Beyond NH7 Weekender, Saavn: Where to go, whom to trust for the best in indie music
A handy, curated guide to India's indie music — which venues to visit, which podcast to tune into and which event company to follow
Beyond NH7 Weekender and apps such as Saavn, there’s a world of trustworthy curators who’ve got their fingers on the pulse of all things exciting in alternative, non-Bollywood music in the country.
They are companies and venues putting together festivals and gigs, they are releasing and hosting music online in ways that try very hard to beat social media algorithms, and they are making sure they hold a fairly high standard for the arts, sometimes with their own biases, but also ensuring that the same old rip-off bands won’t bore you to death when you want something energising on a weekend night.
Full disclosure: this is by means close to being an exhaustive or comprehensive list, but it does comprise names who are new and noteworthy, as well as the more consistent lot.
The Wild City
With their Magnetic Fields Festival, which has gone from being a curated experience for the Capital’s hip crowd to being under the international spotlight in the electronic music circuit, as well as tying up with global gig series such as Boiler Room and brands like Red Bull, New Delhi-based company The Wild City has won favors with many.
The fifth edition is set to take place from 15 to 17 December at the Alsisar Mahal in Rajasthan, and some of the foremost names in electronic and alternative music will be travelling to India for it.
REProduce Listening Room
Filmmaker and gig organiser Rana Ghose might spend a lot of his time in Halifax, Nova Scotia, but he’s hell-bent on ensuring that artists in the country who are not just experimental but also next-level are given a platform through the Listening Room gig series. For her, it’s not just about hosting noise artists such as Jessop & Co or SISTER, or the audio-visual punishment of artists such as Hemant SK (who also organises Listening Room shows), but also providing a space to anyone who is making music that’s as far outside the box as possible – from Japanese-inspired trap (Karan Kanchan from Pune) to psych rock band Stoned Seahorse.
What’s just as interesting are the spaces where these gigs happen – garages, restaurants, art galleries and studios across New Delhi, Bengaluru and Mumbai have served as venues, and now, Listening Room has expanded to Goa, Chennai, Vadodara and Leh, too.
Based out of New Delhi and launched in November 2016, selector and party-starter Mohammed Abood (DJ MoCity, previously of Reggae Rajahs) launched an online community radio and it continues to grab attention. If you’ve ever had FOMO about missing out on a set by a producer you wanted to catch live, Boxout.fm has your back. From nonstop radio to shows curated by taste makers such as Bandcamp and Mumbai-based event/artist agency KRUNK, they also have live broadcasts of performances by DJs and producers, so you can definitely spend a few hours here.
They just recently expanded to record label territory as well, releasing the latest tunes from New Delhi’s vaporwave-influenced Profound and electronic producer Lacuna.
Maed in India
As one of the only regular podcasts which interview indie artists in the country, host and showrunner Mae Thomas describes Maed in India's weekly show as “60 % music, 40 % talk”. It is part of Indian Vox Media’s growing number of podcasts and interview shows, and calls itself India’s first indie music podcast. That’s a big promise to live up to, and Mae provides both introductions and insights for everyone, from rock veterans Indus Creed to drum and bass producer Aditya Ashok, and many more.
With over 120 episodes, Saavn, Mae and Indian Vox Media took the podcast to the stage in July, hosting Maed in India Live at Mumbai’s Antisocial, featuring an interview and performance format similar to the podcast itself.
The Humming Tree
At a time when restaurants and clubs are making sure they not only have big spaces for crowds to mingle in, but also a solid, permanent stage to host DJs and bands, Bengaluru venue The Humming Tree decided to scale down from their two-floor pub to a single floor in November. It is smaller but cosier and lays emphasis on watching the artist on stage rather than yapping away at the bar. For four years now, it has served as one of the most bankable names at a time when venues are still known for being a tad financially shrewd whilst dealing with artists. The Humming Tree has also undertaken tours of international artists such as Lucy Rose, Patrick Watson and one-off gigs by the likes of Battles.
This place is of real value in the indie scene, and going by the way their upcoming outdoor annual show Backdoors (14 February in Mumbai and 17 February in Bengaluru) is shaping up, they’re not slowing down any time soon.
Rocka Rolla Events
In Guwahati, if you’re selling gig tickets for more than Rs 500, you better have the biggest must-see artist in your line-up. David Koch knows this. He’s been in the business for about a decade now. He has started a venue, a festival, hosted countless gigs and pumped in money for bands from the North East to represent the country abroad. And he doesn’t do it for charity, otherwise he’d be out of the game by now.
While dwindling crowds are still a concern, David’s Rocka Rolla has brought some of the biggest names in rock and metal to the gig-hungry North East, whether it’s niche death metal like Benighted (who played at the annual Fireball open-air gig series) or India’s prog posterboys Skyharbor. Up next at the venue, there’s American modern metallers Veil of Maya making it to Guwahati on their debut India tour.
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