Everyone’s talking about the NH7 Weekender music festival these days. It’s safe to say that what was once a fringe music festival has become a mainstay on the Indian music scene, promoting homegrown artistes and music.
While that’s a good thing, the intimacy of a music festival – which, for some of us is a big draw – seems to be lost. Luckily for the discerning festival-goer, there are still some great festivals across the country, which are on the fringes of what’s considered mainstream.
Magnetic Fields Festival, Rajasthan
Rajasthan is simply amazing during the first week of December, which is when the festival is held. The desert can get freezing cold at night, but that won’t matter when you’re safe inside Alsisar Mahal which serves as the venue for the festival. So not only will you get to groove to some of the best electronic artistes from across the world, but you also get to return to the regal opulence of a literal palace at night. And if staying indoors doesn’t sound like the kind of festival experience for you, then you can do as the Bedouins do and camp outdoors to really get into the spirit of things.
Margazhi Season, Chennai
Also known as the Madras Music Season, this event is held between December and January every year. Over the course of six weeks, the country’s most talented artistes (and promising young artistes) perform at kutcheris(Carnatic music concert) across the city to large crowds – some of whom arrive in Chennai solely to attend the Season. In terms of size alone, it is most likely the world’s largest music festival given that there are over 1,000 performances over the course of a single season. And if you’re looking for more than just music, then check out the scores of Carnatic dance and drama performances that have come to become part of the festival in recent years.
Hornbill Festival, Nagaland
Have you ever wanted to visit Nagaland? If you have, then the Hornbill Festival is where you want to be. What sets this festival apart from the others is that it’s so much more than just a music festival; this seven-day cultural fiesta, held in December, features top rock acts alongside tribal art, local music ensembles and ethnic cuisine. Getting to Kohima is a challenge since you need an entry permit before making your way into Nagaland, but it is absolutely worth the hassle since this is one festival that’s a complete learning experience.
Sawai Gandharva Bhimsen Festival, Pune
In keeping with tradition, this annual Indian classical music festival is held in Pune over three days in the first two weeks of December. The festival was establioshed in 1953 by the renowned Hindustani classical singer Pt Bhimsen Joshi, to commemorate the life and work of his guru, Pt Sawai Gandharva. Not only has this festival helped promote and sustain Hindustani classical music in the Khayal style in post-Independence India, but other styles as well. Given the time of the year that the festival is held at, you should have a wonderful time exploring the city of Pune as well.
Ziro Music Festival, Arunachal Pradesh
Stray off the beaten path when you attend this fantastic three-day festival in stunning Ziro valley. The last week of September sees the otherwise sparsely-populated area converted into a massive array of tents and stages, with artistes performing at various venues and crowds swaying to the music. Ziro is one of the best places to discover the top indie acts from across the country and the world at large, and if that isn’t enough there are several performances by the best folk musicians from the North-East as well. Don’t worry about the festival becoming too mainstream – since getting to the venue is such a task, you can be sure that the only people turning up are those who really care about their music.
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Chennai Margazhi image for representation use only.