Don't We Deserve a Hassle Free Music Event in India?

Posted at February 22nd, 2016 | by Shivani Goel | in

With the Mad Decent Block Party Delhi Edition being canned, India is frustrated at yet another mismanaged/cancelled event. The music festival culture is growing steadily and people all over the country want to attend festivals, concerts, and gigs, especially of international artists as they only perform in India a handful of times. Music enthusiasts are willing to fly across states and spend quite a bit of money to attend festivals with international headliners but India has had more than it’s share of mishaps and cancelled gigs. There are a lot of reasons for such occurrences such as getting permissions from multiple government authorities, lack of infrastructure, and security threats, and it’s creating a really bad name for India as a playing destination for artists.

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The Dhanchiri Event was cancelled because of jaat agitation in Haryana

Bureaucracy and Governmental Restrictions are one of the biggest causes for disruption. There is a lot of red tape an organiser has to get through to successfully organize an event and even then, the authorities have the might to pull the plug at the absolute last moment. Sabbas Joseph, the director of Wizcraft, had organized a Michael Jackson concert in Mumbai back in 1996, and to get through the logistics, security issues, and licences, he needed massive amounts of manpower and funds. When Bryan Adams came to Delhi in 2011, the concert was cancelled last minute because the officials created a ruckus about the permits and voiced issues for the safety concerns. The organizers have to take care of everything from the fire safety regulations and sound permits, to liquor licenses and disaster management. It’s a lot to handle, and with how corrupt the Indian governmental system is, a lot of times it takes bribery to get through all of the red tape. There have been instances where things have been pulled off smoothly and without the need for bribes according to OML Event Management founder Mr. Vijay Nair. NH7 Weekender has been pulled of flawlessly for quite a few years now. Recently though, a big event in Goa didn’t start music till 7pm because they didn’t have a sound licence till then and fans were left waiting for hours.

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Michael Jackson in Indian in 1996

According to Mr. Nair, it is the Lack of Great Venues that leads to such few international acts in India. Other Asian and European countries like Singapore have at least 50 locations where artists can just plug in and play. In India, such a set up has to be arranged and created every time someone comes. When Elton John came to Bangalore in 2002, he brought with him an entourage of 30 crew members, lots of high tech equipment, and his grand piano. Location also plays a huge role depending on weather resistance and capacity. Recently Skrillex came to India and the Delhi edition was a disaster because 15,000 people turned up at a venue which had a capacity of 6,000. It resulted in a death by suffocation of a 23 year old Delhi girl. There were stampedes, barricades were broken, the VIP area was crushed, it was absolute madness. Alt J was canned because of heavy rains, and in this case too people were not informed well after the concert was due to begin, but it was rescheduled appropriately.

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Skrillex and Mija; The artists were amazing but the crowd was out of control

Another reason prevalent in India for concerts being canned last minute depends on the socio-political situation of the area. MDBP Delhi was cancelled solely because of the jaat agitation and riots that were spreading in Haryana. There were deaths and the army had to be called in, so with good reason, security permission was denied. In 2008, Live Earth India had organized for Bon Jovi to play in Mumbai but it was called off because of the terror attacks. Organizer Kevin Hall said that these were “circumstances beyond our control” and couldn’t carry on with the event. To top off situations like riots and terror attacks, some parties like the Shiv Sena protest against Pakistani artists playing in India. “We can’t have cultural ties with Pakistani artists when they kill our soldiers”, is their argument. They’ve stopped acts like Atif Aslam, Gulam Ali, and Meekal Hasan Band from performing by protesting widely against it.

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The Bon Jovi concert that was supposed to happen in Mumbai

An overlapping reason is hooliganism and safety issues of artists and fans which lead to cancellations. Metallica refused to perform in Gurgaon when they realized that the security barricade in front of the stage wasn’t strong enough and rightly so, as there was vandalism and chaos when the concert was cancelled. In 2012, Korn performed in Delhi but was cancelled in Mumbai for the much cited reason of ‘safety concerns’. Hardwell in Noida happened but was severely lacking in security measures with people entering without passes and a lot of vandalism happening. Delhi/NCR seems to be particularly unlucky when it comes to gigs like this.

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Metallica stage setup after cancellation was announced

As if we didn’t have enough issues already, on top of all these restrictions, last minute issues, and safety concerns, gig and tours get cancelled because international artists are denied visas for the country. Recently, DJ BL3ND was slated to do a tour in India but couldn’t get a visa and eventually it was rescheduled for March. Other artists like Seven Lions in 2014 were denied a visa and there have been more such cases as well.

After all this, it’s a wonder that we manage to pull off any events at all, but it’s really disappointing that our music crazed generation is deprived of hassle free, international gigs that we are willing to pay good money for because of the multiple problems that our country faces. Hardly an event goes by that doesn’t report some issues or the other. What do you think we can do?

Shivani Goel

मुख्य लेखिका

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