| 22 May 2024
We want to give a holistic experience of music in the Lake City: Founder Sanjeev Bhargava on Udaipur World Music Festival

MUMBAI: If music was a celebration, Udaipur World Music Festival is the best destination for a one-of-its-kind experience. With global rare musicians lining-up to perform in the city of lakes, the festival has more in store. The brainchild of this unique festival, Seher founder Sanjeev Bhargava speaks about this vibrant music get-together, which is not like any other festival. In an exclusive interview with Radioandmusic, he reveals the format, rare musicians performing at the fest, its craze and what led him to introduce such a culture galore.

What led to the idea of this unique festival?

In 1994, I had started a Hindustani classical music festival called Basant Utsav. It used to start at 5 am in the morning and give the experience of sunrise and Seher, which means breaking of the dawn. I used to do morning ragas in the morning and then at 11 am, we used to sing. People like Shahid Parwez used to play the sitar, while somebody played sarod or basuri in the afternoon. Musical sessions were also there in the later afternoon at 4 pm. The ragas were chosen according to the day, mood and the preher. The idea had been lingering and I kept building on it. When I came to Udaipur, I thought people are coming all the way to Udaipur, hence you can’t have one evening concert, but have to give them something else also. With such a rich location, beautiful venues, the beauty of Udaipur is also highlighted. This led to the festival, which has given a pure experience to the public.

What can we anticipate this year at the Udaipur World Music Festival?

Some of the rarest to rare musicians from Israel is coming this year and there will be a very dramatic music display. Imagine women songs from the world of Israel and Jerusalem being sung by men? Yes, a band called Gulaza will be the opening act of our festival this way. It couldn’t be a better set-up for them and they are simply special and breath-taking. Els Catarres – a Catalan groups band is also set to showcase very good music. These are highlights, but there are many special and firsts, also, this year. I have curated music and dance festivals this way for the past two decades. These artists are coming to India for the first time and people from top metros like Delhi, Mumbai can come and see their performances.

What were the challenges faced in bringing these artists together?

Since I travel around the world, I am invited to some of the biggest world events. We have a crew of the world’s top festival directors and we share information. We tell each other, what is good for each of us and this is how we operate. It’s also hard work and curation because what may suit in Paris, may not work in India. So, it’s not easy and comes with experience for which, I take credit with great humiliation. It is pressure on me to give a better flare of music as we are in the city, which has some of the best infrastructures.

Why did you choose Udaipur for the festival?

Before starting Udaipur Music festival, some people questioned me for choosing Udaipur as it is a B class city in India. I said ‘look don’t underestimate Indian public as festivals are made over hard work.’ I wanted a city like Udaipur, which is untouched aka virgin in terms of large music groups coming to such a huge festival. It happens in Goa, Delhi, Pune, etc. But world music has never come in its true form in India and I give thumbs up to the people of Udaipur. Music adds to the beauty of Udaipur as there is a backdrop of lakes. Therefore incredible India is a part of this festival. Rajasthan tourism also supports this festival.

Can you tell us more about the festival?

It’s a complete experience and not just music on stage, which any festival can give. First of all, the music is very different. Also, the setting is in specific rare and we are right next to the lake. There is meditative music in the morning, romantic music in the afternoon and absolutely high energy acts from rare countries in the evening etc., contribute to the uniqueness of this festival. Besides, the weather is lovely and we put up some of the best sets in the music industry.

The set designs are the talk of the town. Can you tell us about it?

Venues are chosen very carefully as the music is chosen according to the time of the day when that particular music is being heard. The basic concept is to create a lovely, unforgettable experience and moments for people who come from different parts of the country and different countries as well. We want to give them a holistic experience of music in Lake City. So, that’s morning as well as afternoon venues are next to different lakes. One is next to Pichola lake, while the afternoon venue is next to Fatehsagar lake. The sets are designed according to the music and beats. The colours used are pretty special. Very few festivals do this because as I find no difference between the big festivals in Goa, Pune, Gurgaon, etc. But, we give a whole setting, people sit with their eyes shut. In the morning, they do meditation, enjoy the lake, the breeze as the weather is so good. And in the evening, people dance as there are full of energy acts. This is what we have brought through our concept that says – destination based, mood-based festival.

How has been the response received?

Last year, the third edition saw about 50% of people coming from various cities as well as countries. The response, we get, is great and we are totally overwhelmed by the public. People call us inquiring about hotel recommendations. The people of Udaipur have given a phenomenal response in the last three years. Last year, the top end restaurants in Udaipur were given 10% off to those people, who had come for Udaipur Music Festival.

Besides, flights are also packed and witness a hike in fare during Udaipur Festival, hotels are packed. This is propelling the GDP of Udaipur as a city and Rajasthan as a state as people visiting Udaipur for the fest also visit Pushkar or some other city. So, it adds to tourism as well as to the earnings as all the hotels are packed.

We have been also publicizing the festival. Song line, which is one of the biggest magazines of music around the world, has recommended this festival as the not-to-be-missed festival in the world.

Which are brands and companies supporting the festival?

Incredible India is very proud to be associated with us and we are happy with the association. Rajasthan tourism also supports us. Besides, there are individual cooperates, agencies who come and support. We have got cement companies, who want to build their marketing strategy in Udaipur. 92.5 Radio FM is also constantly talking about the festival. There are hoardings put up in the entire city. Thus, people are interested as they want their brand to get associated with theirs. It depends on who wants what.

Do you have any tie-ups with hotels?

We don’t have to have a tie-up. There are people who send us emails with queries about not getting a room and requesting us to recommend us for a hotel. It is very difficult for us to start a travel agency on our own. We want to make our visitors happy and we do not want to get into the world of tourism. Hence, we assist, but neither have nor want to do any tie-ups.

What are your upcoming projects?

We are starting one of India’s biggest jazz and Blues festival in Jaipur on 8 March 2019. Canada is one of the biggest purveyors of Jazz in the world and UNESCO is supporting us in that festival in a big way. Jaipur is a potential heritage city, which is being nominated by UNESCO but is yet-to-be-confirmed. We have blended UNESCO, jazz as an art form, which is on the mandate of UNESCO to preserve art form.

What message do you want to give to the people, who will be attending the festival?

We are obliged by the love and affection of the audience. We are so proud and I hope, we live up to the expectations of the people.