The 10 Music Festivals in India to Attend in 2016

Article by: Marcus Dowling|@marcuskdowling

Mon February 29, 2016 | 00:00 AM

India’s recent economic boom has dovetailed nicely with a growth in the nation’s music festival scene. By blending idyllic, exotic locales, a rabid music-loving fan base, and promoters with a desire to provide blow-your-mind experiences for both domestic and international attendees, the country's ascent to a must-travel destination on the worldwide music festival map is tangible. From EDM to rock, folk, Bollywood and more, explore India's status as a top festival locale through these ten events.

Sunburn Festival, Goa, India (December 2016)

If you're looking for India’s counterpart to Las Vegas’ massive Electric Daisy Carnival, look no further than Goa’s Sunburn. In its 15th year, 2015’s festivities brought 350,000 revelers from 50 countries to India for four days of music from performers including Dimitri Vegas and Like Mike, David Guetta, Kygo, Martin Garrix and more A-list electronic superstars. With a main stage boasting 2,500 square feet of LED lighting, 100 boxes of sound and a 200 person workforce to operate its numerous moving parts, this fest doesn't skimp on effects. Dance’s global boom may actually showcase its peak in India at this event, and with a lineup of events that extends into the rest of the year from the festival’s organizers, the Sunburn experience keeps growing.

NH7 Weekender Series, Various Cities, India (October-December 2016)

Bacardi pairs with Indian music platform NH7 to provide two- and three-day long events that highlight the best in local-to-India and international music of all genres. Featuring 100 bands across five stages in five cities (Shillong, Kolkata, Delhi, Pune, and Bengaluru), acts including the likes of heavy metal powerhouses Meshuggah and Megadeth and more dance-friendly acts including the Asian Dub Foundation, MUTEMATH and more have graced this event’s many stages in the past decade. With a growing number of attendees exceeding 100,000-plus at its events, NH7 is one to watch as festival culture expands in India.

VH1 Supersonic Festival, Goa, India (December 2016)

Referred to as “India’s definitive dance music experience,” VH1 Supersonic aims to encompass the feelings of “[chasing] rainbows, making unforgettable memories, and [tying] new bonds that'll last a lifetime,” all over five days in December on the beaches of Candolim in Goa. A half decade in, it's already had much success, thanks to a consistently incredible lineup of DJs and producers. Those names include the likes of Axwell, Zedd, Disclosure, Nervo and 75-plus other top Indian and global names. With nearly 200,000 revelers descending upon the beaches, this is a massive party that’s only certain to grow in acclaim.

Chasing Storm Festival, Coorg, India (December 2016)

For the past five-plus years, Coorg’s Summer Storm Festival has excelled at being a folk and dance camping festival with a goal of “taking eco-promise to new heights.” Indian and worldwide acts dominate the lineup, including 2015’s, which included popular Indian folk act Indian Ocean, as well as a plethora of vibe- and bass-heavy DJs like DJs Nasha, Ivan, and Swing. With native Indian attendees from all over the nation traveling to the Southwest tip of India for the event, Chasing Storm is growing in renown as an idyllic destination festival.

Mood Indigo, Mumbai, India (December 2016)

Mumbai’s college-friendly, four-day Mood Indigo Festival is nearing five decades in existence, and, as the annual cultural festival of the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, routinely gathers 100,000 young attendees. The name of the festival is inspired by the name of Duke Ellington’s legendary 1930 jazz recording of the same name. There’s a popular talent competition associated with the event, as well as a mix of world-renowned dance, folk and pop acts, too. Names like electro deans Sander Van Doorn and Borgeous have played past events, as well as Bollywood-influenced artists like Pritam and classic Indian acts, as well.

Delhi International Jazz Festival, New Delhi, India (March 2016)

Organized by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, the Delhi International Jazz Festival is the nation’s largest jazz event and presents both Indian collectives as well as other performers from a plethora of worldwide locales including South Africa, Israel, France, and more. The three-day event is held at Nehru Park in the Chanakya Puri of New Delhi, which is an 80-acre space, meaning there's plenty of room to roam. Most of the scheduled showcases at the event occur during the evenings, and the notion of listening to jazz while stargazing is what keeps attendees coming back for more.

Freedom Jam, Various Cities, India (August 2016)

This yearly celebration  – which coincides with India’s Independence Day – celebrates artists and creativity – not ticket prices. That means Freedom Jam is indeed free of charge to the public. With multiple stages and attendance in the tens of thousands, the festival is marketed as a way for attendees to “break [their] shackles” and enjoy music of various genres in various locales (like Bengalaru, Chennai, Goa, and Pondicherry) across the country. Using music to make a political statement, festival organizers note that they want those who come to the festival to listen “without restrictions, without commercial constraints, without preconceived notions of what is and what isn't music." From Desi ethnic to avant-garde experimental, pop, folk, rock, electro, metal, hip-hop, jazz, blues, they vow to “[break] yet another caste system.” A noble and aspirational cause for a music festival, indeed!

Escape Festival, Indian Himalayas (May 2016)

One of the first festivals in the country to allow on-site camping, Escape Festival of Art and Music promises to allow attendees the chance to enjoy what is described as a “retreat [featuring] bands, artists, writers, photographers, painters, graffiti artists, performance artists, tattoo artists and potters in a mélange of talent, a festival camp, a film festival and a flea market.” The festival’s organizers maintain that they want all who attend to “embrace and explore the free expression of real art, real music, and real culture in the midst of beautiful natural settings, with like-minded souls.”

Ziro Festival, Ziro, India (September 2016)

Described as both “the Woodstock of India” and “India’s greatest outdoor music festival,” in just three years of existence, the Ziro Festival has excelled at providing three days of folk and singer/songwriter driven sounds to hungry (and growing) crowds. India’s festival market has exploded in the Northeastern sector of the country, and Ziro has become an excellent example of a festival filling a unique niche marketplace with quality offerings. Open to both campers and day-long ticket holders, Ziro is a picturesque locale proving to be unquestionably worth the trip.

Rajasthan International Folk Festival, Jodphur, India (October 2016)

For a decade, the three-day Rajasthan International Folk Festival (or “RIFF” for short) has focused on classic and modern interpretations of Indian folk music. The festival is endorsed by both the United Nations and Mick Jagger, and is sponsored by a non-profit partnership between the Mehrangarh Museum Trust and the Jaipur Virasat Foundation, thus helping it gain a reputation as a “peoples’ platform for creativity and sustainable development” by the UN. The October date is significant in that it’s timed to coincide with Sharad Purnima, the brightest full moon of the year in north India. From rap to sitar melodies, all genres are touched upon here.