Chandigarh showcases shift in cultural tastes with WD Indie Fest 2015

  • Oindrila Mukherjee, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Sep 16, 2015 19:05 IST
Singer-songwriter Prateek Kuhad (far right) performs on day one of the WD Indiefest 2015. Keshav Singh/HT

With original songwriting as the sole focus of the first-of-its-kind music festival, the city welcomed two days of sublime music as various independent artistes performed at the WD Indie Fest 2015 at Whistling Duck, Sector 26, on Sunday and Monday.

Popular names in the Indian independent music circuit – artistes like singer-songwriter Prateek Kuhad, Bangalore-based band Parvaaz, besides Aditya Balani and group – gave Chandigarh a taste of music that is otherwise unheard of in a city where even local independent artistes have to play commercial to promote their talent.


Sunday evening saw 21-year-old singer-songwriter Shantanu Pandit open the event with his quiet and organic songs with a touch of simplicity to them. Free verse seemed to be the major ingredient as he strummed the guitar, singing his understated melodies, and set the stage for the next performer, singer-songwriter Prateek Kuhad.

A frontrunner on the Indian independent music scene, Prateek’s international appeal and wide experience of performing live shone through his music, based mostly on his personal experiences.

Here on the last night of his tour to promote his brand new album ‘In Tokens and Charms’, Prateek’s songs reminded one of intimate and warm bonfire-lit nights. Songs like ‘Flames’, ‘Oh Love’, a Hindi number ‘Jo hua so hua’, seemed to strike a chord with the audience, who looked more relaxed under the soft, twinkling fairy lights, some sinking into comfy bean bags upfront, and some swaying to the music at the back of the crowd.


No one present at the fest would have anticipated what was in store for them next as Bangalore-based band Parvaaz took to the stage to create their own magic. In a mood of quiet anticipation after Prateek’s subtle performance, everyone in the crowd sat up a little straighter as Khalid Ahamed’s electrifying vocals turned the tide for the audience. The band’s music, with strong undertones of the kind of psychedelic rock championed by British rock band Pink Floyd, wooed the crowd with their Urdu and Kashmiri lyrics, which formed an instant connect with Chandigarh’s music lovers.

Playing songs from their album ‘Baran’, the band belted out some of their most popular numbers like ‘Beparwah’, ‘Gul Gulshan’, their eight-minute title track coupled with the haunting melody ‘Roz Roz’, among many others. This was a performance that Chandigarh will perhaps remember for long.

And Kashif Iqbal, the lead guitarist of Parvaaz, too admitted that band’s first time in the city was “great time”. “There was a different vibe to the whole thing,” he said. Kashif said the band was particularly happy with the response as they had been having bad days lately. The rough phase, however, was history as a festival-goer, who came onto the stage in the midst of the Parvaaz performance, summed it up just about:

“Whoever said they don’t make good music these days? When we listen to bands like Parvaaz, we know it’s not a lost cause after all.”


For Nikhil Mawkin, who goes by the name Red Mawkin, the Indie fest was not really about the money. “Not today at least,” he said, playing on the second day of the fest on Monday.

He, however, garnered a few laughs for his eclectic and humorous lyrics of a song called ‘As long as I’ve got my share’, a satire on the corporate trappings that musicians fall into to earn a living. Nikhil was accompanied by flautist Natalie who hails from Mexico. Natalies is learning Hindustani music in India and said it was amazing how musicians from abroad came to India to learn Hindustani music which a lot of ‘Hindustanis’ are losing interest in.


After a few laughs, it was time for New Delhi-based singer-songwriter Akash Vincent to take to the stage with his main attraction in the form of a cello. A straightforward pop sensibility coupled with witty lyrics, he got everyone to indulge in some foot-tapping.

Komorebi (Japanese for sunlight that filters through tree leaves) is a solo project by Tarana Marwah, a composer, pianist and vocalist based out of New Delhi. She brought with her some electric energy and groove, swaying to her own music along with Suyash on the drums. With subtle influences of English indie band alt-J, she showcased her own eccentric melodies that made her the highlight of day two.

Tarana also played for Aditya Balani and group, who closed the festival by performing songs from Aditya’s new album ‘Constants and Variables’. But the show must go on. Which it did. With requests of an encore from Tarana Marwah, the crowd danced away the last few minutes to her groovy cover of ‘Lean on’, Chandigarh’s go-to song at most pubs and bars around town.

So what was the idea behind the fest? Nippun Cheema, creative head for the event said, “Chandigarh has always been a creative city slowly embracing its rich cultural diversity. It has the potential of becoming a destination for such fests.

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