It’s that time of the year when the music scene gears up for the “season". That is when the big music festivals, such as Jodhpur Riff and, of course, the NH7 Weekender, roll out. The latter includes a new venue this year—Shillong.

There’s plenty to look forward to over the coming months. Here’s our pick of festivals, forthcoming albums by Indian indie acts—and a new, unusual record store in Mumbai that promises to host music album launches.

The festivals

The Magnetic Fields stage at the Alsisar Palace. Photo: Raoul Bajaj
The Magnetic Fields stage at the Alsisar Palace. Photo: Raoul Bajaj

Magnetic Fields

Set in the 17th century Alsisar Palace in Rajasthan’s Jhunjhunu district, Magnetic Fields is into its third edition, and is produced by Wild City, the popular online music guide. Electronic dance music predominates but there is a smattering of folk and rock as well. Some of the exciting acts expected are the techno DJ Koze, American producer Shigeto and the Austrian live act HVOB. There will be parties through the night, art installations, morning yoga sessions, even an elaborate treasure hunt.

18-20 December; click here for details.

SulaFest 2016

Looking for a music-filled weekend in verdant surroundings? Check. Lots of gourmet food? Check. An abundance of wine and other forms of liquor? Check. You could head out to the Nashik valley in Maharashtra in the first week of February to experience all of that. The festival is organized by Sula Wines at their vineyard; the music stage is set in a sunken amphitheatre at the bottom of a sloping hill. The line-up includes EDM by the likes of Sandunes and Nucleya. You can also check out Lucky Ali, Swarathma, the Cuban Beat All-Stars and Rodney Branigan, the Texas-born musician who can play two guitars at once, or a guitar and a piano.

Other activities include wine tastings, shopping, grape-stomping, tarot reading and body art. You can choose to live in the hotels nearby or camp at the site.

6-7 February; click here for details.

Ragasthan

As a contrast to the green Sula Fest, here’s a sandy one with several music stages, jam tents for acoustic music, film screenings in the desert, adventure sports and flea markets. Just watch out for the scorpions and other sundry pests that come out at night. Keep some bottled water and warm clothes handy and you’re all set.

11-14 February; click here for details.

Albums

Big Family from Kolkata
Big Family from Kolkata

Big Family

A lot had been expected of The Supersonics, the Kolkata rock band, when they released their second album last year. Having released their debut, Maby Baking, in 2009, the group had gotten back after disbanding for a while in 2010, and Heads Up was proof that they had consolidated their position as one of the top indie bands in the country. Instead, The Supersonics called it a day for a second time earlier this year. Meanwhile, the band’s guitarist, Rohan Ganguli, has forged ahead with his own blues and funk-inspired group, Big Family, and is hoping to release their first album early next year.

Ganguli formed Big Family, which was originally called The Big Family Blues Ensemble, in December 2012. It grew out of Ganguli’s love for the blues and included singer-songwriter Nischay Parekh, who played bass. “It felt like a huge family that had suddenly met and started playing music," Ganguli says, “and it didn’t sound disjointed at all. Everything fell into place without any effort."

Ganguli is quick to distinguish Big Family from his erstwhile band. “This is completely different from what I did with The Supersonics. I have always played the blues and it’s been my source of inspiration from the beginning," he says. “What could be better than to form a blues-based band? I played blues guitar in The Supersonics as well, but the context was different, so it’s not so obvious."

The band’s vocalist, Rupsha Sen, has a big voice that is well suited for soulful blues singing. And in Mickey Kuttner, a Canadian in his 70s, Big Family probably have the finest blues harp player in the country.

Big Family have been writing a lot of songs for their forthcoming album and testing them at gigs. With individual band members bringing their own inputs, Big Family’s sound is not blues in the purist sense though. That is one reason why they have removed the “Blues Ensemble" tag from their name.

“We have stepped out of the ‘classic’ ways, but kept the essence of the blues," Ganguli says. “It is more contemporary and we have opened up the harmony and incorporated different rhythms."

Run! It’s The Kid performing at Akshara Theatre in Delhi. Photo: Mohit Kapil
Run! It’s The Kid performing at Akshara Theatre in Delhi. Photo: Mohit Kapil

Run! It’s the Kid

Music festivals are increasingly becoming a great way in India for upcoming indie bands and artistes to reach a larger audience. A couple of years ago, singer-songwriter Prateek Kuhad created quite a stir after appearing at the NH7 Weekender in Pune and Delhi. In September, the Delhi indie group, Run! It’s the Kid (RITK), got rave reviews at the Ziro Festival of Music in Arunachal Pradesh.

The band was so pumped up after the festival that they even started an online campaign asking for donations for their forthcoming album, which they plan to release in early 2016. “We’re hoping people will dig the content we release over the next few months, and that will make them want to contribute to our album fund," says the band’s vocalist and guitarist, Shantanu Pandit.

RITK was formed in early 2013 by Pandit and his piano-playing friend Dhruv Bhola, who named the band after the song Kids On The Run by indie folk artiste The Tallest Man On Earth. “Me and Bhola were really into his music at the time," Pandit says.

RITK finished recording 10 tracks for their new album in August. It was produced in Kolkata by Miti Adhikari, who has recorded and mixed albums by The Supersonics, The Ska Vengers and Menwhopause. Adhikari’s claim to fame is his work with the BBC in the UK, where he recorded the who’s who of alt music—the likes of Radiohead and Pixies.

The songs are being mixed now, and Adhikari’s inputs seem to be paying off. “He is the cause for a bunch of guitar, organ and keyboard overdubs that we didn’t see coming," Pandit says.

The Revolver Club’s co-founders Parth Pandya (left) and Shalom Benjamin. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint
The Revolver Club’s co-founders Parth Pandya (left) and Shalom Benjamin. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

The record store

Operating out of a modest 500 sq. ft location in Mahim, Mumbai, is The Revolver Club. It’s not a meeting place for six-shooter enthusiasts though. It’s a record store—and a very modern one at that, with a knowledgeable staff to help you out. Started by Parth Pandya, Jude de Souza and Shalom Benjamin in January, The Revolver Club not only sells vinyl records but also essential equipment such as turntables, amplifiers and speakers.

The Revolver Club sells both new and pre-owned records and prices start from 300. In August, they even organized the album launch of Australian band Tame Impala’s new album, Currents. The vinyl went on sale and five local bands were invited to play their version of one Tame Impala song. Expect more such album launches and informal gigs in the months to come.

In the age of digital formats, vinyl may seem like an anachronism to many. Well, you have to listen to a properly made record to know what you’re missing. There are many artistes from the pre-digital era who are tailor-made for vinyl, because that is the format in which they released their albums. Think The Beatles or Led Zeppelin. Put on the last track of Revolver— Tomorrow Never Knows, and marvel at the organic thump of the bass and the swirling sounds that announced the arrival of psychedelia.

But Pandya and de Souza are aware that vinyl will never overtake digital formats in terms of mass consumption. “We look at it as a sort of lifestyle store where people can buy niche items; stuff that’s difficult to get," Pandya says. “We want it to be unlike any online outlet. We believe in the human touch."

Pandya and de Souza also offer a subscription service and you can opt for the three-, six- or 12-month subscription periods. “What we do is send a record by mail to our customers," Pandya says. “It’s a bit like a mystery box and we will choose a rarer album by an artiste. For instance, everybody has heard Neil Young’s Harvest or After The Gold Rush albums. So we might send a copy of Zuma."

The Revolver Club, G-3, Fairlands Building, LJ Road, Mahim (022-24318586); click here for details. Open daily, 10am-8pm.

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