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International Artists Keen On India

Despite festivals being rescheduled or called off, international bands want to tour the country

Lalitha Suhasini Mar 29, 2013
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Swedish House Mafia returned to perform in  Mumbai this January after their show was cancelled last year Photo: Clique Photography

Swedish House Mafia returned to perform in Mumbai this January after their show was cancelled last year Photo: Clique Photography

Not one international band or artist, regardless of the genre, has stepped off stage without a banal reference to the Indian culture and experience. Bromides aside, one of the biggest draws of touring India is performing to a brand new audience. But the recent spate of festivals and concerts being rescheduled or cancelled shows the growing alternative music scene in poor light, though artists maintain that performing in India continues to hold massive appeal.

Last month, the much-hyped Fly Music Festival packed with heavy hitters that included Limp Bizkit, Anthrax, Mastodon, The Doors, KT Tunstall and The Wailers was called off­ exactly a week ahead of its scheduled date. Festivalgoers, who had booked their tickets, ranted with due reason since most were flying out to another city for the festival. Artists and bands, who were yet to be informed of the news, posted cheery social media updates about touring India. This wasn’t the first time that Fly festival organizers Percept Live had announced plans that had come to naught. Last year, the event management agency announced a multi-stage music festival called Lost that never materialized. Other event organizers such as Mooz Entertainment and DNA Networks have also faced setbacks that have led to shows being cancelled. In 2012, Korn’s Mumbai concert organized by Mooz Entertainment was cancelled and the organizers cited unfavorable ground conditions at the venue. In 2011, irate Metallica fans damaged equipment in Delhi when they showed up at the venue only to be told that the concert was postponed. Organized by DNA Networks, the concert was eventually completely called off­ in Delhi.

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However, Metallica’s Bengaluru show was held on schedule and the band’s drummer Lars Ulrich announced after the concert that Metallica would like to return to India. When ROLLING STONE India got in touch with Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst after news of Fly Music Festival being rescheduled broke, he said, “I really want to visit India. We were very excited to meet our fans there and experience your culture. This mishap has only made me more determined to perform in India. I hope it is sooner than later.” Festival organizers Percept Live also added that all the international artists would be back on the lineup when the festival is rescheduled. “All artists are willing to reschedule and give us fresh dates as we had genuine reasons to postpone the event,” says Manuj Agarwal, CEO, Percept Live.

International artist promoters have always been cautious about India tells us Vijay Nair, cofounder of event management agency Only Much Louder. “They may not make as many checks when they go to another country,” says Nair, “I’ve been approached by a promoter to vouch for the credibility of agents. But some international agents are to blame too. They pick up gigs because an organizer, who may not be as credible, has offered them $10,000 more than another.”

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Nikhil Chinapa, cofounder of Submerge, one of the biggest electronic dance music promoters in the country, adds that India remains a grey area for international festival organizers. “So I will tell a promoter what I can, cannot and won’t do,” says Chinapa, who dealt with a crisis in Mumbai when the state shut down to mourn the death of political party Shiv Sena’s chief Bal Thackeray on the day that Swedish House Mafia was slated to perform. “SHM were aware of the situation even before they arrived in the city and knew how sensitive, unprecedented and real the circumstances were,” says Chinapa. “SHM were keen to return to Mumbai.” The electronica supergroup played a packed show in Mumbai earlier this year.

What makes India appealing is also the fact that the alternative music scene is booming with a new festival taking off for every other festival that is cancelled. Music label EMI India’s Anand Srinivasan had some explaining to do to his international team when Fly Music Festival was called off [Both Mastodon and KT Tunstall are distributed by EMI India]. “We’re hoping there will be no repercussions because of the rescheduling and once the Norah Jones tour goes off well, the scene will pick up again,” he said.

This story appeared in the March 2013 issue of ROLLING STONE India.


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