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The Big Chill Festival ’07

By Nikita Shah | April 24, 2007

Split Magazine: Big Chill GoaView the photo Gallery ↓

Date: April 14, 15, 2007 | Venue: Aswem, Goa

The sun, the beach, great music and Goa. With a combination of these, The Big Chill was toted to be an event of a lifetime. Sure enough, it was like nothing we had ever imagined or seen before. India’s first Electronic Dance music festival took place on the white sandy beaches of Aswem, one of the northernmost beaches of Goa on April 14 and 15.

This part of Goa is extremely non-tourist-y. There are no bars and shacks and tiny shops peddling the standard Goan wares flanking the road. Riding three-seater on a poor scooter, to us it seemed like just a normal hilly highway. That was until the magnificent Aswem beach sneaked up on us around an unsuspecting bend. And the view of the festival site just took our breath away! We knew we had arrived.

What one saw was a riot of colours, shining cheerily in the blazing Goa sun. The festival site was located amid the coconut grove on Aswem beach and the palm trees tried to offer modest shelter from the unrelenting sun. The site was divided into three sections, each designed and devoted to cater to different music. The colours, ambience and seating dedicated to each section was spot on and set the tone for the music to be played there. Smack in the centre was the largest section which housed the main stage, the food court and the bazaar stalls. With loads of colours, chataais and charpoys, this section had something for every type of audience. On one side of the main stage was the dance tent with a huge pit acting as the dance floor. This one had minimal seating (obviously) and had a huge canopy of multi coloured muslin cloth providing the perfect ambience (but not much shade). On the other side of the main stage was the ambient stage, with warm hues, mattresses and a wine bar and the most shade. In this place you could just lie around on the mattresses and soak in the music. The site was designed superbly. Huge brownie points for the site designers.

Before the music, a word on the miscellaneous. Security was pretty tight for illegal substances, with loads of personnel and police sniffer dogs thrown in for good measure. Food was largely really expensive and Rs. 50 for a bottle of water in this heat seemed like a rip off. But the saving grace was that they let in food and water from outside so it was not like they were forcing you to drink and buy their stuff. The crowd was predominantly British (nearly 70%). The festival must have been a lot better publicised in the UK than it was here, I guess.

The festival was magical and opened your eyes to the possibilities of music that can be made, to music that is made and to the festivals we can have in India if only our government would loosen up a bit.

Now for the music, we spent most of the day hopping around from stage to stage as music at most stages sounded great. Every time we halted at one, we would get that nagging feeling in our heads that we were missing on some awesome stuff elsewhere. With nearly 60 artists and three stages, I am sure it must have been a tight rope walk for the organisers as well. So here’s an account of our juggling act.

Chilled by Nature was the first band we saw. They were on at the main stage and are a project headed by festival co-founder Pete Lawrence. They had some really chilled out, quintessentially beach music with a twist, with the help of local Goan musician Remo Fernandez scatting along.

Pathaan was DJing at the dance tent. His music had interesting influences, ranging from Arabic, Indian and electronica, and his songs showcased this whole range. It was a pity that there weren’t too many people at this stage at this time. The sun, the heat, afternoon and dancing doesn’t make for a brilliant combination! But the music was pretty good.

Performing on the ambient stage were Shaa’ir and Func, an act that we were eager to check out. Randolph (guitarist, Pentagram) handled the guitars and groove box and Monica was on vocals. The line up was completed with two drummers. They started off with their now famous song “Hit”. Their set comprised songs off their first album, due to be released any time now. Noteworthy among these were “Television” and “Secret”. Monica‘s voice is mesmerising and stage presence was admirable. My favourite song from their set though was the last song “Oops”. In the ambience and setting the song just fit like a glove. The right song, the right time and the right place. I was beaming throughout this song.

By the time Jose Padilla came in to chase the afternoon blues away, the sun was just beginning to get tolerable and the crowd was starting to swell. Jose Padilla is a regular feature on the CafĂ© del Mar, so you start to imagine his set right away — first rate world music.

In the bargain though, I missed out on Eva Abraham wooing the ambient stage audience with her mellow acoustic music and fabulous voice. I saw the last five minutes of her set and am sure to check out some more of her music if I can get my hands on it.

Jon Hopkins was the next artist up on the ambient stage. This was a glorious sunset and the festival was just donning magical vibes and getting all lit up. Jon Hopkins is a DJ and his music is made up of fairly long-ish instrumental compositions and the sound was like a mix of later day Radiohead blended with a mix of the gloomy moods of Portishead. Brilliant twilight music. While Jon Hopkins played his set, there was a video jockey, Myogenic, who mixed visuals to be projected along with the music. The visuals enhanced the mood of the songs. He was easily one of my favourite artists at the festival.

Meanwhile at the main stage was an innovative act called Hexstatic. This act concentrated as much on mixing the videos that accompanied the songs that featured on their set. The songs ranged from pop to hip hop and the highlight was a mix between cartoon films “Happy and Joy” and “Pookie” and clips of people snorting cocaine from movies. And all this just flowed from one to the other with out a hitch musically or visually. Very unique!

Tom Middleton was regaling the huge crowds at the dance tent. He is one artist I wish I had stuck around for, through his entire set. But the chunks that I saw of his two hour set were sensational. Great set, with the songs progressing completely unpredictably. The genres he covered were all-encompassing. Here’s an example of his ingenious mixing — the end of his set was with Coldplay‘s “Clocks”. “Clocks” at a dance tent? Seemed weird to me too, before the opening bars began. The original beat was replaced with a Latino cha cha cha and this version of the song merged into Blur‘s “Song 2″, without skipping a beat. Marvellous set!

Sheila Chandra on the ambient stage was in the mean time caressing the soft Goa evening breeze with poetry and stories and her husky full-bodied voice lent itself beautifully to the Hindustani Classical base that her songs had. The visuals projected during her set were stunning. Personally though, I found it difficult to adjust from the pulsating beats of one stage to the absolute calm of this one. And the more energetic vibes from the main stage beckoned me. At another time in this same place, maybe I would have loved to chill out with her music.

On the main stage were The Bays, who in as much as I had read, never practice or jam. What they play on stage is absolutely spur-of-the-moment and I was just blown away! This was one of the heavier acts of the day and comprised a guitarist, a keyboardist, a DJ, and a tight rhythm section made up of a tight bassist and a killer drummer. The band had whipped the crowd up in a frenzy and was a great way to end the day at the ridiculous Indian deadline of 10pm.

The second day was scheduled to have some of the “big names”, most of which we had to miss as we had to leave halfway. Nevertheless, here’s the low down on the performances that I did manage to catch.

Mixmaster Morris is a regular feature on the Big Chill circuit since its inception. The music was extremely relaxing and perfect for a lazy, somnolent Sunday afternoon, while you sat by the sea watching the waves and trying to beat the sun.

On the ambient stage was varied line up of bands. Starting with a trio of “Indian Baul Singers”, with a dholak player, ek tara player and a female vocalist with a big rustic voice singing in English about Lord Krishna and peace. Definitely a novelty for the predominantly British crowd attending the festival. Lol Hammond was next and he played a solo instrumental set on a piano. Very calming and we lay on the mattresses, gazed up at the azure skies and pondered about the nothingness of things. Pete Lawrence played the stage next and was followed up by Tom Middleton‘s ambient side project Amba, which he started with a mix of the hindi song “Kabhie Kabhie”, much to the delight of the security personnel posted at this stage.

On the main stage, things were beginning to kick up with the Raghu Dixit Project. This band injected the right bolus of energy into the lazy afternoon and had the crowd eating out of their hands with their flawless blend of Indian folk and rock. Another band I’d love to hear more stuff of.

At this point, we had to scoot if we were to have any chance of getting a bus back to Mumbai. We left after much hesitation.

The festival was magical and opened your eyes to the possibilities of music that can be made, to music that is made and to the festivals we can have in India if only our government would loosen up a bit. The festival was in every way “chilled out”. Everyone doing their own thing — children running around, people lying down, dancing, sitting — anything that suits you and your mood. It was so chilled out that we even found the generally annoying security guards dancing on occasion and having a blast! There was so much to take in, the sights, the colours, the music and most importantly the vibe of peace, love and brotherhood. It makes you feel like you never want to leave. I wish I never did!

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Comments

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  1. June 3, 2007, 5:54 pm JugularBean

    Sigh. I wish I was there. Monica looks hot!!

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