Festival Report: Day 3, Bacardi NH7 Weekender, Pune
The rise of the underdogs, Anoushka Shankar’s anti-climactic set and hip-hop’s big night with DJ Premier
After the magnetic intensity of prog rock legend Steven Wilson on day two, Bacardi NH7 Weekender was faced with the almost impossible task of delivering a line-up just as good, if not better. While a roster that included Grammy Award-winning Anoushka Shankar, legendary American producer DJ Premier and Bollywood singer/composer Shankar Mahadevan sounded impressive, it was the up-and-coming artists that left the biggest impressions. Whether it was pop duo Parekh & Singh, synth-vocalist Gordi or rappers like Raja Kumari and Borkung Hrangkhawl, it was the non-headliners’ time to shine on the final day.
Mali, Spud In The Box set the tone
We started off bright at the Bacardi House Party stage with Mumbai singer Mali’s heartwarming set which included her almost popular songs “Rush” and “Dreaming.” Ambient/pop quartet Easy Wanderlings kept things pretty much mellow at the Insider.in Other stage while folk rockers Imphal Talkies took on The Dewarists stage.
In the meantime, Mumbai alt-rock outfit Spud In The Box spun their magic and drew the first big crowd of the day at the Bacardi Arena stage. The band launched into their debut album Lead Feet Paper Shoes, bringing Mali back on stage for their haunting collab “Paper Shoes” and closing strong with their powerhouse ballad “Hold Your Horses Closer.” The audience were singing along to almost every track and even began shouting in protest when the band had to leave.
Parekh & Singh win hearts with crisp dream pop
While Kochi band When Chai Met Toast were the next to take the reigns at the Bacardi House Party stage with their folk-rock tunes, we decided to head for Kolkata duo Nischay Parekh and Jivraj Singh aka Parekh & Singh’s set at the Insider.in Other stage.
The musicians more than lived up to our expectations. Thanks to the overwhelming press they received for their Wes Anderson-inspired video for “I Love You Baby, I Love You Doll” in October this year, Parekh & Singh managed to pull in an impressive number of fans, many of who just wanted to hear that one popular track live. Dressed in matching mustard suits, the duo played a cheerful yet ethereal array of material from their 2014 album Ocean. Although they planned to finish for the day with the funky “Sunbeam,” an encore ensured they also played the chirpy, feel-good “Newbury Street.”
Girl power, high and Lowe
Soon after Parekh & Singh, British singer-songwriter Rosie Lowe immediately began her set at The Dewarists stage next door. While the initial, eerie combination of echoing synth and vocals had the crowd backing away slightly, Lowe pulled them right back in when she launched into the chill trap-infused “Worry Bout Us,” “Woman” and “So Human” from her debut album Control, which released earlier this year.
Alt rockers The Ganesh Talkies were next on our itinerary so we had to run across the venue to catch the Kolkata-based band do their thing. Frontwoman Suyasha Sengupta was at her showperson best as she delivered one powerhouse track after another and introduced new songs–“Triangle” (inspired by a love triangle) and “Protest,” an angry tirade on the violence and politics 2016 has brought.Â Lead guitarist Ronodeep Bose was especially in his element during “The Great Indian Freak Show” and “Monsters In Your Head.”
Another quick run later, we made it in time for Sophie Payten aka Gordi’s set. With her looped harmonies, husky vocals and dreamy synth, the rising Australian singer-songwriter had the entire crowd swaying in their spots.
Borkung Hrangkhwal’s explosive set; mad dash for Thaikuddam Bridge
At the Breezer Vivid Village, Agartala-based glitch hop rapper Borkung Hrangkhawl went on to deliver what was possibly the most stand-out set of the night, melding his lightening-paced rap with growls, distortion guitarÂ and intense bass-drops. With tracks like the weighty “Fighter” to the explosive, dubstep-infused “Blow,” Hrangkhawl had the audience eating out of his hand. He got down from the stage numerous times, and even climbed the barricades to sing with the audience, winning perhaps a few hundred new fans by each passing minute. The absolute high point however was his freestyle rap session at the end; members of the audience yelled random words at him such as ”˜brownie,’ ”˜Pune’ etc. and watched in awe as he composed mini-verses on the spot.
On the other side of the music spectrum, Kerala-based Hindustani/Carnatic rock band Thaikkudam Bridge made their Pune debut at the festival. With soaring vocals, rolling percussion and killer violin solos courtesy frontman Govind Menon, the band was easily one of the most memorable artists of the day.
How nice it would have been if Weekender had another day just so that the acts could be better paced out. Last evening saw a majority of the crowd’s running from one stage to another in a bid to catch even as much as half a set of their favorite artist.
Desi hip-hop showcase; Anoushka Shankar’s lukewarmÂ set
We caught the tail end of Indian-American multi-instrumentalist and producer Karsh Kale’s performance with his all-star band the Karsh Kale Collective. Featuring singer such as Benny Dayal and Apeksha Dandekar, the Collective traversed a huge range of styles, with the performers playing to their strengths.
Mumbai rapper Divine’s performance at Breezer Vivid Village turned out to be a showcase of desi hip-hop. Divine brought on homies such as Mumbai-rapper Enkore, Bombay BassmentÂ frontmanÂ Bobkat, “Asal Hustle” hit-maker Naezy and many more. He also performed his collaborative track with EDM producer Nucleya, “Jungle Raja” which had the crowd screaming at the top of their lungs. His onstage collaboration with Indian-American rapper Raja Kumari on two of her tracks was also something to watch out for.
One of the most anticipated headliners of the entire weekend, possibly second only to Steven Wilson, was Grammy Award-winning sitar player Anoushka Shankar.Â Expectations were high as thousands crammed themselves into The Dewarists stage area, pushing and shoving at each other to get close enough to see Shankar seated with her sitar at the center of the stage. But less than two songs into the set, the crowd started thinning out at an alarming rate. Shankar’s compositions from her latest album Land Of Gold failed to impress the crowd, which seemed only somewhat interested when she played her father the Late Ravi Shankar’s famous track “Reunion.”
While Shankar Mahadevan’s sprightly set drew the biggest crowd of the night, we chose to head back to Breezer Vivid Village to catch American record producer DJ Premier’s India debut. His performance also marked the first time a hip-hop act closed a music festival in India as a headliner.
With his signature call-and-answer style of rapping and jazzy record-scratching, Preemo’s set was a revival of old-school Nineties hip-hop; the entire audience grooved to remixes of Dr. Dre’s viral 1999 track “The Next Episode” which features Snoop Dogg, Kurupt and Nate Dogg and samples from artists that ranged from James Brown to Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur. If the audience that was left asking for more is anything to go by, India seems to have come of age as far as hip-hop is concerned.
Photos by Bryan Jacob Daniel