year’s Eve concerts.  Book an authentic recreation instead. Perhaps you can’t make it to Coachella? Simulate the experience.

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The crowd was evenly divided on the implications of the medium. The youth, like Singh and Gupta felt that if used correctly, the technology could help add more fans to the fold. One vocal opposer of the technology was Shailendra Singh. “The planet is insecure right now with terrorism and global warming,” he said. “People are going to want to stick to people. Our focus should be on bringing the soul back into festivals.”

There was a telling indicator of the average age crowd. The panel with REProduce Artists boss Rana Singh on the legacy of Indian acid house pioneer Charanjit Singh had less than one-third the audience for the Party Like It’s 2026 talk.

 

Say what?

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Industry leaders discussing growth opportunities in Asia

Brandon Bakshi, Executive Director of Publisher Relations for Europe & Asia, BMI, killed the careers of all established and potential underground electronic music producers, DJs and promoters with his comment, “the only way to stay relevant is to go pop.” DJ Chetas, India’s first entry into the DJ Mag top 100 in 2015, featured on the Synching in Bollywood panel. But the audience was keener to find out how he made it to the magazine’s list than anything he had to say.

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Nucleya at the OML showcase at Todi Mill Social, Mumbai

Day 2

Kick-off
Music conferences have a tendency to peter out as they inch closer to the weekend. With five showcases by leading Indian promoters – UnMute, Only Much Louder, Krunk, Slick! and Ankytrixx – the previous night, it was nothing short of a miracle that over 100 attendees showed up at Tote by 1pm. ADE Global Sessions also got the timing spot-on. All activities were scheduled to begin much after noon, a realistic timing for the night-crawlers, where other conferences ambitiously aim for early morning sessions. And fail.

The second round of Meet the Pros had fewer Indian participants but that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the producers. We overheard this gem: “Yesterday, everyone was going to meet with the Indian guys because they thought, ”˜Arey, same country, they’ll help us.’ But the truth is Indians don’t give a fuck.”

 

Industry feedback
Jan-Willem van de Ven, Head of Festival, ADE, said that the overall quality of demos was laudable.  The next step, he told the producers, is to sound original. He cited Nucleya as an example. “His sound is fresh and people react to his music,” he said. “You don’t have to sound like Martin Garrix all the time.” Van de Ven was also inspired by the turnout over the two days [roughly 800 conference participants and upto 10,000 attending various gigs]. He was also clear that ADE’s Global Sessions heavily relies on local promoters and organically increasing international participation. “We had a meeting with 15 local promoters and told them that we simply provide the frame, but you put the body.”

The structure that van de Ven referred to is in good health, according to Tanseer Jabbar, Chennai-based producer-DJ and founder of The Inventory, a music technology and gear retailer. Jabbar heard demos from several teenagers and was taken aback by their musicianship and drive. “At that age we were doing half the things they are,” he said. “They also made the effort to make the music and attend the conference.” He also set up a gear stall for participants to get hands-on with synths. He later hosted a masterclass on Ableton. “We tackled real, everyday problems at the workshop,” he said. “How to make something from scratch, to go from nothing to something.”

Out of the mouth of babes”¦
For new entrants into the scene, ADE Global Sessions was the equivalent of a Grammy Awards reception party. Everywhere you looked, established Indian promoters, DJs and booking agents were all within touching distance. You could hear deals being made, invoices being followed up on and fresh artists checked out. In this regard, the Mumbai version successfully replicated the Dutch formula. In Amsterdam, the world’s best electronic music artists let their hair down for five days in a similarly laid-back fashion.

Aneesh Basu, one half of Kolkata-based analogue big beat act Hybrid Protokol, found out first-hand how music often travels faster than artists. Basu’s one-and-a-half year old outfit has played a handful of gigs in his hometown thus far. Yet, from Mixtape founder Naveen Deshpande to UnMute co-founder Dev Bhatia, most of the electronic music fraternity were familiar with his music or at the very least had heard of his act. The 27-year-old, who is contemplating a move to Mumbai, couldn’t have hoped a better moment for the conference to take place.

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Panel of the day

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Predictably, Vijay Nair, CEO of Only Much Louder, moderated the day’s most engaging session on touring through the continent. He was joined by Ritnika Nayan [Music Gets Me High], Dev Bhatia [UnMute], Karan Singh [Percept Live] and Jaideep Singh [Senior VP & Head Live – Viacom18]. All panelists revealed how tier II Indian cities like Raipur and Shillong for instance are gradually developing into EDM and underground electronic music hubs. Nair also mentioned the crucial role campus tours might play in the next decade. And also provided some statistics: 1,500 campus shows in India currently, 5,000 estimated in the next three years and there 15,000 Indian universities with campuses. Worthy contender for the accolade was Blaise DeAngelo [general manager of Skrillex’s OWSLA label] who was full of ”˜keepin’-it-real’ advice for all the youngsters hanging on to his every word. When he was asked what kind of online personality artists should have, he quipped: “I mean, just be the kind of person you are in real life, man. Don’t be someone else. Don’t be a weirdo.”

Make in India
Shailendra Singh maintained his bombastic and swashbuckling style and saved his best for the final day of the conference. He berated international booking agents for inflating DJs’ fees and said that “the balance between economics and emotions has to happen now.” He also said that until he attended ADE in the Dutch capital last year, he felt that “conferences are like paid vacations meant only for employees.”And though he understood that “DJs are deeply into their craft and just want to make music,” he added that “if I run McDonald’s, I can’t afford to fall in love with the chicken.”

Singh talked passionately about his charity show with Hardwell in December last year. He pushed the young audience to be proud of their Indian heritage and wondered aloud why we don’t have a single Indian FMCG product that’s consumed in 80 countries. He attributed it to the fear marketing of our parents, our society and because “the white people just left us like 60 years ago.” He also half-jokingly added that the next conference should be fully homegrown.

Closing notes
Percept Live and ADE Global Sessions are late entrants into the music conference in India. For a first edition, however, they learned admirably from their predecessor’s mistakes. The late start ensured high attendance and masterclasses were held by a diverse selection of artists [think Arjun Vagale, Nucleya and Andrew Mackay from Bombay Dub Orchestra]. The night program showcases included established as well as experimental artists from all of India’s top agencies.

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Andrew Mackay from Bombay Dub Orchestra interacting with a conference attendee

One dampener perhaps was the skewed gender ratio, with women making up less than 2% of the conference attendance and an equal ratio with the panelists. Sadly, that is a globally consistent, not one that is unique to this event and something that needs to be addressed collectively.

ADE Global Sessions was also the most inclusive and well-attended of any Indian conference in recent memory. The combination of massive brands like Percept Live and ADE may be responsible for it, of course. But the fact that ADE demands external, neutral consultants to work on its program [credit to Anish Sood who took on this role], to deal as best it can with any element of bias, surely played a key role in bringing punters from across genres, states and scenes on board.

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Mumbai trio Force at their performance at Phoenix Courtyard

The networking and the knowledge sharing was everyone’s biggest takeaway. As Dev Bhatia, who presides over India’s largest DJ roster said, “It was pretty clear that India is the next frontier for dance music. Speaking to the delegates, it was great to see that they’re not only interested in the glitz, glam and colors of India but also want to dig deeper into the underground scene.”

 

 

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