Electronic music has taken over the club scene around the world including India in the last decade. Apart from live gigs, it’s also the only musical act that takes place in bars and lounges and clubs. Even in the most remote parts of the country, you can find an EDM remix of Hindi tracks being played during festivals and parades. What started as a niche genre now has a whole industry built around it influencing fashion and art.
With the massive emergence of techno in clubs and the music industry in general, Gurmehr, a photographer, music producer and filmmaker recently released her documentary called Raver, tracing the origin and evolution of dance music in India. It’s a 44-minute-long documentary directed and edited by the filmmaker along with her assistant director, Haripriya Sampathkumar entirely made on their own budget with the support of their friends and college professors.
When Gurmehr was learning music production back in 2019 from Beatworx in Bangalore she was exposed to this industry that was much larger with a richer history than she had imagined. That’s where the idea for the documentary grew. When Gurmehr started researching, she didn't see any information or documentaries on rave culture or electronic music in general in India. So the duo decided to fill that gap. They began in 2019 and despite the pandemic, they managed to contact artists, go to their gigs, and interview people in the industry at different points in their journey from veterans who have been doing it for 20 years to artists who just began.
Raver begins with the iconic footage of Kraftwerk at the ‘carousel of the youth’ concert from 1970 introducing people to the first-ever modular sounds of techno. We further learn about the origin and emergence of electronic music in India through interviews with Audio Units, i7HVN and Braindrop, popular Indian music producers. Besides the genre itself, the artists talk about how technological advancements have made music production easier and more accessible over the years.
The documentary also explores the lives of women in the industry. Interviews with DJ Tanvi, Zequenx and Smokey are an insightful dive into the struggles women face in pursuing electronic music. From conservative backlash from the families to casual sexism in the clubs, female artists have a different fight altogether based on their identities. On one hand, it’s more difficult for them to establish themselves in a male-dominated industry, and on the other, the gigs they do get are often given to them due to their entertainment value and gender disregarding their skills as an artist.
Raver is most likely the only record of the Indian electronic dance music culture that can be found online. Though it also encapsulates the essence of rave culture, it's essentially a tribute to the people behind the scenes who make it happen. From technical to emotional, all the components of this lifestyle are captured sincerely in the documentary. It's a glimpse into the world of electronic music that any budding DJ or music producer would certainly appreciate.
You can follow Gurmehr's work here and watch Raver below.