Music festivals are a cultural phenomena that have become an institution for every genre. Not only do they offer a full, immaculate experience for the fans, they can also financially help and launch the careers of artists who otherwise might be struggling with record sales. They are a perfect example of creative collaboration where musicians, lighting designers and artisans come together to create an event grand enough to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, year after year.
Because of their vision and popularity there's a kind of prestige associated to them where it's a big deal for an artist to be able to perform in a festival that has become a temple for their particular genre. It's a dream in itself somewhere in the peak of the mountain that is an artist's musical journey.
Music, through artists, have crossed borders and travelled continents since way before modern civilization. A watershed moment for Indian music in particular to expand to an international audience in a way that would open doors for different cultures mingling together was when Pandit Ravi Shankar played a mesmeric four-hour set at the Monterey International Pop Music Festival in California in 1967. In the same iconic night, Jimi Hendrix would light his electric guitar on fire, literally.
As Ravi Shankar recalled, “Monterey Pop Festival was the real beginning. All the young people were so fresh and so passionate and so drawn to my music. From the moment I started my first stroke on the instrument, I knew that we were connected.”
Borders have really disappeared since then when it comes to the music industry. World tours are now a norm and festivals gather international crowds all mixed together there just for the music. Last year, a report revealed that 62% of Indians want to travel just for music festivals. That's not too far from the number of Indian students who go abroad for their education.
Over the years, a lot of Indian artists have made their way to international music festivals as well. Not only are they loved by the Indian diaspora, but they're also received with great admiration by people who listen to them for the first time. This year, Diljit Dosanjh is performing Coachella alongside Blackpink and Bad Bunny which his massive national and international fanbase is super excited about. ADditionally, this year's edition will feature the Pakistani singer, Ali Sethi. Delhi-based band Peter Cat Recording Co. will also be performing at Bottle Rock in Napa Valley this year, a 3-day music, wine, food and brew festival in California.
Electronic Music has also had a fair bit of Brown representation in reknowed international festivals like Shaan, the first Indian DJ to play at Tomorrowland in 2014 and Neyha Tolani, the first female DJ at the festival in 2022. Last year techno artist, Kora performed at Do Not Sit in Tulum and Piknik Electronic in Montreal. At Bucht Der Träumer, a German techno and house festival, Ash Roy played his minimal techno set.
Diving deeper into the electronic spectrum, there are a multitude of young and veteran Psy trance artists that have performed in festivals around the world like Spinal Fusion who has played at the iconic Boom Festival in Portugal, where the Delhi-based Starlab has also performed, Full Moon Festival in Germany and Shankra Festival in Switzerland. Mumbai-based Spiral is playing at the Rage Stage this year at Master of Puppets in the Czech countryside.
It's heartwarming to see Indian representation on the big stage across genres. India has had it's own share of visiting International artists with techno royalty like Solomun making his debut in the country at DGTL in December. Music has proven to be a bridge not just among people but among nations and cultures as well. We hope to see more independent Indian artists making it to major festivals in the future. I can say this without a doubt that for every genre out there that has a festival dedicated to it, there's an Indian producer making a track, possibly in their bedroom.