With luxury tent camps, great food, excellent wine and amazing music, SulaFest 2016 proved yet again that it is the best gourmet music festival in India
One of the highlights at the beginning of every year is SulaFest in Nasik, a concert phenomenon that is changing the way India sees music festivals. Stalls sell handmade crafts, sunglasses and party accessories and rub shoulders with tattoo shops and food venues, all while the air is rent with the sound of music.
SulaFest is an enchanting place to be – for first-timers, nothing quite prepares you for the experience of sleeping under the stars, waking up to a vineyard, chilling with an eclectic selection of music through the day and revelling in the arts, fashion and wine all around.
This year was my first experience at glamping – a portmanteau of glamorous camping. Across the world, glamping is quickly turning into the ultimate travel experience by pairing luxury with rusticity. Let’s Camp Out partnered with SulaFest to create a pretty campsite dotting the hills of Nasik.
The luxury tents were equipped with solar lights, comfortable air beds with pillows, hot and cold shower arrangements, port-a-loos and dry toilet tents. There was breakfast and a delicious barbeque each night around a campfire, and a jam up session to keep the music going. With this kind of luxury, there was no excuse to not look your festival best, and the fashion was there for all to see.
This is my third consecutive year at SulaFest, and the gourmet music event is now a must-do in my calendar. The crowds came basking in the glory of the sun to enjoy the work of more than 100 international and national artists across more than 25 genres. We were happy to see Raimund Imo making the crowd go crazy in the amphitheatre. The fan favourite has been a regular on the Goa scene for years.
I was especially impressed by Made In Barcelona, who made their India debut at SulaFest. They are an iconic street band from the artistic Spanish city and have been performing in the same spot at the Barcelona Pier every week for more than 10 years. Made In Barcelona have played at every premier world music festival and have collaborated with musicians including Manu Chao from France, who I am a big fan of.
It was soon sunset, so we headed to the Atmasphere stage where Whosane! and Anastas!a led the evening into dusk. Whosane! is the face of a true party starter in the Indian music scene and is a very versatile musician. His protégé Anastas!a has now gained a reputation for her own outstanding sets and leaves a lasting musical impression no matter what console she’s on. The energy from their sets was almost palatable.
The main stage also saw The Cat Empire from Australia, who have garnered a huge international following with their trademark high-energy live shows. There was also Kailasa, with Kailash Kher at the helm, performing some soul-stirring stuff that incorporated shades of classical Indian, folk and Sufi. Balkan Beat Box, Dub Inc, Success, Delhi 2 Dublin, Reggae Rajahs, Madboy/Mink, Tribal Flora, Rodney Branigan and Aqua Dominatrix held their own throughout the festival.
After a wonderful night of barbeque, jam up and chatting at the glamping grounds, we returned to the festival venue that was just walking distance away to a full itinerary of bands and DJs. We were now a growing group of friends who joined us and those we met along the way throughout the day.
At the Atmasphere stage, Shy-O, another resident of Goa, was excited about his first experience at SulaFest. He did a good job of drawing the crowd to the stage, and setting the ambience for Sashanti, the very popular DJ and brains behind the Soma Project in Siolim which has grown over the years.
Every so often we’d bump into Rajeev Samant, the founder and CEO of Sula Vineyards. Born and raised in Mumbai, and educated in the US, Samant made the risky decision of leaving a cushy life and job in Silicon Valley to backpack around the world and then try his hand at farming on his family’s land in Nasik. Since he established Sula Vineyards in 1999, Nasik has grown to become India’s wine capital and his company is recognised around the world. He is a very outdoor chap and a thoroughly warm host.
Also beaming with pride at this year’s SulaFest was Cecilia Oldne, the vice president of marketing at Sula Vineyards. The trained sommelier represents Sula across the world, and is a girl after my own heart. She effortlessly combines beauty and fashion, and manages the show with a discrete headset to ensure everything runs smoothly.
With favourites on each stage towards the end of the night, decisions were hard to make. The audience audience brimmed with pride and awe at Kailash Kher of Kailasa, this humble yet popular artist from India. The reverberating sounds of lilting music touched my heart strings, as it did so many others. The whole venue was so alive.
But we could not miss Delhi 2 Dublin either, the last act on the main stage. With its Celtic rhymes, I knew it would touch a chord and their collective sounds nailed it. On the Atmasphere stage, Edu Imbernon was headlining with Victoria Burke’s beautiful energy on the djembe. It was a great end to the night, particularly with Soma’s Sashanti on the mic, bringing the crowd together for one of the most magical moments of our weekend of decadence at the best boutique music festival in India.
Sinéad McManus is a premier hospitality and spa columnist, consulting additionally in media and PR, fashion, lifestyle and high-society entertainment. Sinead has lived and worked in Goa for more than a decade. Her passions include health & beauty, travel and fashion. Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.