All The Upcoming Cultural And Music Festivals That Should Be On Your Radar

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All The Upcoming Cultural And Music Festivals That Should Be On Your Radar

Text by Tina Dastur

Peppered with an assortment of events that celebrate art, culture, music, entertainment, cinema and literature, the next few months are guaranteed to be action-packed ones. Tina Dastur traces the very best gigs taking place across the country between now and March 2019

St+art India

Photograph by Pranav Gohil

The country’s favourite street art foundation is bringing back their colour and creativity to liven up our cities’ streets. Founded in 2014, the St+art India Foundation works with the aim of removing the elitist tags that come with art by taking it out onto the streets with the purpose of democratising it and making it accessible to the public. While most of the artworks are simply for visual pleasure, a large chunk offers social commentary on issues facing the country such as the polluting of oceans and the rapid urbanisation of cities. Notable among their projects have been Brazilian artist Eduardo Kobra’s Mahatma Gandhi mural on Mumbai’s Churchgate station, numerous murals and installations in Mumbai’s centuries-old Sassoon Docks and the complete transformation of New Delhi’s Lodhi Colony neighbourhood with a series of delightful artworks. The Mumbai chapter’s agenda hasn’t been finalised yet, but St+art Coimbatore has the goal of inculcating a culture of urban, modern art by engaging with important spots in the city while St+art Goa will look at rediscovering the abandoned areas of Panjim through a residency of artists.

Insider’s Guide

What’s to love
Ambience. I’m a huge fan of any creative work and I love to look at and analyse installations and paintings. I am, of course, no expert, but I like reading the artists’ notes on what inspires them and what they have portrayed. It’s always interesting.

Know before you go
It depends on where you’re going and for what. I carry a bottle of water, and obviously my phone, so I can take pictures. That said, I cannot stress how important it is to be respectful of the artworks and the artists. Since art is subjective, you don’t have to like it. But it is important to not touch it while taking selfies or pictures — unless it’s interactive and meant to be touched — because you could end up ruining it.

Also attend
I’d suggest the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival, Mumbai. Even though people have recently been complaining about a decline in quality, I still like visiting at sunset and staying till late evening because the crowd lessens considerably by then.

If going solo
I honestly prefer going solo to any kind of fest because I feel I can concentrate a lot more on the art. But the downside is that I have no one to take pictures for me and of me! What I like to do is pick someone out of the crowd, who’s also alone, and I’ll offer to take their picture and then ask them to take one for me. It also helps to carry your earphones with you when alone — some mellow music will help set the mood.

Scope for improvement
I can’t think of anything at the moment. I quite enjoyed everything and wished it lasted longer.
-Roxanne D’Souza, 28,  Fashion stylist and blogger

Where and when
St+art Mumbai, November, 2018; St+art Goa, 15th November-15th December, 2018

Comic Con India

It’s that time of the year when your inner nerd can manifest itself because Comic Con India’s (CCI) back, travelling first to Hyderabad and subsequently, to Bengaluru, New Delhi and Mumbai. In the past, CCI has brought popular stars to India, including Mark Gatiss (who plays Mycroft Holmes, brother to Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock Holmes in the TV series Sherlock), Sylvester McCoy (best known for playing the seventh incarnation of the Doctor in Doctor Who between 1987 and 1989), Natalia Tena (Nymphadora Tonks in the Harry Potter films) and Daniel Portman (Podrick Payne in Game of Thrones). While the line-ups for the New Delhi, Bengaluru and Mumbai chapters haven’t been announced yet, the Hyderabad chapter concluded some weeks ago and featured comic book artists and writers Ty Templeton, Matthew Rosenberg, Tyler Boss and Arthur Suydam, in addition to Indian stand-up comic Sahil Shah of East India Company fame. But CCI isn’t just about meeting the famous faces behind your favourite superheroes — packed into the agenda are competitive gaming tournaments, cool experiential zones, a staggering amount of merchandise to geek out on (including heaps of the latest superhero comics) and cosplay contests. Not to mention the main stage — the most action-packed spot in the venue — which hosts a bunch of workshops and discussions as well as exclusive comic book launches.

Insider’s Guide

What’s to love
Comic Con India is the father of all festivals for comic lovers in the country. You can come dressed as your favourite comic character and participate in a variety of contests. And their guest list last year was also pretty amazing.

Know before you go
Carry your own food! There are long queues for the food stalls and, frankly, I don’t think the food is worth the wait. Also, there are lots of cool activities that take place across the space, so wear something you can move about comfortably in — you don’t want to regret not being able to participate later!

Also attend
The Grub Fest, which is India’s biggest food festival. Aside from food, there are a bunch of live music performances and other forms of entertainment, too.

If going solo
Participate in as many of the activities as you can.

Scope for improvement
I think there definitely need to be more stalls selling small bites.
Last year, many of them ran out of food by the evening, so that was a real dampener.
-Smriti Aggarwal, 24, Fashion blogger

Where and when
 Bengaluru, 17th-18th November, 2018; New Delhi, 7th-9th December, 2018; Mumbai, 22nd-23rd December, 2018

NH7 Weekender

It’s the time of the year to gear up for one of the country’s best-known multi-city music festivals yet again. This time around, Bacardi NH7 Weekender returns to Meghalaya and its hometown of Pune, but also travels to six other cities to host the Weekender Express experience, which starts in Kolkata, moving on to Lucknow, Chandigarh, Jaipur, Mysore and Hyderabad. Describing itself as ‘the happiest music festival’, NH7 Weekender has always attracted music lovers from across India with its chilled-out vibe and discerning eye for artistes. Previous headliners have included Mark Ronson, Mogwai, Basement Jaxx and, most recently, Cigarettes After Sex. The music fest has also encouraged local talent by providing a platform to over 540 artistes from India, across genres. This year’s line-up is packed with a host of interesting names — catch Poets of the Fall and Switchfoot in action in Meghalaya and Kolkata, guitarist Joe Satriani in Pune, indie electronica artist Sahej Bakshi of Dualist Inquiry in Jaipur and Indian rock band Indian Ocean in Mysore.

Insider’s Guide

What’s to love
Last year was my first Weekender experience and, honestly, I was only looking forward to Cigarettes After Sex and Prateek Kuhad. That said, the people around were quite cool and the environment was extremely chill.

Know before you go
Carry your ID card — this is super important! No cigarettes, drinks or food allowed, so be careful about what you choose to bring with you (you’ll get all of this inside the venue, so don’t worry). You might want to pre-booze a little before heading in because the drinks can be quite pricey inside. Carry a mat to lie down on. And girls, whatever you do, do not wear heels — take it from me, you will regret it!

Also attend
I’d say go for Hornbill Festival and Magnetic Fields.

If going solo
Firstly, you must pre-plan everything! Whether it’s the hotel, transportation or places to visit during your stay, you’ve got to do your research beforehand. And you must be open to meeting new people and dancing the nights away. That’s how you’ll end up having the best kind of fun!

Scope for improvement
I’d like to see more local bands from different parts of the country…oh, and more food stalls!
-Asenla Jamir, 24, Fashion stylist

Where and when
NH7 Weekender: Meghalaya, 2nd-3rd November, 2018; Pune, 7th-9th December, 2018
NH7 Weekender Express: Kolkata, 3rd-4th November, 2018; Lucknow, 17th November, 2018; Chandigarh, 24th November, 2018; Jaipur, 1st December, Kochi, 15th December 2018; 2018; Mysore, 12th January, 2019; Hyderabad, 19th January, 2019

Echoes of Earth

India’s very own ecological music festival returns to the lush environs of the Embassy International Riding School in Bengaluru for its third edition in December; and this time around, the thematic fest focuses its lens on marine life and conservation. Echoes of Earth has always positioned itself as a platform for artists and eco-conscious individuals to showcase their environment-friendly ideas and concepts to propagate a sustainable way of life, and this year is no different. In their bid to pay tribute to the sea and its many diverse life forms, the fest will collaborate with artists to design stages made from upcycled and recycled materials and installations that will celebrate marine life and create awareness around the importance of water, energy and waste management. This year’s line-up, much like 2017’s, includes a host of performances by international artistes, ranging from Australian band Grouch in Dub, British electronic music duo Dusky and Irish producer Seamus Malliagh (also known as Iglooghost) to French multi-instrumentalist Vincent Fenton of French Kiwi Juice (FKJ), Quebec-based keyboardist Anomalie and many more. This year too, there will be workshops on music, wellness and learning to live a clean, green life. And since the fest is pet-friendly, you can have your furballs tag along with you!

Insider’s Guide

What’s to love
Everything from the ambience to the artistes and different personalities I met there was great. I also had the opportunity to attend the brunch organised by the core team, where we could actually socialise with them…that was quite nice. And the attention to detail across the venue was commendable.

Know before you go
Wear practical clothing; I always prefer carrying a jacket because it tends to get cold in the night. Also carry basic things like water bottles and some munchies.

Also attend
I’d say NH7 Weekender and Ziro Festival of Music.

If going solo
While everything is a must-see, there are some performances that just can’t be missed. Make sure you know the line-up well in advance and plan the ones you’re going to go for. Also, figure out your transport before you land up in Bengaluru because the venue is outside city limits.

Scope for improvement
The last time I attended the festival, there were very few stalls for basic amenities like water. That kind of stuff definitely takes the fun away because you have to constantly walk from one stage to another for something like water. So, I really hope something can be done about that bit.
-Aswathi Balakrishnan, 26, Fashion blogger

Where and when
Bengaluru; 1st-2nd December, 2018

Hornbill Festival

Photograph by Satish Gurung

Named after the great Indian hornbill, a bird that is significant in Naga folklore and history, the Hornbill Festival champions the rich and vibrant North-Eastern culture and traditions. For 10 days, the Kisama Heritage Village in Kohima will come alive and be thronged with tourists from the world over who want a slice of Naga culture. In addition to a children’s carnival and crafts bazaar, displays of handlooms and handicrafts, morung exhibits (youth dormitories that were an essential part of life in ancient Naga culture), motor sporting events, fashion and flower shows and film screenings, the fest will see indigenous Naga tribes put on lively folk song-and-dance performances and even participate in friendly sports such as tug of war and archery. The main lures at Hornbill, however, are the traditional hutment homes of the many tribes, which will be thrown open to visitors. Those interested can wander in and sample delicious Naga cuisine and sip on copious amounts of rice beer. The adventurous, daring few can go the extra mile and face off with the tribespeople in chilli- and pork-eating contests — needless to say, this isn’t for the faint of heart!

Insider’s Guide

What’s to love
People in Nagaland love all kinds of music — from rock ’n’ roll to Bollywood — which is quite amusing. And since all the Naga tribes take part in this festival, it’s pretty amazing to see what each one has to offer.

Know before you go
Hornbill is a 10-day-long festival, so be ready to travel, explore and listen to some incredible music. Out-of-towners, please carry some warm clothes as it gets chilly at night. Also pack a mask to cover your face from the dust because there’s a lot of it. And don’t carry any food because there are more than enough Naga food stalls and restaurants to satisfy your cravings.

Also attend
I’d say NH7 Weekender and Magnetic Fields are good bets.

If going solo
People are extremely welcoming in Nagaland, so those travelling solo needn’t worry about anything. Kohima sleeps early, so if you’re a nocturnal being, you’ll need to figure out where you can go to party the night away.

Scope for improvement
I actually hope that Hornbill continues to maintain its authenticity and doesn’t go down the commercial route.
-Sharvi Yadav, 23, Singer

Where and when
Kohima, 1st-10th December, 2018

Kochi-Muziris Biennale

Photograph by Shweta Malhotra

Giving a boost to the contemporary art scene in the country, the Kochi-Muziris Biennale — the largest public art exhibition in the country, returns this December for its fourth edition. Curated by artist Anita Dube, the latest edition will see artists from varied practices and mediums participate to create a series of paintings, sketches, sculptures and installations. Familiar Indian names like Bapi Das, Jitish Kallat, Prabhakar Pachpute, Anju Dodiya, Madhvi Parekh, Mrinalini Mukherjee and Nilima Sheikh have been revealed as participants, along with a bunch of confirmed international faces, which include Akram Zaatari (Lebanon), Bracha L. Ettinger (Israel/France), Barthélémy Toguo (Cameroon/France), Goshka Macuga (Poland/UK), Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba (Japan/Vietnam), Juul Kraijer (Netherlands), Radenko Milak (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Shirin Neshat (Iran/USA) and Rula Halawani (Palestine), among others. Running parallel to the biennale will be the Students’ Biennale — a platform for art students from the SAARC nations to exhibit their work — which, this time around, is themed on the idea of ‘making as thinking’.

Insider’s Guide

What’s to love
I love that the Kochi Biennale is hosted in such a quaint town and uses the colonial charm of the space. A lot of the art is housed in these beautiful structures, which makes it all the more attractive to view. Fort Kochi, in particular, is lovely to explore. There are a lot of cafes in the area, and the food is an added plus.

Know before you go
Both times I went, it was extremely hot; and since you have to be out and about in the sun all day, sunscreen, a hat, a pair of shades and a few bottles of water is what I’d recommend carrying. It’s actually best to go in December/January, weather-wise. Hotels I’d recommend staying at are Malabar House, Eighth Bastion, Niyati Boutique Stay and Fort House Hotel. And for food, head to Kashi Art Cafe, Teapot Cafe, Hotel Seagull, Malabar House and The Drawing Room.

Also attend
That’s easy — the Venice Biennale, without a doubt!

If going solo
Most of the events and venues are within walking distance, but if you want, you could rent a bike or cycle to ride around in as it’s a lovely town to explore, if the weather permits. Pepper House is a nice cafe-cum-design store-cum-library to hang out at all day, if you’re on your own.

Scope for improvement
Nothing at all, actually.
-Shweta Malhotra, Graphic designer

Where and when
Kochi; 12th December, 2018-29th March, 2019

Magnetic Fields Festival

Photograph by Carys Maggie

Photograph by Brenna Duncan

All paths lead to the paved courtyards and verdant lawns of the spectacular 17th-century Alsisar Mahal in Rajasthan this December for the sixth edition of one of the country’s most anticipated contemporary music and arts festivals, which will be themed around the idea of ‘illumination’. Magnetic Fields is one of the few festivals that successfully manages to merge traditional Rajasthani folklore and heritage with contemporary culture. This time, the roster of artistes boasts the very best of the underground music scene, including international acts like London-based DJ and producer Daphni (who will be making his debut in India at the fest), British Asian artist Nabihah Iqbal, British jazz fusion act Kamaal Williams, Swedish DJ and producer DJ Seinfeld and Luxembourg-based Afro post-punk quartet No Metal In This Battle alongside local acts like the Mumbai-based synth duo Paraphoniks, Bengaluru-based alt supergroup Monsoon Search Party and Delhi-based dream pop band Dee En. Irish electronic music duo Matt McBriar and Andy Ferguson of Bicep are expected to close the fest. Other events to keep an eye out for at Magnetic Fields are the Magnetic Words storytelling session (where some of the country’s wisest minds come together to exchange ideas and stories), the MagFields Treasure Hunt and the exclusive premiere of Delhi-based band Peter Cat Recording Co.’s new, unreleased album through a showcase titled ‘The last night on earth with Peter Cat Recording Co.’

Insider’s Guide

What’s to love
The best underground music, a crazy three-day party, lazing in the desert, getting tattooed in a teepee, watching the sunset from the rooftop, flying kites, drinking in an underground dungeon, attending secret parties, star gazing, meditating with fellow travellers, eating delicious food and dancing all night in a heritage Rajasthani palace — you can expect all of this at Magnetic Fields. From the mystical air and freezing weather to the dreamy palace and Bedouin vibe, the experience is surreal. Gypsy souls, creative spirits and happy energies light up the surroundings. I love that they showcase homegrown talent; but what’s particularly nice is how the fest extends beyond music, providing visitors with a magical escape where they can let loose.

Know before you go
To make the most of the event, I highly recommend staying in the premium Bedouin tents for a nomadic experience. Pack tonnes of woollen clothes as the temperature often drops to below zero degrees Celsius!

Also attend
Give Tomorrowland (Belgium), Burning Man (USA) and G! Festival (Faroe Islands) a shot.

If going solo
Stay in a tent. The campsite is packed with travellers from all over the world, so there’s no better place to meet new people, relax and disconnect. And join the fest’s Facebook page for updates about shared transport and lodging options from other solo attendees.

Scope for improvement
It was super-organised and there wasn’t anything to complain about, really…except that on the fourth day, they started to wind up too quickly, even shutting down the water supply! So, I hope they give the attendees some more time to pack up.
-Sonam Lakhani, 30, Fashion and travel blogger

Where and when
Alsisar; 14th-16th December, 2018

Serendipity Arts Festival

Photograph by Eesha Mayenkar

The multidisciplinary Serendipity Arts Festival (SAF) returns to the banks of the Mandovi River in Panaji this December for a week to foster education of the arts as well as its accessibility to the larger public. This year, SAF will look at sustainability in the arts and the role of technology and innovation across disciplines. Fourteen curators (including Ranjit Hoskote, Subodh Gupta, Rahul Akerkar, Rashmi Varma and Aneesh Pradhan) across seven disciplines — photography, crafts, visual arts, theatre, music, dance and culinary arts — will be presenting more than a whopping 80 art projects, the contents of which will be specially tailored to the festival. Moreover, a bunch of illustrious personalities are also expected to curate special projects. Because of its focus on alternative spaces for the performing arts, SAF will also be commissioning young dancers and directors to create site-specific pieces. And since Panaji will be celebrating its 175th birthday this year, the fest will also spotlight Goa in its many projects.

Insider’s Guide

What’s to love
As an art lover, I love the way they put up the festival for the public. The space is attractively done up and the many lovely creations that are made for the fest add to the overall aesthetic beauty. The events, shows and discussions that take place are quite entertaining and there’s plenty to learn by sitting in on them.

Know before you go
The most crucial bit is really just sorting out your stay because your entire day will be spent enjoying the festival as there’s always something or the other going on to make you lose track of time. Don’t forget to carry your camera, because you’ll want to capture the beautiful works on display for sure!

Also attend
I’d recommend Sunburn.

If going solo
There are a bunch of fun things to see and do, so make sure you carry a good camera with you.

Scope for improvement
I’d like to see them place more focus on street art and graffiti.
-Eesha Mayenkar, 22, Fashion designer

Where and when
Panaji, 15th-22nd December, 2018

Zee Jaipur Literature Festival

Perhaps the most awaited literary fest in the country, dubbed ‘the greatest literary show on Earth’, the Zee Jaipur Literature Fest returns to Diggi Palace in just a couple of months to celebrate both the written and spoken word via a melange of talks, debates, discussions and readings that are spread across various spaces within the palace walls. In previous editions, the venue has hosted a slew of personalities from diverse fields, the likes of which include talk-show host Oprah Winfrey; ex-president of India, the late A. P. J. Abdul Kalam; and His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. Only at JLF will you find Nobel laureates like J. M. Coetzee, Orhan Pamuk and Muhammad Yunus rubbing shoulders with Man Booker Prize winners Ian McEwan and Margaret Atwood and poets and musicians like Nitin Sawhney and Shye Ben Tzur. The biggest draw of JLF next year is the author of acclaimed novels Stardust and American Gods, Neil Gaiman, who prematurely announced his participation via Twitter a few months ago. Literature enthusiasts can also expect enlightening talks from the likes of celebrated authors Markus Zusak of The Book Thief and Hari Kunzru of Gods Without Men, among others — all in the spirit of keeping literary wonder alive!

Insider’s Guide

What’s to love
The thing I loved the most about JLF was the awesome cornucopia of writers that they managed to gather together on one platform. The entire set-up was beautiful, too.

Know before you go
First off, remember to register yourself online for the festival beforehand — at least a month in advance, so that you cut through the hassle of standing in lines and waiting to access the venue. Early mornings and nights in Jaipur tend to have a slight nip in the air, so carry warm clothing. Also carry a bottle of water to stay hydrated. Book your hotel/hostel in advance — again, at least a month before — as they tend to fill up fast. Lastly, comfortable shoes are a must!

Also attend
Check out the New Delhi World Book Fair. Held in the month of January at Pragati Maidan, it’s a treat for book lovers.

If going solo
Prioritise and time your events carefully as you won’t be able to attend all the panel discussions. Be aware of your surroundings as it does get crowded and you don’t want any untoward incident marring your memories. If your budget is tight, you can browse the books in the book store at the venue and always buy them online for a bargain. Food stalls are in abundance, so there is no need to carry food with you. And, autographed books from your favourite authors might be available but could sell out soon,
so make sure you grab them first!

Scope for improvement
For one, I think the crowd needs to be handled better…and in the same vein, I think the organisers could be more helpful when it comes to dealing with the crowd. Also, it’ll help immensely if more drinking water points are made available and easily accessible.
-Ishita Pandey, 30, Child counsellor and blogger

Where and when
Jaipur; 24th-28th January, 2019

Sula Fest

Come February, and Sula Vineyards will throw open its gates to the public for its annual fest — now in its 12th edition — which is all about love, music, food, fashion and let’s not forget — wine! While the official lineup hasn’t been announced yet, expect rock, electronica and reggae beats to fill the air and an assortment of epicurean delights and heady liquid concoctions to fill up the senses.

Insider’s Guide

What’s to love
This year was my first at Sula, and I have to say it was absolutely amazing! I camped at the SulaFest campsite, which is situated next to a lake, so the scenic beauty was lovely. The line-up of Indian and international artists that performed electro folk, rock, rap, reggae, Bollywood and more was also impressive. And if you’re a wine lover, you’ve got to try the wines at Sula Fest. The organisers even hold tours, so you can sample a variety of their finest wines.

Know before you go
To enjoy the fest fully and hang out with people of similar tastes as yourself, stay at the SulaFest campsite — it’s just five minutes away from where the action takes place. The tents are comfortable, but it gets a little cold at night, so carry a light sweater. And also, stock up on sunscreen because everything takes place in the open.

Also attend
If you enjoy music, cocktails and meeting new people, then you must attend NH7 Weekender.

If going solo
I would recommend booking the single occupancy tent. It gives you the opportunity to meet a lot of new people and make a lot of friends in the process!

Scope for improvement
It can get really hot during the afternoons, so if they could make provisions for shows and hangout spots in roofed areas instead, that would be great.
-Aakriti Rana Gill, 27, Travel and fashion blogger

Where and when
Nashik; 2nd-3rd February, 2019

Tags: Arts, Comic Con India, Culture, Echoes of Earth, Featured, Hornbill Festival, Jio MAMI, Jodhpur Riff, Kochi Muziris Biennale, Magnetic Fields Festival, NH7 Weekender, Serendipity Arts Festival, St+art India Foundation, Sula Fest, Zee Jaipur Literature Festival

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