Sunburn 2017 party music trend: Bollywood techno trumps breakbeat & big-room house
It's the calling card of every major music festival: an eclectic range of genres. With electronic dance music, as showcased at Sunburn 2017, the styles on display were extensive.
But over everything else, it was the Bollywood sets that got the crowd moving, as KSHMR set the tempo with the official Sunburn 2017 anthem, Shiva, composed with The Golden Army, featuring distinctly Indian elements.
The festival line-up featured diverse acts from the folk-trance of Glasgow DJ Will Atkinson, and deep tribal house by KMLN (pronounced “Kameleon”) of Italian Christopher Tooker and Canadian DJ Shawna Hofmann to hardcore sets by Kayzo (Hayden Capuozzo) from LA, California, Party Thieves from New York, and Maribou State, the English duo of Chris Davids and Liam Ivory.
There were many other bang-up sets too, including the ones by Talamasca, the psy-trance project of Parisian Cédric Dassulle, Lithuanian Marijus Adomaitis aka Ten Walls, London’s Stööki Sound, and Ibiza’s 1200 Mics (DJ Chicago).
The overall flavour yet was ‘desi-vilaiti’ (Indian-global), as set by Nucleya, who got the loudest cheers for calling out in the local lingo: “Scene kya hai?” (What’s the scene?), before launching into his bass-heavy street-style beats, with a montage of Bollywood clips splashed across the big screen.
The crowd couldn’t get enough, as all the house, hip-hop and R&B from the other gigs instantly took a back seat. The message is clear: the world’s hottest acts, with their genre-defying acts in tow, are always welcome — but it’s Bollywood techno that rules, and that’s a rising trend that is impossible to ignore.
The rise of Bollytech
This last New Year’s Eve actually kicked in earlier than usual for me, as I ran into a couple of guys in a hotel lobby in Pune, in the wee hours of December 31st, the last Sunday of 2017.
The two guys were none other than the Delhi-based DJs NDS and VanMoon — and they were looking for a light. We’d just been through every last after-after party at the Sunburn festival, catching some cool new experimental acts — but the two young DJs, both Delhi lads, were still up for more. And the discussion that kept us going was — you guessed it — the rise of Bollywood techno.
As we got chatting, it was daybreak before we knew it. It was the big day, barely a few hours until the main party! It was a bigger day, I realised, for VanMoon, Raghav Sehajpaul for real, as he was scheduled to play on the peripheral ‘Garden Ville’ stage at 6 pm.
At the same time, Justin Mylo, or Emilio Behr, the Dutch DJ from Amsterdam, was set to perform on the main stage, leading up to the main acts of the night: Infected Mushroom, Afrojack, and a grand finale by Martin Garrix, to bring in the new year. I let the thought sink in slowly: for some of these guys, the party simply never stops.
The four-day 11th edition of Sunburn went on to host genres and styles from progressive house and psy-trance to electro, drum & bass.
The venue itself was set up like a live volcano, erupting atop a hill, situated in the vastly panoramic 1,200-acre sprawl of the Oxford Golf Resort at Lavale, on the outskirts of Pune. From a distance, driving up from the city, the hill seemed to explode in a larger, more spectacular fashion on every evening.
With three showcase arenas apart from the main stage, the festival had already drawn in close to 50,000 people on each of the first three nights. The main stage, an epic set-up themed ‘Empire of the Sun 2.0’, with 15,000 sq ft of eye-popping LED screens, saw a smashing set by KSHMR the previous night.
To set things rolling, Day 1 began on a dance-heavy note, with an all-Belgian lineup of heavyweights including Coone, who presented a knock-down “hardstyle” set, and a rousing arena-style performance by the brothers Dimitri Vegas and Like Mike, taking over the consoles from the gorgeous Mattn, Dimitri’s DJ-wife and former Belgian model, Anouk Matton.
‘Shukriya’ for music
Backstage, I caught up with Erez Eisen and Amit Duvdevani, of Infected Mushroom, warming up for their set. The Israeli duo and psy-trance phenoms are familiar with Indian crowds, having toured the country extensively over the last few years. Between Amsterdam and Shanghai, Indian crowds are the ones to party with — at least, that’s what they’ll have you believe.
Frenchman DJ Snake, on Day 2, kept up the traditional Indian courtesies, thanking the crowd with an emotional announcement, “This is my current favourite country at the moment, and I love all of you guys for real.”
Snake went on to rock a trap set, before inviting urban-mashup specialist Kyzo to join him onstage. Together, they drove some infectious chants among the crowds, before wrapping up with a gracious, “Shukriya” that only left their fans even giddier, launching into squeals and deafening cheers.
The irony of Bollywood techno’s popularity isn’t lost on the Infected Mushroom duo, as Eisen and Duvdevani acknowledge that the Indian genre might be largely unheard-of elsewhere, but its incredible popularity is undeniable.
Mylo, who I ran into after his bounce-happy set spotlit by the crowd favourite, Jumping Jack, easily struck the most distinguished “Namaste”. Mylo, who’s coming off a massively successful last few years collaborating with Garrix, appeared savvier about his Indian following, taking care to make a separate shout-out to his fans in South India.
For the Delhi lads I was hanging out with, meanwhile, a bunch of fellow DJ duos from Delhi — Progressive Brothers (Sunny Sharma and Karan Bhalla), Rave & Crave (Lavya Gulati and Virat Munjal), and Switchers (Tarun Mishra and Prayas Makkar) — were on the festival watchlist, as much as recognised names like Anish Sood from Goa.
As for desi EDM, the highlights were in sparkling live sets by Todh Teri, Malfnktion, Swami Harami, Shivv and Madboy/Mink — each bringing in their own twists to Indian sounds.
Among the women DJs, the notable sets were by Candice Redding from South Africa, Teri Miko from Ukraine, the duo that goes by the name Hard Candies, Julia Bliss from Russia, Rossella Blinded from Italy, and electro house artiste Aizy (Laura Bresa) from Amsterdam, alongside circuit favourites Siana Catherine, Kolkata’s Priyanjana Ghoshal, and Mumbai-based hip-hop/bass artiste Paper Queen aka Nea Gujreja.
Sax & rock ’n’ roll
Among all the acts, a stand-out live performance was by the Brit band Clean Bandit. Led by the brothers Jack and Luke Patterson, with Grace Chatto on cello, and Jess Glynne on vocals the band is gaining recognition for their enlivening blend of dance-pop and classical crossover music, which finds them layering EDM on snatches of Mozart, Shostakovich and Chopin.
Earlier on in the wings, Jack, who also plays the bass, keys, piano and violin in their live gigs, took a few moments to show me his electric alto saxophone, which he went on to “just plug in and see what happens!”
The Patterson brothers, I found, are most at home actually with funk and jazz, and time permitting, we’d go endlessly on over unscripted jams and the making of electronic jazz. All college-mates from the University of Cambridge, the band members keep a lively sense of humour about themselves.
The pariah perception of DJs is a lot more purposeful to them, I realise, as Jack tells me that the name, Clean Bandit, refers to a Russian expression that crudely implies ‘complete rogue’. Though Jack insists they prefer a more affectionate interpretation, closer to ‘utter rascal’.
The joke stayed with us long after the evening, as Afrojack and Garrix, who also played earlier under his techno avatar Yatrm, brought on a sensorial onslaught to bring the curtains down in the finale.
In the end, as every partygoer gathered their keepsake moments from the festival, the DJs too were packing in tips on working the consoles from all the live acts.
For the most part, yet, it was about being seen with the right people — even among the artistes. Not surprisingly, NDS’ choice for the coolest moment of the season, was a gleeful selfie from Goa, of him and Wiz Khalifa.
The writer was at Sunburn 2017 by invitation.