Best in the Fest: Musicians playing at Indian college festivals

Updated: Jul 8, 2019

College Fests are a significant part of the whole college experience. And these fests are incomplete without a thrilling concert on stage. From sports fields to tour buses, several independent, signed, and Bollywood artists have toured Indian colleges.

Here are five significant artists that are a popular sight at most of the top Indian college festivals in 2019. Many college fests take place over the course of two or four nights. The usual pattern is a rock band or a DJ turning up the heat the first few days, while playback singers from the Hindi film industry take over the final days.

1. ZAEDEN - Electronic Dance Music (EDM)

Gurgaon born DJ Zaeden is a popular pick having performed at many colleges in Delhi University and other institutes. Zaeden’s set usually features his originals like ‘Never Let You Go’ along with dance covers of Coldplay and Maroon 5 songs.

Nucleya photographed by Nishant Matta

As a college goer if remixes of mainstream Hindi film music aka Bollywood are your thing , then DJ Chetas and NYK to a lesser extent should be your choice. Chetas’ rise is remarkable as his work might seem pretty mediocre in the face of new-age DJs like Ritviz and Mojo Jojo. Still, Chetas knows how to market himself. His career took off with making themed mashups of Bollywood songs that were featured on the 9X TV network; soon his mashups and remixes made their way to the Indian college music festival space, boosting his popularity.

Still, the most original music producer is arguably Nucleya. With hardly any remixes, he cuts straight to the chase whipping out classic trance tracks like ‘Bass Rani’ and ‘Laung Gavacha’. Occasionally, when colleges have the funds, they even rustle up foreign DJs to add star value. For instance, Quintino on his Indian tour leg managed to perform his sets at IIT Kanpur and BITS Goa last year. In Delhi’s Sri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC) it was rumoured that this year, the mask-wearing DJ Marshmello or Alan Walker (another DJ who likes covering his face) would headline their fest. But these were just rumours as in the end, it was DJ Chetas who performed!

2. Prateek Kuhad - Acoustic

Prateek Kuhad performing at Reverie, the annual festival of Gargi College. (Photography by Surbhit Rastogi for DU Beat)

When it comes to light acoustic vibes, Prateek Kuhad is probably the top pick. Performing as a three-piece band, he smoothly sings and plays his guitar while the audiences just swoon. A critically acclaimed songwriter, his track list has both English and Hindi songs, usually with themes of love and life. With most of his followers being millennials, it’s only apt for the ‘Cold Mess’ singer to be a sensation at college fests.

3. The Local Train - Rock

The Local Train's frontman Raman Negi photographed by Aakarsh Gupta for DU Beat

But when it comes to rock, there’s an even bigger force to be reckoned with - The Local Train. The Chandigarh natives started out with their first record ‘Aalas ka Pedh’, an instant hit amongst a modest fanbase. Two albums old, they are touring all over the country performing at nearly every Hard Rock Café and almost every college fest. Churning out songs that are a mix of Hindi and Urdu, their tracks like ‘Khudi’ and ‘Aaoge Tum Kabhi’ deal with various themes like following your dreams and waiting for a lover. Astonishingly most attendees at The Local Train gigs can sing back the lyrics to mostly their entire setlist!

4. Diljeet Dosanjh - Film music

This is where the fest gets fully mainstream. Bollywood artists usually have many singles from film’s soundtracks, which make for popular music content for the fest audiences.

Diljit Dosanjh performing at IIT Delhi's Rendezvous (Photograph by Nishant Matta)

Then there are popular Punjabi artists too in fest line-ups like Diljit Dosanjh and Guru Randhawa. They sing originals as well as songs featured in films. While the backing musicians and the singers’ bravado gets the crowds jumping, most people don’t consider these real performances. A case in point is Diljit’s concert at Rendezvous (the annual fest of IIT Delhi), where many fans realised the singer was lip-syncing for most of his songs. Apparently, he has done it before too.

5. Amit Trivedi - Pop/Rock

Amit Trivedi from a BITS Pilani event. (Photograph by Vegh Daswani)

Then there are a few other artists who manage to perform a varied set of both film and independent content. Farhan Akhtar assisted by his band Farhan Live!, starts off his fest shows with songs from his popular films, Rock On and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, while adding in ballads from albums of his own. Assamese Bollywood singer Papon (who recently performed at Hindu College on top of a Red Bull tour bus) also manages to play a few non-film tunes.

Amit Trivedi has also sung his MTV Coke Studio songs for many a college fest.

On a side note, Amit Trivedi’s concerts are truly a team effort. He not only introduces all his background singers and musicians to the audience but sometimes gives them the stage to perform their solo pieces.

Shaurya Singh Thapa