“Change is the only constant in life and the Indian nightlife scene has certainly seen its fair share of change.” Or so say, Karan Bhojwani and Varun Talreja of Rebel : Alliance. They would know. As individuals and as a team they’ve watched the frontier of the electronic music scene shift and transform over the years; both cheering from the sidelines when required and ushering in the limitless possibilities it offers today. “When we started out throwing parties at the age of 15 and 16, it was just 20 of us riding around in a truck with speakers and a generator looking for any old spot outside the city where we could pop ourselves up and throw a party,” Karan laughingly reminisces about a time when electronic music still hid behind a veil, living up to its ‘rave’ reputation. Fast forward some twenty years later and even the veterans will admit we’ve arrived. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room to disrupt an already-established space and make it bigger; and that’s exactly what the duo are staking their claim into doing with their first major announcement for 2018 underway–celebrated German DJ DIXON will be taking over the iconic Razzberry Rhino for one night only on January 20th.
Nothing is what it was. Even three years ago, a heavyweight name like this playing a non-festival lineup in India would have been laughable. Notoriously reclusive (he gives only one interview a year) yet perennially voted Resident Advisor’s Top DJ of the year, Dixon is a pillar of the electronic music scene world over. He’s been a major part of Berlin’s early ‘90s club circuit and his devotion to his weekly residency in earlier years has made his ability to hold audiences for hours with water-tight aural journeys have made his DJ sets something of an urban legend. Something to bucket list. But now that we’re coming off the backs of major players like Four Tet fielding multiple sets at Magnetic Fields, current mega-stars like Anderson .Paak becoming accessible to the likes of music-lovers across Indian cities, and even less mainstream electronica like Jungle and Drum N’ Bass becoming as well-represented in a local Mumbai haunt as an underground club in London it’s safe to say we’re past the age of needing to fill any gaps. Programmers may be a dime a dozen these days but for the Rebel :Alliance founders, it’s neither about joining the pack nor straying away from it. It’s about “raising the bar when it comes to production values and artist selection.” Many would argue this is the first sign of a truly thriving music industry, with an audience that’s mature enough to appreciate it.
It helps that both Bhojwani and Talreja come with decades of understanding and experience to see that. Between the two, everything from venue ownership, programming, party promotion and hosting pop-up parties and stages across Europe has been covered over the years but neither are interested in tokenism towards the past. “We’d rather shine a light on the future for all of us,” Karan smiles. “We’re no longer here to build club culture, we just want to help it grow.”
One of the key ways they aim to weave in some change comes from a space of deep respect for their audiences. They’ve watched these people develop over the years and both feel that this new breed of listeners are far beyond the search for a buffet selection of music. “They know what they want and when they get it they would like to savour the experience,” Bhojwani says matter-of-factly. Frustrated with the trend of seeing big-name artists play short one-hour sets, they’re trying something new with Dixon’s performance that we hope sets a new standard. In order to provide their audience with a truly immersive experience they can savour, the choice to make their artist du jour play a four-hour-long set, typical of major musical meccas like Ibiza and Berlin, is both deliberate and long-warranted.
All that’s left to be seen, then, is whether our burgeoning music audiences will rise to the occasion. On January 20th, one of the pillars of electronic music is headed here for one night only to dish out four hours of deep, soulful house. Given Rebel : Alliance’s fresh start, built on a foundation of all-star individual track records, not to mention the new beginnings we’re all so keen to partake in when a new year kicks off, expectations are naturally high. As Bhojwani signs off (so frequently, it’s become an identifier) best, “may the force be with all of us.”
Limited release tickets available here.
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