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Festival Review: Bira 91’s April Fools’ Festival, New Delhi

The second edition of the event featured performances by heavy hitters like rappers Naezy, Prabh Deep, electro-pop artist Monica Dogra and more

David Britto Apr 03, 2019

(From left) Drummer Hamza Kazi, hypeman/rapper MC Altaf, hip-hop artist Naezy and DJ-producer Karan Kanchan at Bira 91's April Fools' Fest.

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This past weekend, New Delhi’s NSIC Grounds was transformed into a two-day beer paradise courtesy of the second edition of Bira 91’s April Fools’ Festival (AFF). The summer music festival’s ambience and vibe was jolly and bursting with bars all around the festival premises ”“ even one gigantic bar plum center on the grounds. Apart from the main stage for music, AFF had a sprawling food court serving attendees everything from momos to biryani and burgers, a Bira 91 official merchandize stall and even stand-up comedy sets by comics such as Rohan Joshi, Kaneez Surka, Aadar Malik and more. Additionally, this year’s event even witnessed a ”˜Kommune Hour’ dedicated to storytelling.  

Day one: Prabh Deep and his A-Team, Raja Kumari’s Pop Power

We arrived at AFF just in time to catch New Delhi DJ MoCity warming attendees up with his hip-hop and glitch set. Although folks were still making their way in at the time of his set, the Boxout.fm founder and DJ managed to draw a sizeable crowd towards the end of his performance with free flowing tracks. Up next, New Delhi visual and hip-hop artist Sumit Roy aka Rolls Roy’s and his band took the stage next albeit with a slight drizzle in the sky forcing the organizers to cover up the audio equipment. Roy was at times screechy with his delivery and the off stage mix that wasn’t up to scratch didn’t help during their set.

Raja Kumari performing at Bira 91’s April Fools’ Fest.

Seated on a throne, Indo-American hip-hop artist Raja Kumari brought her high energy to AFF next. The rapper had both contemporary and Bharatnatyam dancers backing her up as well as some slick visuals for all her songs. Kumari performed tracks such as the pulsating “New Level,” the fiery “I Did It,” and even her Divine collaboration “City Slums” among others. What sets Kumari apart from other rappers is her ability to actually sing which makes for a pleasing listen, and the popstar production levels.

New Delhi rapper Prabh Deep performed for the first time with his new band The One Eight Project that features instrumentalists such as drummer Vir Brar, keyboardist Archit Anand, guitarist Chaitanya Bhalla aka Chazz, bassist Harshit Misra aka Hashbass, saxophonist Abhay Sharma, hypeman Lit Happu and MC Kode. The rapper recreated his 2017 album Class-Sikh for the live set up and split his performance into two halves; the struggle wherein he wore a colorful shirt and the success, sporting a black t-shirt. Prabh Deep’s set was probably the best over the two days ”“ not only because of his blistering verses but also because he had an incredibly talented band backing him up, that surprisingly only had five rehearsals leading up to the festival. Hopefully it won’t be too long before we see The One Eight Project perform next.

Rapper Prabh Deep (center) and The One Eight Project performing at Bira 91’s April Fools’ Fest.

Mumbai-based DJ Sa closed day one with his hip-hop, reggae and R&B sounds, even pulling out “Apna Time Aayega” from the film Gully Boy which, unsurprisingly, sent the crowd into a frenzy.

Day two: Monica Dogra’s DJ set and Naezy’s Emphatic Headlining Performance

On day two of the festival we reached as Mumbai-based DJ Ishani was showcasing her remixes of American artist Montell Jordan’s “This Is How We Do It” and U.S. rapper DMX’s “Party Up (Up In Here).” By now, it was fair to say DJs were not disappointing when it came to warming up the crowd. Electro-pop artist Monica Dogra turned selector as well, taking a turn on the deck with a DJ set. Selections included American rapper Nicki Minaj’s “I Am Your Leader,” M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes,” Rihanna’s “Rude Boy,” “Pon de Replay,” and “What’s My Name?” Not one to be stuck behind the decks, Dogra made her way out front and grooved to the tracks as well, bringing that high energy with her that we’re used to seeing during her live sets.

Monica Dogra performing a DJ set at Bira 91’s April Fools’ Fest.

New Delhi DJ duo Madstarbase kept things flowing and even brought out a remix of renowned composer R.D. Burman’s “Mehbooba Mehbooba” from the 1975 film Sholay. City-based hip-hop duo Seedhe Maut followed next with producer Sez On The Beat. The pair powered through their set keeping the energy levels bumping for festival headliner Naezy.

Just before Naezy was about to come out, the organizers had a somewhat bizarre and unnecessary filler before his set. As part of Bira 91’s association with the International Cricket Council (ICC) and the forthcoming World Cup in the U.K., dancers (dressed up as field umpires) did their thing as a large screen recapping former Indian cricket captain M.S. Dhoni scoring the winning runs at the 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup was shown.

Not-so-subtle plugs aside, Naezy eventually made his much awaited appearance belting out tracks such as his magnum opus “Aafat,” “Aane De,” his Divine collaboration “Mere Gully Mein” and his most recent offering “Aafat Waapas.” Naezy was backed by hypeman/rapper MC Altaf, producer-DJ Karan Kanchan and drummer Hamza Kazi (from Mumbai prog rock band Coshish). The hip-hopper had the festival in the palm of his hands with attendees drooling over the rapper’s performance.

With a hip-hop leaning lineup that also catered to the electronica audience, it would be nice to see if the next edition of AFF would include more live acts be it bands or solo artists. For now though, we were pretty content with this year’s lineup as were all the happy festival attendees who made their way out to Okhla.

All photos courtesy of Bira 91’s April Fools’ Fest. 

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