Music festivals rock India as middle-class grows

Fri Jun 3, 2011 11:30am EDT
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By Atish Patel

NEW DELHI (Reuters Life!) - For much of the year, the central Himalayan town of Naukuchiatal sees a steady trickle of tourists who come for its majestic nine-cornered lake and lush, green landscape.

But for three days each May, the trickle becomes a flood as hundreds pour into this northern Indian town for "Escape," one of the nation's emergent music festivals buoyed by young, middle-class Indians who now have money to spare for live music.

Around 30 established and emerging Indian artists, ranging from the heavy-metal band Phobia to the New Delhi-based Reggae Rajahs performed against the sweeping mountain backdrop this year, the festival's third.

"This is my first time at a music festival and I love it," said one man, who called in sick at work to attend.

For hundreds of years, Indians have come together to sing, dance and play music often as part of spiritual and religious gatherings, and music is a huge part of the Kumbh Mela, a triennial mass Hindu pilgrimage that has been described as the world's largest gathering.

But now India is witnessing a rise in contemporary music festivals similar to those rampant in the U.S. and Europe.

"The scene is getting better in India. Initially, five, six years back, there were no festivals. It's just starting to pick up," says Randeep Singh from Menwhopause, India's only rock band to have played at South By Southwest in Austin, Texas.

The country's music scene, dominated by music from Bollywood films, is growing, bucking a global downtrend caused by piracy.   Continued...

<p>Vikas Soren, lead singer of Indian heavy metal band Phobia, performs at the Escape Festival of Art and Music in the northern Indian town of Naukuchiatal May 21, 2011. REUTERS/Atish Patel</p>