MAD In Ooty

Held over three days in April, the M.A.D Festival, held in Ooty, was a melting pot of varied art forms.

For three days in April, Ooty ceased to be a haven of calm. 48 powerhouse acts from around the globe got together at the idyll getaway, armed with musical ammunition- sticks, strings et al, for the first edition of the MAD Festival, and fans from across the country landed up to partake of the festivities.

Spread over the 44 acres, the festival, touted to be a first-of-its-kind event, was an amalgamation of dance, music and art events, and was conceptualised as an annual cultural extravaganza, to promote the country’s best destinations, and showcase traditional and contemporary performing arts. The event brought together renowned artistes from different genres- kathak, electronica, heavy metal, rock, jazz, blues, folk, funk, fusion, flamenco, sufi, world; there was something for absolutely every artsy palate. Bruce Lee Mani, member of band Thermal and a Quarter, said, “The M.A.D. festival made us proud. What a great vibe. After performing on all kinds of stages around the world, it was great to see the sensibility, professionalism and vision of the organizers to execute something like this festival.”

There was emphasis on folk art, with featured performances by six primary tribes of the Nilgiris region. This apart, there was a range of workshops helmed by renowned artistes and field experts. For the artistes themselves, the festival was a great platform to network and interact with their fans. Among the acts that had the largest audience were Isha Sharvani, Avial, Indian Ocean, The Raghu Dixit Project, Swarathma, Papon and The East India Company, Skinny Alley and La Pongal. The International bands included State Of Bengal Live from the UK who collaborated with Paban Das Baul, Indialucia from Poland and No Blues from Amsterdam. Pavan, Percussionist and Backing Vocalist for the Bangalore based band Swarathma said, “Ooty is a dream destination to play at. The feel was very different from other festivals- the extremely pleasant weather reminded me of London where I had earlier performed. I think the editions in the coming years will be even better.”

The festival featured two stages, with fans shuttling between them to catch their favourite acts. At the crossover between these stages was the MAD Bazaar consisting of over 15 stalls, boasting unique products made by creative individuals from all over India, and a range of workshops helmed by renowned experts.

The event wasn’t without its share of glitches though. The sound system, for one, wreaked havoc with many a performance- with Indian Ocean being especially badly hit by a ruined sound set-up. Then there were the rains, which the organisers were hardly prepared for, which dampened proceedings considerably on Day 1. And audience participation wasn’t that great either, especially on Day 1, which saw a pretty dismal turn out.

However, Sunish Tom, founder of Cobalt, concluded, “It is very encouraging to see the tremendous response. Over 4000 people attended the festival over the span of three days. They enjoyed every minute of the 48 contemporary acts from across the world as this was the first truly international music, arts and dance festival. Everyone went mad at the M.A.D Festival.”

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