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Dancing in the desert

Despite a number of high profile cancellations, Magnetic Fields lives up to its reputation as one of India's most unique music festivals

Magnetic Fields takes full advantage of its palatial venue of Alsisar Mahal, Rajasthan. Photo: Carys Lavin
Magnetic Fields takes full advantage of its palatial venue of Alsisar Mahal, Rajasthan. Photo: Carys Lavin

Festivities at Magnetic Fields, the boutique music festival held in the middle of the desert in Rajasthan, are in full swing despite a string of last minute cancellations. The 4,000-odd attendees at the festival woke up on Saturday to the news that British acid-jazz/garage producer Kamaal Williams, one of the headliners, would not be performing at the festival. Glaswegian house music producer Denis Sulta and dance-pop exponent Nabihah Iqbal were also not able to make it to the festival. Disappointing as the cancellations were, they didn’t stop the crowd from dancing till the early hours of the morning at the beautiful and majestic Alsisar Mahal.

The day started with a couple of DJ sets at the Renault Desert Oasis, set in the sand right in the middle of the festival campsite. As the sun set, the action shifted to the Palace, with a diverse lineup of live bands at the Budx South Stage. A particular highlight was the Natural Selection set, a collaboration between classical pianist Sahil Vasudeva and electronica producer Gaurav Malaker. Specially commissioned for the festival, the two fused Western classical melodies and high-bpm dance music with accomplished ease. The other highlight of the night was the two back to back sets by Delhi indie rock band Peter Cat Recording Co at the tastefully designed Peacock Club stage. Titled The Last Night On Earth With Peter Cat Recording Co, the noir-inspired club provided the perfect setting for the band’s melancholic blend of jazz, gypsy music, and alternative rock.

For those wanting to take a break from the music, there was Magnetic Words, an afternoon of story-telling sessions by people from various fields, including scriptwriter Mayank Tiwari and St.Art founder Hanif Kureshi. A small group of enthusiastic treasure hunters could also be seen trading for radio components in a bid to win the World War II themed treasure hunt designed by science historian Rohit Gupta, who goes by the moniker Compasswallah.

Sunday morning started with a five hour set by the BassFoundation Roots Soundsystem, getting the crowd - dressed in typical Burning Man/Coachella attire as well as, in one case, Mario cosplay - warmed up for what promises to be an impressive night of cutting edge dance music with sets by Canadian composer Daphni and Belfast electronica duo Bicep. In the glut of music festivals that happen in India during the winter season, Magnetic Fields continues to stand out by providing an experience like no other.

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