Tag Archives: Tajdar Junaid

Ziro Festival of Music 2014

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Menuolhoulie Kire

Menuolhoulie is an engineer turned product designer bitten bad by the shutterbug! He loves photography and design.

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Ocean by Nischay Parekh

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The singer-songwriter genre is becoming increasingly popular among younger pluckier musicians who’d rather be earnest than glamorous rock gods. However, every emo youngster out there who has basic guitar-playing skills considers himself/herself to be a singer-songwriter, which is a mockery of the genre. Very few artists in India have made a name for themselves as singer-songwriters with their sheer talent and musical sensibilities and one such person is a musician from Kolkata – Nischay Parekh. Nischay is a precocious 21-year old musician and may still be a student of the Berklee College of Music but he has already played at sold out venues throughout the country and was a crowd puller at last year’s NH7 Weekender. Incidentally, Parekh would rather that people called him a pop musician instead of a singer-songwriter.

Quirky, quietly confident and massively talented, Nischay Parekh had always been interested in music – having started guitar lessons at the age of 11. His teacher just happened to be  another Kolkata-based artist – Tajdar Junaid, who is a multi-instrumentalist and immensely talented musician in his own right who has just released a very successful album of his own. Although, Tajdar Junaid’s musical style is very different from that of Parekh’s, we wouldn’t have heard Parekh’s music without the insistence and guidance of Tajdar Junaid.

Parekh exploded onto the indie music scene last year and we suddenly saw him everywhere – from playing at A Summer’s Day music festival at Mumbai, which was headlined by Norah Jones, to being a featured artist at all four NH7 weekender festivals. Nischay Parekh is now the face of pop and indie folk in the Indian music scene and has gained a loyal following with his boyish charm and unique style. His pop sound, soulful words and unaffected style has drawn comparisons to Jason Mraz, John Mayer and Jack Johnson – which is high praise indeed. Unlike what we normally associate with pop music, Parekh’s music is replete with straight-from-the-heart lyrics, stripped down arrangements and squeaky clean vocals – showing that the genre itself has matured and Indian musicians are not afraid to be associated with it anymore.

At an age when most musicians are discovering themselves, he has already come out with his debut album – Ocean, which was released on 4th October, 2013.  Although he collaborated with members of his band The Monkey In Me – Jivraj “Jiver” Singh (on the drums) and George Matthew Dylan Varner-Hartley (on keyboards) on the album, it is largely a solo effort. Other collaborators include the famed producer Miti Adhikari on the bass and Pedro Zappa, who provides additional vocals along with the bass duties. The first thing that any listener will notice about this 9-track album is that it is way too short for an album this good – lasting less than 25 minutes. Most of the songs are barely around 2 minutes in length and you will find the songs ending too soon much to your dismay while you are busy humming them. Sitting squarely in the pop-genre, all the tracks are soft and groovy and each song has the potential of becoming an earworm. The youthfulness of the tracks belies the heavy and grand themes that Parekh tries to tackle with his music – love, loneliness, longing and life.

The lyrics might be straight-from-the-heart, but they aren’t straightforward! This is why you will find yourself wondering why this album has a song called ‘Panda‘ on it. This is not a simple coming-of-age album but is a mature and restrained offering reminiscent of the music of Ben Howard and Paolo Nutini. Parekh’s musical style on this album can best be described as pop and acoustic with the honesty of country-music. The tracks are unpretentious, with infectious riffs and effortless melodies. The album starts off with songs that are clean, upbeat and very pop but as the album progresses, more synth-pop and R&B elements crop up that give the songs a slightly darker edge.

The first song on the album is ‘Newbury Street’, which is an excellent start to the album and is so polished and beguiling that is can be a very successful single. With a riff-driven intro and a very likable melody, you will soon find yourself listening to this track on repeat. This song seems almost like it was written in a stream of consciousness and talks about being ready for a positive change and the accompanying rush of uplifting emotions. Parekh’s soothing vocals, earnest lyrics and the very addictive melody make it very hard for you to get it out of your head.

The oddly named ‘Panda’ is up next with eccentric lyrics like “I used to be a Panda in my past life” and the song seems to be Parekh’s way to describe himself rather than love. This track is definitely more electro-pop and is one of the more complex tracks on the album. Another very catchy and lively song with unobtrusive vocals and it is a testament to how well he works with his bandmates from The Monkey In Me, as the track is seamless where no one musical instrument overpowers the other.

The next song ‘I Love You Baby, I Love You Doll’ is more folksy and acoustic and proved to be a very successful single earning him a legion of groupies. The bongos really underscore the folk element of the song and again Parekh keeps his vocals restrained, clean and painfully earnest. Laidback, cheeky and sweet, the background vocals lend a very breezy quality to the track but sometimes the song can sound more like a lament rather than a love song.

The album suddenly shifts to a very synth-pop track ‘Hill’, which is personally my least favourite song on the album. With muffled vocals and alarming squawks, this song does not flatter his vocals or his talent as an acoustic guitarist. The lyrics and the accompanying music lend a very eerie and disturbing air to the song. ‘Hill’ stands out like a very sore thumb and can come as somewhat of a rude distraction when one is so comfortably put in a state of cheerfulness with the preceding tracks.

Thankfully, the bad taste left by ‘Hill’ is quickly replaced by utter bliss as ‘Philosophize’ is a masterpiece of song – something you will not expect from such a young artist. Unlike the rest of the tracks on the album, ‘Philosophize’ is more piano or keyboard-driven with more of an R&B feel where Parekh dazzles the listener with his pitch perfect falsettos. The song does have some synth-pop elements but they never come to focus. The soothing tempo gives Parekh a chance to show off his vocals and control and lends a very relaxing note to the whole track. There are no musical interludes or dramatic tempo changes as every musical instrument used is there only to compliment the emotion and the words that Parekh is trying to get across and boy, does it work!

The next track called ‘Me and You’ is a very pop number and is a sweet romantic track and again is so sincere that it will leave you with no doubt as to why Nischay Parekh is such a “chick-magnet”. The languid lead guitars and extremely tranquil tempo never gets boring or monotonous and you will find yourself smiling to the song. It is just a happy sort of song that will give you a spring in your step and melt all your worries away. Again, his vocal finesse and control shines through even though there is no power singing involved.

‘Secrets’ plunges the track into the realm of psychedelia, with a very trippy intro complete with the buzzing of insects. This song is very short – barely over a minute and a half in length so you will probably write it off as an aberration. When you have heard so many excellent, upbeat and pop tracks and are in an album-induced state of calm, this track can disturb the peace slightly. However, overall this track is quite forgettable and does not seem to sit right with the rest of the album.

The album then moves into another laidback song ‘Ghost’, which is a bit R&B, a bit soul and a bit dream pop. Parekh hits such high notes on the song and with so much control that it lifts the whole track to a very ethereal level.  With a groovy bass line and a piano drenched melody, the song can sound very lounge-ey sometimes. Like ‘Philosophize’, it is a very memorable track on the album and you will appreciate the fact that it is almost four minutes long giving you all the time to savour its intricacies.

The last and title track of the album makes for the perfect conclusion. With very effective hooks and sparkling riffs, ‘Ocean’ will make you want to listen to the whole album repeatedly. Bright easy vocals and a sprightly tempo allow the album to end on a high note. Add to this the playful backing vocals and summery feel of the song, and ‘Ocean’ will “stick to you like glue”.

What is most startling about the album is that none of the songs were recorded in a studio. Nischay Parekh and his band recorded most of the songs in his and Jivraj Singh’s family homes in Kolkata and in parks in the country and the United States. For a debut album, Ocean is uncharacteristically polished all thanks to legendary producer Miti Adhikari who also contributed creatively to the album. Nothing about Ocean betrays the fact that it is the debut effort of Nischay Parekh. Sublime, easy on the ears and filled with sophisticated lines, most of the tracks on the album have the potential of becoming a earworm. This cannot be said for most albums let alone a debut one. The fact that every single track can become a very successful single shows the talent and the ingenuity of everyone involved in the making of the album.

Ocean is like an exciting little gift with a bow tied around it. Most of the songs are devoid of dramatic intros, progressive build-ups and vocal acrobatics and this is why the album is so special. It shows the power of restraint, candour and youthfulness and will make you appreciate the artistry of these young musicians. There is hardly any negative criticism about the album and all I have to say is that be prepared to have the album playing in your head at all times once you have heard it.

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Anusmita Datta

Anusmita Datta is an ardent day-dreamer, music lover, die-hard foodie and occasional writer. Her obsession with pandas is sometimes disturbing and she can be often found lusting after momos!

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Plenty of Hues at Day 1 of The Mahindra Blues

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Skeptics became admirers, admirers became lovers and lovers became fanatics. All that in only a couple of days at the 2014 edition of the annual Mahindra Blues Festival at the fabled Mehboob Studios in Mumbai. After raising the bar for music festivals held in India, three times with three highly successful Blues festivals starting 2011, the Mahindra group had set its sight on doing just that for its 4th edition.

Plenty of Hues at Day 1 of The Mahindra Blues

The build-up was immense, accentuated heavily by the line-up for this year – Grammy awardees Tedeschi Trucks Band and Jimmie Vaughan, Blues stalwarts Zac Harmon and Li’l Ed and the Blues Imperials and India’s crème de la crème Soulmate and BlackStratBlues. Even the heavens had opened up to lull a city that was dreading the impending summer heat, with a pleasant chill. It was still ninety minutes to go before the start of the event, yet the crowd that had gathered at the venue could feel it in the air that they are in for a very special night indeed.

Plenty of Hues at Day 1 of The Mahindra Blues

Less is More

Stage 1 was where the event had started, right on schedule. BlackStratBlues, the solo project of acclaimed Indian guitarist and producer Warren Mendonsa took the stage along with versatile drummer Jai Row Kavi and precocious talents like Adi Mistry and Beven Fonseca on the bass and the keys respectively. The set predominantly featured songs like ‘Anandamide’, ‘Renaissance Mission’, ‘The Universe has a strange sense of humour’ and ‘Folkish Three’ from his eagerly anticipated third album while also sating the crowd’s requests for classics like ‘Blues for Gary’ and ‘Ode to a Sunny Day’ from his first two albums.

Plenty of Hues at Day 1 of The Mahindra Blues

Armed with a fat, monstrous tone that he derives from an arsenal of Fender Stratocasters, Warren’s incredible ability to base simple yet poignant melodies on rhythms derived from his surroundings – like the beat of a duff-dhol at a typical Indian procession or the muffled thud of a techno-beat – cements his position as one of India’s most unique composers. His phrasing and explorations of his head phrases were thorough making him a terrific live act. Although, the music wasn’t your conventional Blues music, the raw feeling that characterizes the Blues is still retained by phrases filtered through a lot of apparent contemplation. The sole focus of the artiste was to emote and the crowd made no secret of their appreciation by the end of his set.

Plenty of Hues at Day 1 of The Mahindra Blues

Jai Row Kavi throughout the set was a perfect foil to Warren’s guitar playing, highlighting phrases wherever perfect and never once overplaying. Adi Mistry tactfully employed a range of sounds from the bass, especially the powerful thumps in ‘Renaissance Mission’. Beven Fonseca neatly filled in the pockets that are often created by Warren’s unselfish playing. The standout track was ‘Ode to a Sunny Day’ where Warren, joined on stage by Kolkata-based multi-instrumentalist Tajdar Junaid on the acoustic guitar, absolutely caressed the composition to a dreamy ambience, bringing his set to a close.

Plenty of Hues at Day 1 of The Mahindra Blues

The Zac Attack

While Warren’s outlet to the Blues was in the form of simple expressions in an urbane, contemporary sound, Zac Harmon’s response to the Blues, on the other hand was simply this – if you’re feeling the Blues, come to me and I’ll show you a good time. The second act of the evening exploded into a funky blues start on Stage 1 and the towering frontman from Jackson, Mississippi was an absolute livewire throughout, so much that his energy on stage should have been illegal for someone half his age. Zac on the vocals and the guitar was supported by the adventurous Corey Lacy on the keyboard, the stylish Buthel Burns on the bass and the groovy-as-hell drummer Cedric Goodman all of whom were incredible backing vocalists too, giving the band its unique, expansive sound.

Plenty of Hues at Day 1 of The Mahindra Blues

Segueing seamlessly from a funky 4-4 beat to a 6-8 conventional blues beat where the band played the BB King’s classic ‘Rock Me Baby’, back again to a straight 4-4 groove to their next number where a sweet Blues interlude by Zac bridged over to another song in an altogether different key. In all these transitions, the band never lost its continuity, but thankfully just when the noise and the energy were threatening to take the roof apart, Zac seized the opportunity to slow it down with a gospel-like Blues number where he played a heartfelt solo with enough breathing space to let the crowd taste every note in the air.

Plenty of Hues at Day 1 of The Mahindra Blues

The band was an excellent mix of tasteful Mississippi Blues and a very strong rapport with the crowd. Behind the sheer rawness of the music, the sections were very well-structured and every sound emanating from the stage was calculated for effect; not a single note was wasted. Zac’s vocals were powerful and endured in the air long after songs. A frantic set that had compositions like ‘Blue Pill Thrill’ from the band’s new album Music is Medicine along with the band’s own versions of classics like Bob Dylan’s ‘Knocking on Heaven’s Door’, Muddy Waters’ ‘Got my Mojo Workin’  got the crowd screaming for an encore and they complied by rounding it off with a neat cover of Bob Marley’s ‘No Woman, No Cry’.

Plenty of Hues at Day 1 of The Mahindra Blues

Run over by Tedeschi Trucks

Despite their reputation, the Tedeschi Trucks Band found themselves in an unenviable position of taking the stage after two blockbuster sets by the preceding acts. The challenge was made tougher as the final acts of both days were scheduled in the more roomy Stage 3. The Tedeschi Trucks Band however, would go on to blow that challenge out of the water.

A huge cheer greeted the band as the 11-member big band blues ensemble from Jacksonville, Florida took the stage and wasted little time to get going; their first number ‘Don’t Let Me Slide’ from their Grammy-award winning album Revelator, breathing ample freshness into the expansive indoor arena. The band went on to render the funky title track and the waltzy ‘Do I Look Worried?’ from their recently released second studio album Made Up Mind, a resounding cheer greeting the air tight ending that had culminated an explosive slide guitar solo from virtuoso Derek Trucks.

Plenty of Hues at Day 1 of The Mahindra Blues

After the contemplative slow-pop number ‘It’s So Heavy’, wherein Susan Tedeschi’s effortless adaptability to soul came to the fore, vocalist Mike Mattison took centre stage to croon their next piece ‘I Know’ which featured a spirited trumpet solo by Maurice Brown. Special guest Doyle Bramhall II walked in, like a boss, for the band’s own version of the Blues classic ‘St. James Infirmary’ and his deep voice evoked plenty a gasp from the euphoric crowd. Despite there being three guitarists on the stage, it did not take long to point out, even with your eyes closed, who’s playing what, such was the sheer uniqueness of their guitar playing – Doyle’s inverted bends and tremolo-picking on his right handed guitar played left-handed, Derek’s thick slide guitar voice, played with fingers and Susan’s conventional, voice-driven style. A carnival-like mid-section with Doyle and Susan exchanging solos and Derek’s glib licks made the classic one of the stand-out pieces of the night. A folky flute intro by Kofi Burbridge opened up ‘All That I Need’ and the song’s rhythmic hook provided the backdrop for a phenomenal Derek Trucks solo incorporating myriad styles, some Indian influences very apparent.

Plenty of Hues at Day 1 of The Mahindra Blues

The band went on to play ‘Part Of Me’ and this featured a neat duet Susan’s powerful and trombonist Saunders Sermons’ quirky high-pitched voice that gave the song its character. A Freddie King classic ‘Palace of the King’ was followed by a swamp raga intro by Derek Trucks supported by Mike Mattison on an acoustic guitar. The intro built enough tension in the air as the crowd awaited the next bit of magic from Trucks who by then was certified unpredictable and he seamlessly transitioned to the riff of ‘Midnight in Harlem’. This was again one of those many songs in the set where the backing vocalists Mike Mattison and Mark Rivers shone and the song took a romantic touch as Derek’s sweet slide solo appeared to serenade Susan, who beamed appreciatively.

Plenty of Hues at Day 1 of The Mahindra Blues

The band’s decision to allocate the longer solos to most of the Revelator songs like ‘Bound For Glory’ worked strongly in their favour and by the middle of the show, they already had enough momentum to let anything ruin an already fabulous gig. In the middle of a Derek Trucks solo set to a tribal rhythm, a guitar string snapped and Kofi grabbed the opportunity to mesmerise the audience with a surreal flute solo while Derek sat on stage to change his strings, like a boss. And then once he was done, Derek casually continued the brilliant solo without breaking stride. Just as Master Oogway said -There are no accidents.

Plenty of Hues at Day 1 of The Mahindra Blues

The band exited the stage only to come back on and oblige the deafening requests for an encore. When the band started the the groovy ‘Love has something to say’ after yours truly at the front of the crowd screamed his lungs out for it, Susan pointed at me with her guitar. SUSAN TEDESCHI POINTED AT ME!

*recovers*

The final piece featured an out-of-control solo by the tenor saxophonist Kebbi Williams before normal service was resumed and the entire band with Doyle Bramhall II upped the energy to set up a grandstand finish.

Plenty of Hues at Day 1 of The Mahindra Blues

Summing it up, as a front-woman, Susan Tedeschi with her magical, unerring voice and her charisma had the entire crowd adoring her, worshipping her even (I know I was). Derek Trucks took on the silent and often under-appreciated role of orchestrating the large band with nods to move sections, while also enthralling the crowd with his unparalleled musicianship. Doyle Bramhall II added a unique dimension each time, with his voice, his finesse on the guitar and his radiance. Despite the size of the band, they were always a tight unit responding accurately to every signal that Derek gave.

Plenty of Hues at Day 1 of The Mahindra Blues

Special mention goes to the organisation of the festival; the acoustics of both stages were of an extremely high standard and the lighting, camera work and F&B was superbly handled. Moreover, all the acts started on time and the artistes even had the freedom to walk among the fans to pose for photographs. All eyes on Day 2!

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Ganesh Viswanathan

Ganesh Viswanathan is a musician, a designer and sometimes both at the same time. Caffeine is known to derive its energising properties from him. Nobody knows the exact moment when he dismantles an idle mobile phone or steals food from another plate.

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Jamsteady Feat. Tajdar Junaid at Princeton Club, Kolkata

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Vivek Gupta

Vivek Gupta is a photographer based in Kolkata. He loves music, sketching, comics and beer!

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NH7 Weekender’s Long Awaited Debut In Kolkata

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NH7 Weekenderone of the country’s largest music festivals, finally made it to Kolkata, much to the delight of the city’s music-hungry population. The fourth and final leg of this event was to be held on the 14th and 15th of December, and with the completion of exams at most of the city’s educational institutions, the organizers seemed confident of wooing the huge student community to the venue grounds. In fact the Kolkata leg had a lot going for the city’s music lovers. With the highly discounted ticket prices when compared to the three other NH7 Weekender venues, the tickets rates for the City of Joy were a complete steal! And for the student population there was even an under-21 ticket to add to the bouquet of benefits.

The mouth-watering lineup comprising of more than 40 artistes, spread over 6 stages was surely enough to whet the appetite of even the most cynical music-lover in town. However, the venue chosen to host the 2 days of musical madness left many disappointed. Ibiza Resort, located on the outer fringes of the city in South 24 Parganas, was indeed almost in the middle of nowhere. Not only the distance, but the traffic jams and shitty roads were also a big downer, and due to these factors there were many who ultimately decided to skip the NH7’s debut in the east zone. The organizers too, must have had sleepless nights, owing to the initial negative feedback about the venue. But finally on the day of the event, the Kolkata music-lovers did not disappoint and the massive turnout on days 1 and 2 was enough indication that despite all odds, Kolkata’s love for music would always prevail over long distances, bad roads and traffic jams.

The action on the Day 1 started approximately at 3:30 PM. The layout for the 6 stages in the festival grounds was well thought out by the NH7 team and thankfully most attendees were spared the long-distance-run between the various stages. In fact the biggest conundrum for gig goers was trying to prioritize which artiste’s performance to watch, since many performances would be going on simultaneously at different locations in the venue. The timings of performances at the Dewarists stage and at the Bacardi Arena were the ones that caused the most consternation and those not too adept in time-management had a trying time juggling their schedules.

NH7 Weekender’s Long Awaited Debut In Kolkata

Many music-lovers from the North-East turned up in huge numbers to catch Shillong’s blues giants Soulmate up on the Dewarists stage at 4:30 PM. This gig pulled in huge crowds, and having always been a favorite among the blues lovers in the city, Soulmate went all out to impress one and all with a virtuoso performance. And there was no getting away from the mesmerizing vocals of Tipriti Kharbangar that literally blew the crowd away.

Mumbai metallers Demonic Resurrection were already getting proceedings underway at the Bacardi Arena – the first of three back-to-back metal bands to be performing on Day 1. Demonic Resurrection were hell-bent on bringing brutality to a new level, and in their allotted 40 minutes this veteran metal act managed to captivate the crowd with songs both old and new, including ‘The Unrelenting Surge of Vengeance’, ‘The Warriors Return’ and ‘Bound by Blood, Fire and Stone’ – all tracks from their last album A Return To Darkness. The crowd loved every minute of their performance but 40 minutes were hardly enough to satisfy the metal hungry crowd. It would be approximately another hour until the Bacardi Arena lit up with the second metal act of the evening.

In the meantime, over on the MTS Other Stage, local boys Ifs ‘n Buts were having a ball playing their brand of indie music with the help of a few friends. Unfortunately this particular stage was plagued by music “over-flowing” from the adjacent music arenas and it was not really the best way to take in the band’s acoustic set. While Ifs ‘n Buts were busy enthralling their faithful fans, city heavy weights and NH7 veterans Pink Noise on the Dewarists stage and Mumbai’s Zero over at the Red Bull Tour Bus were both getting ready to up the volume. Choosing which act to catch that evening was indeed a painful decision. The veritable flip of the coin seemed to be the only way to decide which band’s performance to watch.

NH7 Weekender’s Long Awaited Debut In Kolkata

Zero’s energy and verve on stage belied the fact that the band was making a comeback and playing in the City Of Joy after almost 10 years. In fact, it almost made it seem like they had never been on a break! For 40 odd minutes the band dished out a host of evergreen favorites like ‘PSP’, ‘Hate In Em’, ‘Lucy’ and ‘Mariachi’ – and for those 40 minutes the Kolkata crowd was in a complete state of trance. Zero easily delivered one of the best performances of the day and those who attended their gig at the Red Bull Tour Bus stage, left fully satisfied.

Amidst the Zero mayhem, another local musician and singer-songwriter, Tajdar Junaid, was getting ready for his performance at the MTS Other Stage. Tajdar’s recently released album What Colour is Your Raindrop has received critical acclaim from most musical quarters, and for fans of his mellow, lounge-influenced acoustic style of music, it was indeed a treat to see him perform in his hometown – more so since it was his first performance in Kolkata after the release of his album. Tajdar did not disappoint the crowd with his set that included tracks like ‘Aisle’, ‘What Colour Is Your Raindrop’, ‘Though I Know’ and ‘Dastaan’. One of the highlights of this gig was when ace guitarist Warren Mendonsa came up on stage to collaborate with Tajdar. All in all, this was a most satisfying performance.

Day 1 was mostly about the metal mayhem that was to take place at the Bacardi Arena. Judging by the number of metal-heads who had lined up in front of the stage and also taken up strategic positions in and around the vicinity, it was definitely not an advisable place for the faint-hearted to be. After Demonic Resurrection’s early evening assault, the next act to occupy the Bacardi Arena was Delhi’s masters of disaster Undying Inc. Right from their first song, these metal mongers were relentless and they forced the crowd into submission with their raw and powerful aggression. Front-man Shashank Bhatnagar was indeed in his elements that evening, and he had the crowd roaring with approval with his crowd-surfing antics. Shashank was like the conductor of a symphony orchestra, and he expertly orchestrated the crowd into one bloody moshpit after the other – and his efforts culminated in a massive wall-of-death during the song ‘Ironclad’. The fetsival had momentarily turned into a war-zone, and the number of injuries and blood stained faces around the pit area bore testament to this fact. Undying Inc’s setlist included the popular ‘Manimal’ and ‘Contagion’ from their album Aggressive World Dynasty and also their new single ‘Pit Mechanics’ from their new EP Ironclad – and their performance and stage presence that evening left an indelible mark on the minds of every metal lover in attendance. The band certainly upped the ante as far as performance standards go, that many Indian metal bands would find difficult to meet.

NH7 Weekender’s Long Awaited Debut In Kolkata

Meanwhile comedy rock band Vir Das’ Alien Chutney was over at the MTS Other Stage, busy regaling the crowd with their trademark sense of humor. It was the band’s debut performance in the City of Joy, but the huge cheers that followed each song they played would certainly have made it seem like they were Kolkata veterans. The biggest cheers were of course reserved for the song ‘Manboobs’, no surprises there! Vir Das’ on-stage banter, especially about the political leaders of West Bengal also had the crowd in splits.

Day 1 was nearing its end, but there were two huge artistes left before the day finally came to a close. Over at the Dewarists stage, Papon and The East India Company were facing some technical difficulties which delayed their show for approximately twenty minutes. Papon was on the check-list of most music lovers since many of them had never seen him perform live before. And true to their expectations, he and his troupe did not disappoint. This was one artiste who could sell out shows and still remain original and true to his music and he demonstrated this by enthralling the huge crowd with songs from his album The Story So Far and tracks like ‘Boitha Maro Re’ and the popular ‘Banao’. Papon and The East India Company were indeed a class act and hopefully they will be in town soon for more shows.

About 10-15 minutes before Papon and his band of merry men had started wowing the crowd at the Dewarists stage, over at the Bacardi Arena, the sea of black-tee clad metal maniacs had again started to huddle around the arena area. For the Kolkata metal community, THIS was the event they had been waiting for – finally, a metal band of international repute would be performing in the City of Joy, finally Kolkata would get to be on the international metal map.

NH7 Weekender’s Long Awaited Debut In Kolkata

Dutch metal giants Textures had previously been to India three times – and having previously performed in the south (Bangalore, 2009), the north (Delhi, 2010) and the west (Pune, ) in past tours, it was befitting that the band finally completed their Bharat yatra by being named as one of the headliners of Kolkata’s NH7 Weekender leg. And they gave to the city’s ardent metal fans a performance that they would not forget in a long time. The show began with the slow melodic instrumental ‘Surreal State Of Enlightenment’ but once this completed the band launched themselves into a set-list which pulverized the crowd with its sheer brutality. ‘Messengers’, ‘Old Days Born Anew’, ‘The Sun’s Architect’, ‘Laments Of An Icarus’, ‘Black Horses Stampede’ and ‘Sanguine Draws The Oath’ were just some of the songs that regaled the crowd that evening. However with the mosh-pits getting more brutal by the minute and with the metal-heads baying for blood, it took two of the band’s more popular compositions, ‘Awake’ and ‘Reaching Home’ to finally appease the crowd. Textures were truly majestic that evening and they won the hearts and minds of everyone who was fortunate enough to attend their power-packed performance.

And so Day 1 of the Kolkata NH7 Weekender ended with a bang – and there was not a single unhappy soul at the end of the day’s proceedings. Even the bunch of young metal-heads who were feuding over Textures’ drum sticks went home happy when the band finally resolved the situation by offering a plectrum to each of the aggrieved parties.

Another bright and sunny December day, and the expectations of the crowd were sky-high after the success of Day 1. There were some very big names scheduled for Day 2, including a few young acts from Kolkata. And in fact two of the day’s openings acts were The Monkey In Me on the Red Bull Tour Bus and Ganesh Talkies on the Dewarists Stage, the latter opening their set with the song ‘Style’. The band’s flashy style of music was accentuated by their colorful but loud outfits. Their catchy music had the crowd dancing, jumping and doing all sorts of crazy stuff, especially when the vocalist Suyasha Sengupta requested the audience to show some “Bappi Lahiri moves”. Their set included ‘Roadside Romeo’, ‘Pyaar Ka Tohfa’ from their EP Three Tier Non AC and some new material like ‘Dancing, Dancing’ and ‘Brother From Another Mother’. A fun band, especially if you aren’t allergic to the Bollywood style of music.

Day 2’s opening act on the Bacardi Arena was New Delhi’s The Ska Vengers. This 8-piece band was making their Kolkata debut and they were easily one of the best acts of this two-day music fest. Right from the word go, these merchants of ska got the crowd dancing to their compositions which included set regulars like ‘Rough And Mean’, ‘Bam Intifada’ and The Velvet Underground rendition of ‘I’m Waiting For The Man’. The Ska Vengers had a great gig, and special mention must be made of their female vocalist Miss Samara C whose charismatic stage presence hypnotized the Kolkata crowd.

Over on the MTS Other Stage fans of Gangtok’s Girish Pradhan were busy being enthralled by this singer-songwriter’s set-list that comprised of originals and classic rock covers. Girish started his set by playing an instrumental version of ‘Hotel California’, and followed this up with a string of originals that included ‘Loaded’ and the ever popular ‘Angel’. The set also included ‘Hey You’ and a brilliant cover of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Rock and Roll’. Girish Pradhan’s amazing voice and vocal range stunned the crowd and he easily won over the hearts of those in attendance.

NH7 Weekender’s Long Awaited Debut In Kolkata

As soon as Girish ended his set, it was back to the Dewarists stage because Swarathma was the next act to be performing. Their set included popular originals like ‘Duur Kinara’, ‘Topiwalleh’, ‘Kooraney’ and ‘Ee Bhoomi’. During the performance of their song ‘Pyaar ke Rang’ vocalist Vasu Dixit came off stage right in the middle of the audience, which got the crowd going. Despite the obvious language barrier in some songs, Swarathma’s gig was indeed a fun one and there was no doubt that the crowd would be remembering the band’s performance for a long time.

And over at the Red Bull Tour Bus, local lads Write In Stereo were getting the crowd to groove to their indie dance music. Heavily influenced by the band Mutemath, this quartet impressed the crowd with their compositions that were mainly instrumentals and included ‘Tokyo Kyoto’, a composition influenced by their love for anime, space and sci-fi.
The Bacardi Arena in the meantime was fast filling up, for Mumbai’s electro-rockers Pentagram, who were soon to start their set. It has been a while since this band has performed in Kolkata, and their fans were on tenterhooks waiting for the show to begin. But once it did, a huge roar erupted from the crowd. Pentagram began proceedings with their track ‘Identify’, and their set-list also included tracks like ‘Lovedrug Climbdown’, ‘Drive’, ‘Mental Zero’, ‘Tomorrow’s Decided’ and the popular ‘Voices’. The crowd had a ball, and this was evident from the number of bean bags being thrown up in the air and bouncing all over the arena area. Vishal Dadlani’s showmanship and Randolph Correia’s guitars were stand-outs in the band’s performance – with Randolph’s guitaring especially sounding raw and powerful throughout Pentagram’s electronica blended grunge set.

It was time for The Supersonics to join the Kolkata NH7 party and right from the word go this Kolkata quartet let fly a host of popular tracks – both new and old – much to the delight of their faithful fan following, who were attending in huge numbers. The Supersonics were playing in their home-town after a very long time, and not being familiar with their new material, their home support cheered the most for their older originals – ‘Hey Aloha’, ‘We Are We Are’, ‘In Memory Of’, ‘Fable Of A Lonely Fish’, ‘Have A Drink’ and the crowd favorite ‘Yeah Whatever’ were just some of the songs on their set-list for the evening. All said and done, this was a pretty good performance by these Kolkata homeboys.

The event was fast approaching its climax – after twp days of non-stop walking, jumping up-and-down, standing and head-banging, our legs were starting to feel a wee bit heavy and we also had this constant buzz in our heads. So running around the venue to catch the different performing artistes was turning out to be a tad bit difficult for our weary souls. In the final hours we kind of parked ourselves in front of the Red Bull Tour Bus area, which was pretty empty – but it also gave us a good view of the Bacardi Arena as well, where Delhi classic rock veterans Parikrama were already in the midst of their NH7 gig. Like Pentagram, Parikrama too were performing in Kolkata after ages – and these Delhi rockers were successful in wowing the crowd with a set-list that seemed to comprise of originals only. Quite a surprise, this, since the band have rarely played a set-list of predominantly original numbers in Kolkata. It was almost like they were playing a greatest hits compilation and for a change, the Kolkata crowd had the chance to savor their originals like ‘Am I Dreaming?’, ‘Vaporize’ and the ever popular ‘But It Rained’, which was the band’s closing number.

Kolkata’s Nishchay Parekh was up on the MTS Other Stage during Parikrama’s assault, and being one of the rising stars of the current indie explosion in the country, most people at the venue wanted to check him out. Nishchay’s music has a certain freshness about it, which adds to its cool quotient and it was these two factors which helped him to win over his audience that evening. His set-list which had the songs ‘Ocean” and ‘I Love You Baby, I Love You Doll’ were extremely well appreciated.

Back at the Red Bull Tour Bus Mumbai’s hard-core kings Scribe were busy causing mayhem and promoting the pleasures of moshing. Front-man Vishwesh Krishnamoorthy was in his usual over-the-top mood making the crowd laugh with his outrageous comments, although for the most part he let the band’s music do the talking. This was in fact quite a tame show as per the usual high Scribe standards – and the sound was also a bit muffled at times, although most listeners didn’t seem to be too bothered with the sound aspect since they were either too busy moshing or playing around with the beach balls that the band had thrown down from the stage. Scribe’s set-list was interesting but was well short of being “amazing” – and apart from the crowd favorites ‘I Love You Pav Bhaji’, ‘1234 Dracula’, ‘R.S.V.P.’, ‘Calender Khana Lao’ and ‘Cops!  Cops!  Cops!’ the band played a cover of the Fear Factory song ‘Edgecrusher’.

After two days of non-stop music, the Kolkata NH7 Weekender was about to come to a close. There was not a single unhappy soul at the venue, and India’s “Happiest Music Festival” had lived up to its reputation. As Karsh Kale Collective + The NH7 All Stars lit up the Bacardi Arena for the final time, the crowd totally lost themselves to the music, and the dancing and cheering seemed to go on and on. It was truly a wonderful conclusion to a festival that having promised so much was successful in delivering on all counts. To say that NH7 Kolkata did well would be an under-statement – this event was a rip-roaring success and for once everyone, including the fan, the organizer and the artiste, would seem to be unanimous about this fact. One can only hope that the success of the NH7 Weekender Kolkata leg will encourage other event organizers to allow this city to host similar such events in the near future. But if for some reason this fails to happen, well, we always have NH7 Weekender Kolkata 2014 to look forward to!

Reviewed by,

Prasanna Singh and Joy Chakraborty

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What Colour Is Your Raindrop by Tajdar Junaid

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Let’s just begin by saying that you have probably never heard of anything like Tajdar Junaid’s music. This doesn’t mean that it is too left off the centre and needs exceptional patience and concentration to understand. On the contrary; his music is uplifting, inspirational, melodic and calming and something you can listen to in the background while you go about your life. His songs are like the background score to a day lived fully and in contemplation of the past, present and the future. You cannot help but smile at the soothing and nostalgic tone of his songs.

Tajdar Junaid is a Kolkata-based musician who seems to be born to be a musician. A musical hippie at heart, he draws inspiration from film, literature, art and life for his songs and always strives to combine eastern and western musical sensibilities seamlessly in his music. An immensely talented musician, he taught himself how to play the ukulele, charango and mandolin and uses them extensively in his songs. The blend of such disparate influences with heartfelt and soulful lyrics is what makes his music so unique. You could call his music eccentric, but that would only prejudice you towards it. Listen to his music with an open mind and prepare to be blown away.

An experienced musician, he has tasted the kind of success that most musicians can only dream of. He has created music for documentaries, TV programs and theatre productions. More importantly, his music has been featured on the soundtracks of movies by legendary filmmakers like Rituparno Ghosh, Aparna Sen and Anurag Kashyap. His immense talent has also led him to work with acclaimed sound engineers like Paul ‘Salty’ Brincat and collaborate with composer Michael Yezersky on the soundtrack for The Waiting City. Apart from enjoying mainstream success, he has collaborated with a host of local and international artists like Karsh Kale, Fred White, Greg Johnson and Amyt Datta. It is no wonder that his music does not fall squarely into one category and manages to straddle various genres without a hitch. Although he is a multi-instrumentalist, he seems most comfortable and proficient with a guitar and uses it to great effect on his songs.

However, having played for many years with numerous bands across various genres, he decided to quit the mainstream music scene all together, disillusioned by the commercialization. He even went so far as to take a complete break from the music scene to cleanse his musical palate and find inspiration. He spent his sabbatical obsessively listening to music by artists that have inspired him, learning to play new instruments and immersing himself in various art forms to relight his passion for music. All this led to the creation of his debut solo effort – What Colour Is Your Raindrop. Tajdar wrote the songs on this album over a period of about four years and the album is an insight into his life and his story.

According to him, the album is a collection of ten stories about him and the title “What Colour Is Your Raindrop” seems to ask the listener to think about his/her story. Tajdar was particularly influenced by the music of Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, Albert King and Iranian cinema while he was working on the album,which allowed him to create an album that reeks of his rejuvenated passion for music. When he felt he was lacking in some way and needed help expressing what he was feeling, he collaborated with other artists in an effort to make each song as true to his feelings as possible. The album features 18 artists from around the world playing more than a dozen various instruments such as the sarangi, oboe, paino, sarod,charango, duduk and Glockenspiel.

Only a musical genius like Tajdar can allow so many different influences on his album without it becoming chaotic and the songs becoming disconnected. He has managed to reign in the different sounds on his album to create a harmonious mix of different styles and genres without losing the overall theme of the album. As a result, listening to the album is akin to taking a musical journey around the world as well as a trip down memory lane. Tajdar has managed to present various musical styles in a familiar way to his audience. This is probably why the songs on the album are already so successful with two of them being featured on the movie Sold produced by Emma Thompson – an achievement very few other artists can claim. Calming and poignant, listening to this album is like breathing in the smell of the earth after a shower.

The whole album has a very hippie feel to it and focuses more on the music rather than the lyrics to convey emotions. Also, this is probably one of the very few albums I have heard that has so many fully-instrumental tracks. The music on the album is simplistic and positive, devoid of drama, soulful and easy on the ears.

The album begins with the track ‘Though I Know’- written as a farewell song for one of Tajdar’s closest friends. This track is more folksy and pop-rock with a great twangy intro. Tajdar brings through the sadness of parting with his vocals, which contrasts well with the string instruments. With lyrics like “The wind is blowing, but it won’t carry my prayers to you”, the track could have become very melodramatic and sad. Instead, the song is slightly bittersweet and just a tad melancholic. This song features a host of plucked string instruments and is a very sing-along track.

‘Aisle’, the next track on the album, is inspired by the process of introspection and reflection and just being with one’s thoughts. It is a peaceful instrumental track switching between uplifting and brooding moods. The harmonium in the intro can be quite jarring but the track soon mellows out into a guitar and violin dominated song. As a listener, you will not miss the lyrics as the music is so emotive.

The album then moves onto another instrumental song ‘Dastaan’. This charango is heavily featured in this song and the track is a very atmospheric song. It is one of the darker and more depressing tracks on the album and is one of the songs featured in the movie Sold. Tajdar has left a lot of pauses and blank spaces in the song to give people the time to think about their stories. One of my favourites on the album, the song becomes particularly emotional when the sarangi kicks in.

The next track ‘Mockingbird’ is in complete contrast to the previous track. The music is uplifting although the lyrics talk about being in two minds about a relationship. It features guest vocals by Greg Johnson, one of the artists that Tajdar Junaid considers an inspiration. The vocals are great, but the sarangi stands out like a sore thumb in an otherwise pop-rock track. The song could have been much better if the Hindustani classical component had been toned down a bit.

This is followed by the title track – ‘What Colour Is Your Raindrop’, a nice acoustic and light track with no lyrics – just light humming by Tajdar. This song is dominated by the guitar and the djembe and is particularly laidback. This is another instrumental track designed to put the listener in a reflective mood. Unlike the previous track, the sarangi goes very well here and lends a nostalgic tone to the song. However, this track is meant to be interpreted differently by different listeners so feel free to draw your own conclusions.

‘The First Year’ is somewhat similar to ‘Dastaan’, but is more orchestral and theatrical. This track progresses beautifully and builds up slowly with the violin, viola, sarangi and cello making the song grand and atmospheric. Like ‘Dastaan’, it is another favourite and one of the more melancholic and moody songs on the album and was the last song to be recorded for the album. Another instrumental track, it toys with one’s mood bringing up angsty and darker emotions unlike most of the other uplifting tracks on the album.

‘Ekta Golpo’ is the only Bengali track on the album and as the title suggests, this song talks about a story of a king with eight horses. A fun track featuring vocals by Anusheh Anadil and Satyaki Banerjee and it has a very Baul feel to it with the Baul influence being very clear from the get-go. ´Ekta Golpo’ is a great break from the other mellower tracks and it is memorable just by being so different.

The album changes tempo with the lullaby – ‘Aamna’, a track that Tajdar says he wrote for his niece. One can only imagine how musically inclined his niece will grow up to be if this track is her regular lullaby! A soulful instrumental track composed entirely on the acoustic guitar. However, in an album with so many instrumental tracks, ‘Aamna’ does tend to disappear.

‘Prelude to Poland’ is yet another instrumental track but is far more western classical in nature than the rest of the album. Also, unlike the other tracks, the piano has been used to great effect in this song. Beginning languidly and solemnly, the track grows steadily ominous and chaotic and lifts up again ending on a quieter note.

The last track on this album is ´Yadon Ki Pari’ – a beautiful homage to his father. Tajdar’s father can be heard reciting one of his Urdu poems in the intro, which is innovative and interesting. The poetry suddenly gives way to the drums, which give the track a very rock and roll feel. With the inclusion of heavy distortions, this track changes tempo and is the most rock-influenced song on the album. It is interspersed with recordings of his father reading poetry accompanied by some melodic violins. Overall, it is a very fitting end to this album and sounds almost like a celebration on having put out such a great collection of tracks.

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Anusmita Datta

Anusmita Datta is an ardent day-dreamer, music lover, die-hard foodie and occasional writer. Her obsession with pandas is sometimes disturbing and she can be often found lusting after momos!

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Tajdar Junaid on his latest release ‘What Colour is your Raindrop?’

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A lot has been said about Tajdar Junaid’s latest release ‘What Colour is your Raindrop?’ The album is “infectious”, say many. It seems to have grown on the audience, and how! “Taj” (as he is fondly referred to) offers an eclectic sound in his latest album and here is what he has to say about it…

WTS: What motivated you to put out this album?

Taj: The sounds in my head and heart pushed me. It couldn’t have been before or later as I believe songs have a life of their own.

WTS: Could you tell us more about the story behind the songs and the artwork?

Taj: Few songs like ‘Though I Know’ and ‘Mockingbird‘ are old tunes of mine while the rest have been recently written. It did take a long time as I was running these songs and arrangements in my head, waiting for all the jigsaw puzzles to fall in place. The cover is a photograph my father took of me when I was about three years old . Calcutta used to have a lot of strikes back then and the roads would go completely empty. I used to be amazed by the traffic police and delighted to see huge cars and trucks stop with simply one wave of their cane. So I was filled with pride holding that cane and posing on the empty road. Perhaps I was grinning and thinking I brought the entire road on a standstill.

Tajdar Junaid on his latest release 'What Colour is your Raindrop?'

WTS: You have been a part of the scene for quite sometime now. Your comments on the growing trend of independent artistes and self funded albums/releases?

Taj: That’s the way it should be. Believe in your work so strongly that you don’t need to depend on anyone. With the internet around now nothing is impossible.

WTS: How has it been since the release of your latest album? The good and bad of the journey?

Taj: The good part is that I made some valuable friends who put their stamp on my music. 18 musicians on my album is a huge family! Another good bit has been two songs from this album, ‘Dastaan’ and ‘Prelude to Poland’ have been chosen for a Hollywood film Sold, being produced by Emma Thomson.

WTS: Who is your audience and how do you reach them?

Taj: Anyone who is reading this is my audience. Anyone who enjoys good music is my audience.

WTS: What is the best memory you have while producing this album?

Taj: Writing a lullaby for my niece, Aamna, who is extremely close to me. She was 4 months when I wrote this for her. Aamna means peaceful in Urdu.

WTS: Any message to fans and fellow musicians?

Taj: Do your thing and remain curious. There are lot of good things out there waiting to be explored which television will never show.

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Bacardi NH7 Weekender Date, Ticket, Lineup and Venue Details

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Pune

Date: Oct 18-20
Venue: Laxmi Lawns, Next to Magarpatta City
Line Up:
Ankur Tewari, BLOT vs. Kohra, Blackstratblues, Chase & Status DJ Set, Devoid, Donn Bhat + Passenger Revelator, Dualist Inquiry, Indian Ocean, Karsh Kale Collective + NH7 All Stars, Krunk All-Stars, Maati Baani, Midival Punditz (Live), Nischay Parekh, Nucleya, Papon & The East India Company, Parvaaz, Pentagram, Prateek Kuhad Collective, Scribe, Shankar Tucker, Simian Mobile Disco, Skindred, Sky Rabbit, Slow Club, Suman Sridhar feat. Jiver, Textures, The Raghu Dixit Project, Vachan Chinappa, Vir Das’ Alien Chutney, Your Chin

Bangalore

Date: Nov 23, 24
Venue: Embassy International Riding School
Line Up:
Dry the River, Kailasa, Lucky Ali, Mekaal Hasan Band, The Manganiyar Seduction by Roysten Abel, The Raghu Dixit Project, Krunk All-Stars, Noisia, Nucleya, Rob Garza (Thievery Corporation) Solo DJ set, Shaa’ir + Func, And So I Watch You from Afar, Bevar Sea, Inner Sanctum, Karsh Kale Collective + NH7 All Stars, TesseracT, The Fender Benders, Nischay Parekh, Prateek Kuhad, Sulk Station, Zervas & Pepper, Bobby Friction, Cali P & Chiqui Dubs, Dakta Dub, DJ Uri, EZ Riser, Low Rhyderz, Pippin, Poirier, Reggae Rajahs, Sound Avtar, _RHL

Delhi, NCR

Date: Nov 30, Dec 1
Venue: Buddh International Circuit, Greater Noida
Line Up:
Chic feat. Nile Rodgers, Dry the River, Faridkot, Kailasa, Lucky Ali, Mekaal Hasan Band, Noori, Benga, Kill Paris, Michal Menert, Nucleya, Sandunes, Shiva Soundsystem, And So I Watch You from Afar, J.Viewz, Karsh Kale Collective + NH7 All Stars, Meshuggah, MUTEMATH, Scribe, SundogProject, The Ska Vengers, Arooj Aftab, Dhruv Visvanath, Nischay Parekh, Prateek Kuhad Collective, Rajasthan Roots, Zervas & Pepper, Baba Jas, Dubtron, Frame/Frame, Moniker, Soundclash, Swaggamuffin, Tarqeeb, The Grind, The Heatwave, YT, Ziggy the Blunt

Kolkata

Date: Dec 14,15
Venue: Ibiza Resort, Merlin Greens
Line Up:
Indian Ocean, Kailasa, Papon & The East India Company, PINKNOISE, Soulmate, Swarathma, The Raghu Dixit Project, Arjun Vagale presents Re:Focus, Bay Beat Collective, BLOT vs. Kohra, Dualist Inquiry Band, Michal Menert, Nucleya, The Ska Vengers, Demonic Resurrection, Digital Suicide, Ganesh Talkies, Karsh Kale Collective + NH7 All Stars, Parikrama, Pentagram, Textures, Undying Inc, Zero, Girish Pradhan, Nischay Parekh, Prateek Kuhad, Tajdar Junaid, Vir Das’ Alien Chutney, AlgoRhythm, BASSFoundation, David Boomah, Delhi Sultanate and Begum X, DJ Uri, EZ Riser, Reggae Rajahs, Sandunes, Smoke Signal, Sound Avtar, Yidam

Ticket Details:
Community Ticket: Rs 3000 The Community ticket is a three-day ticket available to anyone who has purchased tickets to any of our festivals (Bacardi NH7 Weekender, A Summer’s Day or Invasion), or is a registered user on NH7.in
Regular Ticket: Rs 3750 Valid for all three days
Under-21 Ticket: Rs 1750 (You qualify if you were born after Oct 1, 1992)

BACARDI NH7 WEEKENDER WARRIOR
Pune + Bangalore : Rs 4500
Pune + Delhi : Rs 4500
Pune + Kolkata : Rs 4500
All Four Cities: Rs 6000. Buy tickets for 3 cities and get the 4th free. Not transferable.

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Folknation Night at Blue Frog, Mumbai

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Kunal Khullar

Passionate for photography and music, Kunal is a Delhi boy who is apparently NOT a rapist. Currently pursuing photography as a profession, he loves all kinds of musical genres and is also a big geek when it comes to gadgets and the latest in technology.

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