Expectations were soaring for the 11th edition of SulaFest, and after a massive weekend on February 3rd and 4th we can safely say that they more than just met. From the impeccable organisation and clockwork management to stellar programs and curiously fascinating music, this two-day festival bumped up a brand surrounding wine and turned it into an experience in itself.
Transportation and accommodation for guests were managed admirably to say the least, and helping hands at the venue weren’t just reserved for those who asked for it. The stalls sprawled across the venue were rivaled in their diversity only by the affordability of their products. Food was abundant, alcohol was generous and the wine was showcased in all its fancy.
Coming down to the music side of this festival, the lineup itself looked completely foreign, to the extent that we had to do our fair share of homework on these artists. This was totally worth it though, since the experience of listening to a melting pot of cultures across the world made this weekend stand out amongst all the music festivals we’ve ever witnessed.
Day one began with French-Indian DJ from Paris, Kiwistar, who specializes in Electro Swing. While playing to a relatively smaller audience, he expertly showcased his talents and influences like French Touch Dubstep and Electro DNB.
Following up was Pune based “fresh freak psycho punk” project Run Pussy Run. We’ve always disliked putting artists in a box by defining their genre, but fortunately it’s pretty much impossible with this band. From pop, hip hop and RnB vibes to smooth odd times and expert harmonies, their set was definitely a crowd puller.
GRAIN came in next with a set that took us on a winding journey through indian electronica, dubstep and drum n bass. This Delhi-based project was founded by Gaurav Raina from The Midival Punditz, which might explain the expertise behind their A grade set.
A refreshing shift into world music was brought in by Gypsy Hill, a group that creates some of the most vibrant Mediterranean music around. A brainchild of DJ Kobayashi and Herbert Newbert, their set was a graphic blend of Balkan brass, ska, swing and surf rock, masterfully combining traditional elements with modern music styles.
Arguably the highlight of the day was the one and only Parov Stelar. The Austrian musician hailed as the pioneer of Electro Swing brought his band down for a brilliant set across jazz, house, electro and pop.
Bringing the night to an end were Crystal Fighters, the English-Spanish electronic folk band from the UK. In what could only be described as progressive dance music, the folk elements of their music were tastefully blended into the funky and bass driven fanfare that had even the security jiving in their spots.
Across the venue on the second stage were a host of DJs and EDM extraordinaires, from Leon and 8 Bit Cultprit, to Berny, Stephano Richetta and Bondi Live. The only regret we had was the lack of an audience around this scene, since the talent here was nothing short of awe-inspiring.
Day 2 for SulaFest 2018 saw a much larger crowd including locals, and the energy around the Amphi Stage didn’t take long to build up and pour over. The line-up was even more diverse than the previous day’s, which is genuinely saying something at this fest.
To kick Sunday off was Kiwistar again, this time playing to a relatively larger and more responsive audience that no doubt fell in love with his talent the previous afternoon. Although a slightly shorter set than day one, we got a good glimpse of his abilities and expertise across all his genres including electro swing, French Touch Dubstep and Electro DNB.
Next up was the Adil Manuel Collective, a project by virtuoso guitarist Adil Manuel who is notorious for expertly flowing through multiple genres and giving each of them their depth. In this set up, the band played RnB and Neo Soul inspired music but with elements of jazz, funk and latin that came together in highly unexpected ways. Despite fusions of multiple genres having been a popular go-to in the past years, this band somehow managed to throw everyone off in the best way possible.
A turning point in the energy of the audience and the fest in general came with Brotha V, the well-known hip hop sensation from Bangalore. Born from his own personal experiences and as real as they get, his lyrics and their delivery seem to be what pull even the most skeptical of fans down to pay attention. His style involves a curious blend of Hindustani and Carnatic classical along with elements of indian folk music, seamlessly fitted into his primary hip hop music.
The Beat was probably a more renowned artist in this weekend’s line up, having been in UK and the international music scene since 1978. Evident from their set, the band’s primary genres are ska punk, reggae, soul and punk rock. While that might sound unnerving to some, in the context of their music everything created on stage is far from overwhelming. Enjoyable, feelsy and digestible without letting you take your eyes and ears off them for a single moment, this group was one of Sula’s definitive highlights.
Then came what was clearly the festival’s biggest show, with crowds literally pouring out from the Amphi stage arena and thousands singing in unison unlike ever before. Amit Trivedi was probably the best known artist on the festival’s lineup, but we definitely did not expect the kind of magic that hit us in those ninety minutes. From involving the crowds and relating to every individual from across the stage, to playing powerful and hard hitting music with the help of virtuosos like Warren Mendoza and Jai Row Kavi, this set was nothing short of awe-inspiring. The short dances, the tiny costume changes and the smiles and passion of every artist’s face, made for probably one of the most memorable moments of the year.
To end the night and the festival was the Austrian vocal groove collective, Bauchklang. While beatboxing has always been an interesting and ever growing tool for musical expression, these guys opened up a world we didn’t know existed. Mouth percussion, transitions from vocal lines to rhythms and encompassing a massive soundscape across Hip Hop, Electro and Dub, this group took us an auditory adventure that continued to resonate throughout the night.
On the Atma Stage, we had a relatively better crowd than the previous day, and while it paled in comparison to the energy across the venue, there some definitive highlights like Alex Ferrer and Phonique who glued the festival’s music presence together.
Taking a good look at the overall experience in the music side of this festival, it’s clear that this festival knows what it’s doing. Pairing all the right artists together and yet from such ridiculously different genres and parts of the world, all under one festival vibe, is beyond impressive. We’d be on the look-out for next year if we were you.