Vh1 Supersonic 2017: EDM fest kicks off in Pune, with plenty of other genres in the mix
From the perspective of the live music industry, it almost seemed like Live Viacom18 was biding its time, making slow and safe moves all through 2016. In 2015, the company that brought down UK art rockers Alt-J as part of a three-city tour for their series Emerge and then followed it up with guitar god Slash (with Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators) performing in two cities at MTVi Xtreme. And then, there was their electronic music blowout, Vh1 Supersonic, which featured the likes of Disclosure, Zedd, Netsky and Axwell.
But all through last year, these properties skipped their annual return, and even Vh1 Supersonic — the electronic music festival that’s quickly gaining popularity with its fresh look on programming — had to be pushed out of the 2016 gig calendar due to regulations by the Goan government. Instead, the three-day music festival has widened its scope to focus on hip-hop as well, setting up on 10-12 February 2017.
The headliners this time around include hip-hop star and recent talent Macklemore, Swedish EDM chart-topper Eric Prydz and the return of Zedd. Even hip-hop pioneer Grandmaster Flash was announced to make his debut at the festival, but only recently cancelled his performance owing to ill health. The rest of the lineup also includes international regulars such as B.R.E.E.D., Aly & Fila, Joris Voorn, who will perform across three stages at Laxmi Lawns in Pune.
Nikhil Chinapa, the festival director, says there are a few objectives in place with this year’s lineup. “We’re ensuring that fans are exposed to new and exciting genres and music styles from across the globe. With artists from diverse genres like House, hip Hop, Big Room, Electro, Techno, Reggae/Dub, Trance, Drum n’ Bass and Trap, we’ve crossed over, and also blurred several lines in the genre-spotting game.”
For Chinapa, who hosted two smaller, cosier festivals of his own in Goa despite Vh1 Supersonic (and its competitor Sunburn) moving out of the beach city, Pune is as ideal a location as any. He said over email, “I’ve always enjoyed playing in Pune and the city has an amazing crowd and following for electronic music. Pune’s audience is young, dynamic and has a global outlook. The city has several campuses that draw students from across India and also from several parts of the globe. These communities are melting pots for music appreciation. The city’s young workforce has driven a tremendous growth in music listenership and live events. I’m very much looking forward to our festival’s first edition in Pune.”
The business head of Integrated Network Solutions and Consumer Products at Viacom18, Saugato Bhowmik, feels that “there’s a lot more for consumers to experience” at the festival. He says the inclusion of hip-hop artists in the festival is a very much a conscious decision that will reflect in future years as well. He adds, “We realized that while EDM is big in terms of youth, we wanted to diversify and introduce a lot more genres.” While there are no Indian rap artists repping the scene — apart from seasoned DJs such as DJ Sa and DJ Uri — it’s also possible that Live Viacom18 was going with the wave created by the recent stardom of desi rappers like Naezy and Divine in the indie scene and knowing fully well that there’s a reliable market for hip-hop in India.
Either way, it makes sense for the festival to feature as many big names as possible, considering their other anticipated properties haven’t made a move. But Bhowmik says none of them are buried and forgotten. He says 2016 was a year of going “back to the drawing board” and rethinking the ways to better the festivals they had set up. He adds, “It is not that we did not want to host festivals; both MTVi Xtreme and Emerge are key properties and will be back very soon and take place on a year-on-year basis. […] 2016 was primarily about strategising and you will see its results this year when we come back with these properties and their unique offering through new concepts, newer artists and newer experiences.”
With Vh1 Supersonic moving in the direction of diversity, here’s hoping the other festivals make a return in 2017, perhaps with equally diverse artist programming, and then there’ll be more artists whom we never thought would make it to India.