Comments (0)
year ender |  25 Jan 2017 14:27 |  By Suhas Thobbi

The first timers in 2016

MUMBAI: 2016, to a certain stretch, was an uneventful year for the music ecosystem in India. Film music, positively, continued to be just an arm for film promotion; independent music, unfortunately, continued to be insignificant for the majority of the Indian masses; popular Punjabi rap, apparently, continued its effort of promoting drugs and violence and classical music received lesser attention than cat memes and Abhijeet Bhattacharya’s Twitter rants.

But there were a few brave souls out there who tried something new, something fresh and created a path that others, hopefully, would follow.

In no particular order, the following initiatives helped 2016 become a bit more significant:

Hip Hop Got A New Home(land):

The live gig circuit in Mumbai found a new home in the form of antiSocial, and the suburban club opened its doors to several genres and efforts throughout the year. In the meantime, youth portal 101India kickstarted its dedicated project on the underground hip-hop culture in India, and gradually turned into a phenomenon (of sorts). The concept helped viewers and fans of the genre explore some unheard sounds and unappreciated voices representing the community of rap and hip-hop. Hip Hop Homeland’s first edition tapped on the social issues of Mumbai through the medium of rap, hip-hop, MCs and graffiti artists, depicted by the residents of one of the largest slums in the world – Dharavi.

The edition extended to Kashmir where MC Kash found a digital platform and audience to address his political and social opinions on the state of affairs in the valley. The initiative concluded its 2016 offerings with the North East that introduced the country to some of the youngest rappers and an unlikely collaboration of rap and baul music. However, 101India’s path-breaking initiative came through a well organized, much needed hip-hop live gig ‘Hip Hop Homeland Live’ , once again, at Mumbai’s safest haven for underground music – antiSocial. Hip-Hop gigs had seen the light of day earlier as well, but its eventual success or longevity were hampered by  the usual culprits – minimum turnout, unsatisfactory quality of talent, and most importantly, lack of sponsors to sustain the model.

Unlike every other such effort, 101India’s Hip Hop Homeland was a huge success, considering how late the ecosystem has arrived to the hip hop scene. What’s more significant about Hip Hop Homeland can be judged from the fact that media publications and mainstream channels spoke about the effort, thus beginning a conversation about the genre.

A Transition of Gig Documentation:

Undoubtedly, the best gig that was ‘recorded’ in 2016 has to be Bengaluru-based rock band Parvaaz’s 90 minute long set at Jagriti Theatre. Titled ‘Transitions’,  the gig received documentation of a quality that certainly raised the band’s reputation in the ‘scene’ and among its counterparts. For many, Parvaaz did not exist before the video of the effort went viral on social media platforms. And for most of those unaware of Parvaaz’s sound, soon followed the band’s developments in the remainder of the year. Similar efforts have been executed but Transitions, released in April, set an example of how to document a band with a unique ideology and sound. Directed by Gokul Chakravarthy, the promising project required detailing at a shoestring budget. The outcome of Transitions was a brilliant coming together of a simple idea with intense attention to detailing.

The success of such an effort can also be judged from the fact that the entire documentary, considering the response it received on YouTube, later received a DVD release.

Telecast of Ziro:

The rise of music festivals continued in 2016. However, one of the most renowned and celebrated music festivals in the country – Ziro – finally earned the kind of support most festivals of its league deserve. One of the oldest mediums of information, entertainment and news in India, Doordarshan telecast the festival on its channel for the entire country to experience the magic of a festival from the comfort of a couch. With the support of the Tourism Department of Arunachal Pradesh and Ministry of Development of North East region (DoNER), the festival was telecast on DD National, DD Bharati, DD India, DD North East, and Doordarshan Kendra Itanagar.

The 2016 edition of Ziro festival (22 to 25 September) marked the first time for a critically acclaimed music festival to broadcast a line-up featuring performances of alternative musicians on a mainstream TV channel.

An indie act sells out a stadium:

Possibly, the biggest ‘indie’ name in the country had a year worth remembering for the rest of his life. Nucleya, or Udyan Sagar, executed what most mainstream Bollywood names could not. At least 10000 fans turned up at Mumbai’s NSCI Dome to witness what most once considered an impossible task. For an indie act to perform in an indoor stadium with opening acts that usually headline venues is a big deal.

With the continued support from Bacardi and OML , Nucleya sold out a stadium in the heart of the entertainment capital of the country. The pre-event hype reflected the demand and the popularity whereas the footfall proved it. In September 2015, Nucleya launched his debut album amongst Ganesh devotees on  the Ganapati Visarjan day, and a year later, the bass DJ chose an entire stadium to release his second album ‘Raja Baja’.

Most of the tickets were given out for free, but looking at the sheer response since the announcement (and the on-ground response outside the venue), the reaction justifies the craze and the phenomenon that Nucleya has become. Within 20 hours since the announcement of the concert, the venue was sold out.  

Global faces, Indian song:

Global Citizen Festival made its India debut in 2016. And the organisation, in partnership with Indian entities, announced a concert every year for the next 15 years. For its first outing in India, Coldplay headlined the event while renowned rapper Jay Z, singer songwriter Demi Lovato and boy band The Vamps joined the international artists’ list.

Representing Indian music on the platform were AR Rahman, Farhan Akhtar, Shankar Ehsaan Loy to name a few. The intention behind the event was to create awareness concerning a few social and sanitary issues, and with the contribution through several entities and ticket purchases, the festival organisers achieved their goals.

On the music front , the highlight arrived pretty late in the night, when the headlining act Coldplay invited maestro AR Rahman on the stage for their rendition of ‘Vande Mataram’. Who would have thought Grammy winning musicians will, one day, share a stage in Mumbai and perform one of the most patriotic songs ever written?

A first time for Bollywood too:

Believe it or not, 2016 also welcomed a Bollywood music-only festival for the first time in the industry’s history. A multi-stage, multi-genre music festival serving only Bollywood music was an experiment never tried before and TM Talent Management and Event Capital came together to achieve the same through ‘Bollywood Music Project’.

With headlining acts like Arijit Singh, Vishal-Shekhar, Badshah and Rekha Bhardwaj, the line-up offered enough diversity in its sound. For years, the only time a commercially popular Bollywood music act followed another had happened at award shows or similar events.

The success of the first Bollywood music festival, held in Mumbai’s Jio Garden, can be judged from the speculation suggesting the next edition will be held in Dubai.

Boiler Room:

One of the few reputed international concepts revolving around niche sounds of the world – Boiler Room made its India debut with antiSocial Khar. Budweiser joined hands with underground music’s online broadcaster Boiler Room, after executing a similar story in Brussels, Belgium.  Called Boiler Room X Budweiser’s What’s Brewing In , the 12-city series made a pit stop in Mumbai for performances from Indian electronic music producers like Sandunes, _RHL, Oceantied, and topped it off with the headlining act of the night – Actress.

The concept has gained recognition and respect among electronic music artists and followers across the globe and the rise of the genre in India made it ideal for Boiler Room to showcase its essence in this part of the world.

Music festivals come a-knocking:

2016 saw a bunch of internationally known music festivals’ arrival in India. On 27 May 2016, Don’t Let Daddy Know made its India debut with Steve Angello as the main act. The Ibiza-born festival understood and acknowledged the growing demand of electronic music based festivals in India and banked on a relatively young and late-arrivals to the EDM scene a.k.a Indian audience.

In association with E&A and Ferriswheel Entertainment , Don’t Let Daddy Know was held at NSCI Dome in Mumbai, also featuring the festival’s resident DJ Sem Vox.

Electric Daisy Carnival , similar to Don’t Let Daddy Know, saw 2016 as an ideal year to introduce itself to the Indian market. The festival, known for its eccentric and elaborate production quality, repeated every element on Indian soil, in New Delhi. The festival did not compromise on its music as the line-up featured some of the finest musicians in the world including Alesso, Afrojack, Vini Vici and Yellow Claw.

With a line up of international DJs such as Lost Frequencies, Afrojack, Axwell, Laidback Luke, and their resident DJ Mr. White, Hyderabad became the first city in India to host Budweiser Sensation – the EDM music festival that happened over the first weekend of March. On 5 March 2016, Gachibowli Stadium transformed into a never-ending white-oasis for the larger-than-life night. The electronic music scene in India is growing at a fast pace and Budweiser Sensation offered fans an experience of the supreme form of global electronic dance music to young Indian enthusiasts who thronged the venue.


YouTube musicians performing a live show with established music directors of Bollywood? Yes, the cross over did happen, thanks to digital portal Qyuki’s latest initiative, titled Jammin’. With ten music videos involving collaborations between digital stars and established musicians of Indian film industry, Jammin’ set off a year-long effort celebrating the two spaces of music creativity. The music directors who supported the effort through contributions were Salim-Sulaiman, Clinton Cerejo, Mithoon, AR Rahman, whereas the YouTube sensations that converted the idea into a success followed by a concert on 11 November  were Arjun Kanungo, Shraddha Sharma, Sanam to name a few.