Mahindra Open Drive brings some of the planet’s greatest world music exponents to Goa
OPEN DRIVE IS quite unlike other musical gatherings happening across India. You cannot buy tickets to enter this two-day event—which boasts headliners including Brooklyn Funk Essentials! Attendees only receive invites on pledging to fundraise. Looking for a donor pass? Donate a fixed amount to an NGO or cause of your choice. If you’re planning to score a VIP permit, don’t bother. Neither VIP access nor designated lounge areas for the privileged exist.
What they do have, however, is an impressive line-up of eclectic international musicians, a souk promoting wares from local artisans, art installations, and a curated F&B programme with a focus on unique cuisines. Additionally, this environment-friendly Goan fete, which swears by its ‘Zero Waste’ policy, allows visitors of all ages. In short, Mahindra Open Drive hopes to make a difference by using music, gastronomy, and contemporary arts to celebrate global diversity and start a dialogue on societal change.
There’s no better conversation starter on a cultural melange than the multinational sound of Gypsy rock. To achieve this, the carnival has roped in world music luminaries Chico & The Gypsies. The French sextet, led by Chico Bouchikhi, has championed genres like rumba Catalana and Latin pop/rock for over 30 years. Though their high-octane, party-starter tunes are of European origin, the band behind chart-toppers like Bamboleo, do have an Indian connect. “We’ve already recorded a duet on one of our albums with Rajasthani singer, Gulabi Sapera,” explains Chico, adding, “I even invited her to perform at a music festival in our home town, Arles.”
Such notions of cross-cultural camaraderie also form the ethos of coheadliners Brooklyn Funk Essentials— who are making their Indian debut at this gala. The 26-year-old act’s members hail from New York, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Sweden, New Orleans, and so on. Their nonindigenous influences seep into their songbook—a mish-mash of reggae, jazz, soul, funk, ragga, ska, afrobeat, and drum ’n’ bass.
“It was important for everyone to be heard for who they were and the mixing of styles became a natural thing,” shares the band. Their approach translates into other spheres as well. For instance, how it allows everyone to shine equally onstage. They add, “Our all-star quality comes instinctively to us because everybody is a strong performer. Besides that, we respect each other’s talent and share the spotlight. This is one of the most important aspects of who we are. We believe in a society where everyone is equally as important.”
Play by ear
The event isn’t restricted to virtuosos from the Northern hemisphere alone. Harouna Samake, an award-winning artiste from Mali who performs with an ancient West African instrument called Kamale N’Goni, is also part of the bill. He wields a 670-year-old six-stringed device and his tunes have introduced a groovy and polyrhythmic version of blues (deeply influenced by the Wassoulou region) to thousands worldwide.
“The best thing I’ve achieved in my career is the ability to tour with our form of music. There’s no greater joy than sharing and informing global audiences about our sound,” explains the farmer-turned-musician. Despite his humble roots, Harouna has over 50 albums in his discography by collaborating with many bigwigs including one of the biggest Afro-pop stars, Salif Keita. At this Goan festival, he promises to play tunes like Aye Namé from his solo debut record Kamale Blues, created alongside Danish producer Carolina Vallejo.
With such an all-embracing list of performers churning out feel-good tunes, it’s apparent that Mahindra Open Drive’s musical curation has one major goal—to inspire positive change.