~ Unlike any other at Mumbai’s Bayview Lawns, the festival saw over 3500 people headbanging and grooving to this iconic rock affair.

Amidst gritty, loud beats, over 3,500 Mumbaikars witnessed India’s biggest and most legendary rock festival transform Bayview Lawns into a haven of rock. The 29th edition of the Mahindra Independence Rock (Mahindra I-Rock) celebrated the genre unapologetically with 14 thundering acts spanning over two days, on the 4th and 5th of November, 2023. The festival’s mastermind, Farhad Wadia, himself joined the fray after almost a decade, making this rock revelry undeniably historic.

Mahindra I-Rock’s return last year was one for the ages. The movement, started by Farhad Wadia in the 80s, broke its nine years of hiatus and rumbled back to life for a legendary comeback and reclaim its legacy as India’s oldest, largest and loudest rock festival. It was given a new lease of life for its 28th edition last year by Wadia alongside Hyperlink Brand Solutions, with Mahindra as the Title Partner. In its 29th edition this year, this rock movement still endures grander than ever, not only in India’s diverse soundscape but also beyond its borders.

The attendees were in for an exciting surprise when I-Rock alumni Parikrama took the stage with the genius behind I-Rock, Farhad Wadia himself, and jammed together. Their incredible performance, punctuated with mind-blowing guitar riffs and thumping drums, unleashed a spectacle that brought the house down. Wadia returning to the I-Rock stage made the 29th year of celebrating rock iconic. The energy was palpable. The atmosphere was charged, and emotions ran at an all-time high. The love for the genre swept the audience, as well as the artists, uniting them in a surreal spirit of rock — truly an experience for a lifetime.

Not only that, but the festival also witnessed another I-Rock alumni, Bhayanak Maut return to the legendary stage that started it all, for a sensational act with Uday Benegal of Indus CreedBenegal also fired up the stage with Parikrama alongside special guests like Suraj Jagan, Vernon Ibrahim, Girish Pradhan (of Girish and the Chronicles), and 11-year-old child prodigy Megan Rakesh. In fact, in the true spirit of its homecoming, Parikrama released their brand new single, Demons of Time, during its performance, as well as revealed the artwork of their first-ever vinyl, which was recorded live the previous year during Mahindra I-Rock 2022. The band closed with a high-energy set, undoubtedly an ode to the last three decades of the Indian rock scene.

Mr Farhad Wadia, Founder of Independence Rock, said, “When we started I-Rock back in 1986, we had not imagined that it would grow into a massive movement significantly shaping India’s rock scene. But it has, and how! And especially this year, more than any other. The festival has remained true to its roots while also evolving to stay relevant to the country’s tastes by bringing a sound that is fresh yet steeped very much in the cultures and subcultures of various Indian regions. I was nostalgic to be back and be a part of its 29th year of rocking the bay! I am happy that this is yet another successful chapter in the history of Mahindra I-Rock, and can’t wait for an encore!”

As tradition would have it, the festival, hosted by Rohit Pereira, was opened by the winners of this year’s online band hunt (a segment that has previously nurtured several aspiring rock acts), Nemophilis. Their performance tore up the stage and set the momentum for the powerhouse performances that were to follow both days. This year, Mahindra I-Rock saw the debut of bands like Pineapple Express, Girish & the Chronicles, and, for the first time ever from beyond Indian borders, Kathmandu-based Underside. In an epic jam session, the audience saw Underside headbanging with metal maestros Dethnagar and JimmyBhore. Meanwhile, on the second day, Swarathma, T.ill APES, Tough on Tobacco ft Bombay Brass, Agam, and Mama Tips & The Mama’s Bois made their maiden appearance on the stage.

This incredible line-up of veteran Gen X and new-age acts, along with the authentic 80s hard rock beats and the sounds of mridangam, tabla, and flutes from Indian folk and classical Carnatic music, wove a common thread between diverse rock subgenres and generations. And with Mahindra I-Rock embracing the blend of traditional Indian sounds and Western formats, the festival continues to be one of the first multilingual rock festivals in India, with lyrics reverberating in 5 languages, including English, Hindi, Kannada, Sanskrit & Malayalam based compositions

Additionally, part of the line-up were The Beatz Crew (from Kanakia International School) & Nanhi Kali Chorale Ensemble, who collaborated for a spectacular performance titled “Schools of Rock Ft. The Beatz Crew x Nanhi Kali Project”. The Nanhi Kali Chorale Ensemble included girls who are part of Anand Mahindra’s Nanhi Kali Project, which empowers disadvantaged girls with education. Their performance was part of ‘The School of Rock’ initiative to expose underprivileged children to rock music.

Mr Jay Shah, Vice President – Cultural Outreach, Mahindra Group, mentioned, “We are delighted that the Mahindra Season of Festivals 23-24 commenced with the thundering Mahindra Independence Rock! The festival wholly represents Mahindra’s commitment to not only support relevant and meaningful art that connects with Indians but also encourage new and young talent. We are glad that this edition of Mahindra I-Rock has carved a deeper space in our dynamic music scene and continues to nurture a love for the genre amongst a new generation of audiences.”

Mr VG Jairam – Founder of Hyperlink Brand Solutions, added, “Stories, art and culture have the power of creating spaces where we discover that despite being strangers, we are not alone. And Hyperlink has always endeavoured to build and bring immersive experiences that help audiences connect to such stories and art that not only resonate with them but also bring them a sense of identity and belonging. Mahindra I-Rock is one such story that has connected numerous people in celebration of a single genre. Standing testament to this is 3500 plus attendees who have flocked to the venue across the festival. I am glad of this edition’s success and look forward to many more such successful editions in future.”

The festival’s past has been one of defiance — its origin story starts with subverting the status quo without hesitation. And eventually, it served as a channel to express freedom, inclusivity and equality for the youth of this country. Its 29th edition sought to tread the same path, playing a crucial role in preserving India’s rock culture as it saw the city’s rock-and-rollers headbang and mosh to the music uninhibitedly — it remains a sanctuary where rock music lovers can be their true, unapologetic selves.

The event also offered a delectable culinary experience, featuring esteemed food partners such as Stacks and Racks, Blue Tokai Coffee, APCS, Hundo Pizza, Rockers Refugee, Carlsberg, Pratapjees, Sage & Olio, and Jimi’s Burger, alongside the refreshing addition of Tuborg Ice. Furthermore, in the pursuit to achieve a comprehensive waste management solution for the event, the Mahindra I-Rock festival partnered with Skrap – an environmental sustainability firm that helps businesses and brands adopt sustainable practices and zero waste solutions.