From the much-anticipated concert of British rock band Coldplay to the debut performance of the legendary Swedish guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen, many international acts graced Indian shores in 2016….writes Natalia Ningthoujam
The country has in the past seen many renowned singers and bands, including King of Pop Michael Jackson, Lady Gaga, Backstreet Boys and Akon, treating their Indian fans with live gigs.
But when the line-up of the Global Citizen Festival India was announced earlier this year, music lovers couldn’t hide their excitement as Chris Martin, along with his Coldplay bandmates, were set to give their maiden performance in India.
American pop star Demi Lovato, popular for chartbusters like “Let it go” and “Cool for the summer”, also joined them for the charity event. Grammy-winning rapper Jay Z too rocked the concert that was held in Mumbai in November and saw as many as 80,000 attendees.
British band The Vamps also made their debut India visit earlier this year for a collaboration with Indian composers Vishal-Shekhar for the song “Beliya”. Later, they even made Indians dance to their foot-tapping numbers in Mumbai.
India’s rising singing star Armaan Malik thinks the increase in international gigs in the country is great.
“It means India is becoming an international venue for concerts. And nothing makes me prouder to know that India is making a mark on the global map,” Malik told IANS.
Doesn’t he feel threatened?
“They are bigger and global stars. In fact, we should strive to become as big as them. The problem lies in the fundamental aspect of what music is in India. It’s predominantly only Bollywood, and it’s very tough to get support to become a big pop icon individually.
“Our industry is not structured to make global pop stars. I’m definitely looking at changing that. I want to be a global artiste representing India on a world platform,” said the “Main hoon hero tera” hitmaker.
Singer Papon, known for Bollywood hits like “Moh moh ke dhaage” and “Jiyein kyun”, has also given thumbs up to foreign talent performing in India.
“People are coming here and Indians are able to now watch good acts sitting at home. It also enables us to improve things, like the production standards of our shows. Those shows become a reference point for us,” said the singer, who also has a folk-fusion band Papon and The East India Company.
Generally, an international artiste is the headlining act at fests in India.
Sharing his thoughts on it, Papon said: “Not always. If it is a bigger act, in terms of bigger following, then they get the headlining slot. There are also unknown international acts that come and play in India, but are not headliners.
“To try and headline a festival or a show should only serve as a motivation for any Indian act. If they are bigger than an international act, they will get the better slots.”
Mazhar Nadiadwala, Managing Director at Dome Entertainment, a multi-purpose venue that has hosted many stars like American electro house musician Steve Aoki, says though the entertainment industry is catering mainly to the masses, international artistes are witnessing growth in terms of acceptance.
“A growing audience that is gradually moving to the premium category is clearly evident and we are glad to witness the increase of versatility in their choice of entertainment,” he said.
This year, it was first time for many artistes — Malmsteen, who is among the most technically accomplished hard rock guitarists to emerge during the 1980s, was the headlining act at the Orange Festival of Adventure & Music in Arunachal Pradesh.
DJ Marshmello also came for his maiden Indian gig for a special show at music festival Sunburn.
But getting foreign artistes to India is challenging. Nikhil Chinapa, music entrepreneur and a DJ, says the challenges in India are the same as they have been for the past decade.
“In the sense that we are very much a sponsorship-driven economy when it comes to music festivals and events. We are inching our way to becoming more reliant on ticket sales, but we are still far away from that,” said Chinapa, whose latest project is a three-day boutique beach festival, Wonderwall in Goa.
He believes that India is an extremely important market for international musicians because it literally is the “last frontier” as it is one of the biggest English-speaking nations and “we are a growing economy”.
English singer Ellie Goulding, who has given hits like “Lights” and “Love me like you do”, was also in the Indian city of Udaipur for her performance at one of “India’s biggest destination weddings”. So, does this mean international stars will replace Indian singers or DJs at weddings some day?
“The fact that Ellie Goulding has come and performed at Indian weddings, as have other performers, means that it’s already happening,” said Chinapa, who finds the big fat Indian weddings “an interesting phenomenon”.
The coming year will also tell the same tale as international acts, including the legendary Swedish DJ Eric Prydz, are set to make their first appearance in India.