The Fireflies Festival of Sacred Music 2010

February 26th, 2010

It seemed like it was just a few weeks ago that I went for the 2009 Fireflies Festival. But just last week at the Fireflies Ashram I was at the Fireflies Ashram off Kanakapura Road attending the 2010 edition.

Last time it wasn’t part of the “Festivals of Sacred Music” and I didn’t hear any speeches or themes  although I may have missed them by going late. This time though there was a theme – “Environment and Climate Change” including a impassioned speech by Vandana Shiva about how we must be the change.

Still, the music and dance was the focus of the evening, and mostly it was really good.

By the time I reached there, the amphitheatre under the Banyan tree was crowded and Geeta Navale and Esperanto were playing their usual (very good) soul fusion.

Geeta Navale and Esperanto


And after they were done, we went and got some food to eat. This time, luckily there were more food stalls than last time, and the food didn’t run out! Of course, one of the food stalls was run by a bunch of guys who have a Cafe at Carlton Towers – I hope you guys are okay.

After this we managed to squeeze a place behind the huge towering speakers in the amphitheatre stage left. I wonder though, if there was not any other place to keep the speakers. Nearly 10 sq meters were wasted with the speakers and the line of sight blocked by them. And this time, it would have helped to be better placed, considering the organizers claimed an audience of 5000 people, double the previous outing.

Then we had Shabnam Virmani singing Kabir songs and explaining as she went along.

Shabnam Virmani

And then there was a folk dance from Karnataka, Hulivesha with the focus on Tigers (who would have guessed?).


Then we had Jalshaghar, who were missing for a bit – apparently interested in the offstage performance of Hulivesha. When they came on stage, the tabalchi decided that the audio problems (lots of people had complained about the mikes and the monitors) were so bad that he couldn’t perform. Here he is saying, “Sorry I can’t do this!”


Luckily the rest of the band was okay with the sound and went ahead. The tabalchi did return later, possibly realizing that he was being churlish!


Then one of the awaited bands of the night, Lounge Piranha. I had forgotten that they won the TFA awards in 2007, but their music was really good.

Lounge Piranha

I was also pleasantly surprised to find that they had a guest bass guitarist, because this was the first time I’ve seen a woman on the bass guitar at an event like this.

Lounge Piranha

Prakash Sontakke performed his fusion music; one of the regulars at Fireflies, it seems, and with good reason.

Prakash Sontakke

Then we had Bharat Sargam Group performing Qawali. Starting up with a few shayris to warm up the evening, they soon had a good thing going. The guy at the tambourine was going great guns as you can see!

Bharat Sargam Group

They were so good, that the crowd went wild especially during the performance of Dum Mast Kalandar. Some people got on stage and had to be politely asked to leave. And when it was over, they kept clamouring for more. Not that it did any good – there were more bands to come and they seemed to be running a hour late as usual!

Crowds at fireflies during Qawali

Once the hullabaloo died down, another regular band at fireflies came on – the Kerala folk song group playing on bamboo instruments – Vayali. And the crowd loved them as well.


By this time it was getting to 5 and we still had a few bands to go. Up next were Low Rhyderz, a rap/hip-hop/reggae band from Bangalore. They came on wearing their “style” statement – baggy shorts, oversized t-shirts, white Nikes and the reggae hairstyles – but had no style when it came to music.

Low Rhyderz

Their music was so bad that we decided to leave. And we weren’t the only ones. While the band was urging the audience to “clap, clap”, I overheard a gentleman next to me on the way out saying “crap, crap!”

While we could have stayed through to the end, the unrelenting badness (and not in the good bad way) of the band persuaded us to avoid hanging on for another hour or so till they took the hint and got off the stage. I’m not sure why bands in India trying to be hip-hop or rap bands can’t be better than this.

So, as the dawn began to rise, we made our long way back to civilization.

P.S. Even though I really enjoyed it, I did wonder at the wastefulness of an event touted to bring awareness of climate change to the people. Not only the obvious energy expenditure but the neighbouring farms being cleaned up for parking and the basic fact of at least a thousand bikes and cars driving thirty or forty kilometers to watch the event. Maybe next time, a big bus?

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