The Mahindra Blues Festival was in its 6th Edition. And while not many people look at music festivals as bringing in foreign investment, for a country on the verge of a lucrative overhaul, festivals like MBF play a large role in the overall growth of the country’s economy and in inviting foreign investors into the country, both indirectly and directly.

India is a land of more than a billion people. When one tags something as niche, the good part about it is that in India ‘niche’ is still a very large number. Urban India definitely has a generation of globally exposed people who live here and this large number of niche citizens are looking for a more universal lifestyle. Having said that, we know for a fact that international music probably consists of approximately 1% of the listenership in India. Subsequently, we at Oranjuice, being this clever bunch of people, decided to focus on the smallest niche within that 1%. And we realized, the Blues is not a genre a lot of people get to hear. It’s a great art and music form and every genre of music has its roots in the Blues. We love music that is simple and the Blues is essentially almost the lowest common denominator in music. So why not do a festival in that area! And thus, the Mahindra Blues Festival (MBF) crescendoed to life! Of course, not a note in its history would have been written without the unparalleled support of the Mahindra Group. So MBF is a truly product of part passion, part need.


MBF just completed its 6th Edition in February this year. There are a large number of people, erudite music listeners, who come to India for MBF and some have been attending the festival since its inception. They travel the world for music festivals and they repeatedly tell us, in no uncertain terms, that our organization, the look, the feel, is on par with the best globally. I think this has happened because we listen to the feedback we get from people. Over the years the festival has differentiated itself from every previous year by improving on criticism we’ve received from the prior one. A certain complaint or any suggestion has always been incorporated toward improvement. Every time someone scolds us, we make a note of it, and then we make that change. We are really proud of the product we are because you can compare it to the best out there. This year 2016, the festival was little more design oriented. We gave MBF a certain, fancier, better-designed look. There was an evident premiumness and style that got attached to the 6th Edition. MBF is also in celebration mode this year due to a number of reasons. Firstly, we took MBF to the heart of the Blues. The festival went to Chicago this year! We also established ourselves as the largest online blues community in the world. Thirdly, there are stories that we are currently one of the biggest Blues festivals in Asia. It took us six years to get to this point and today we are actually being recognized as the biggest Blues festival outside the US!


Some of the biggest names in the blues industry perform at and come for MBF. So what is it that attracts foreign talent to our shores? Well, firstly they wouldn’t come without the money. So let’s just tick mark that box. That said, we have a simple policy at Oranjuice – A happy artist gives you a good show! So we try to keep our artists happy. We must be doing something right because we have been fortunate enough that when a lot of our artists have returned to their hometowns after the festival, they have given us great reviews and have recommended MBF to all the friends in their circuit as a must visit, must play at platform. Exotic India is a big sell as well. The worldview of our country for a lot of these bands revolves around National Geographic. They expect elephants and tree houses and are pleasantly astounded when they arrive. But while exotic India is always a big sell, it’s not what keeps them coming back for more, as all they see is the airport, then the studio, and our infamous traffic! We do take them into our smaller quintessentially quaint villages in and around Bandra and our diversity of areas fascinates them.


Another factor that entices and appeals to foreign artists is our audience. They are always shocked at that. Some of them get really emotional about this. We had this band Derek Trucks, who couldn’t believe their music had actually reached this far. Our hospitality is another big takeaway for them. Some of them have never seen five star hotels like we have in our country or service like ours. They are just completely blown away. We’ve had instances where they’ve told us, they don’t want to leave, because going back home means having to get back on that bus and traverse their country. And that is the life they lead. Plenty of artists are really happy to have been here and recommend the festival to others in the Blues community. So much so, we get a host of calls from artists offering their services! Our foreign artists are our biggest advocates. It is why we have grown.


Not many people look at music festivals as bringing in foreign investment. But for a country on the verge of a lucrative overhaul, music festivals play a large role in the overall growth of the country’s economy and in inviting foreign investors into the country, both indirectly and directly. There is one definite focus on international money coming into India, as far as the economics of the country is concerned. One of our big pushes is of course Make In India. The international partners we want to attract want to see India as a global nation. They want to see us as progressive. One of our biggest selling points that we’ve always had over China is that we speak the language of English. Our cultural festivals, our music that is so international in all the scenes that are happening here, it displays to the world that we are a globally ready country, with global citizens, and global urban centres. I live in Bandra, Mumbai and I know a lot of expats who live in my building who have attended MBF and were shocked that while they have chased these artists abroad, they ultimately got the opportunity to listen to them here in India, in our backyard. Suddenly they begin to look at India very differently. They look at India as part of the global community and not just one foreign nation. Music festivals like MBF make it easier. We can become closer friends with them through entertainment and economics can definitely spin off from there. This is the indirect way.


There are a lot of direct crossovers as well where the music industry is concerned. Primarily this is because we are the youngest country in the world, with such a large market force. People all over the world are looking at us as a great market place. In the Asian region, we are the only country with this number that also speaks English. We are seen as a target market for the music industry worldwide. I remember, when Rupert Murdock launched STAR in India, he remarked that 20 years from now, the entire film and music industry is going to be making stuff that you guys want to hear. You are geographically going to be THE target market. We see crossovers in music, film, TV, all happening right now.


To explain this better, we need to understand the Third Generation Optimum Theory. Take Ricky Martin for example. In South America, the population reached its optimum in the third generation. The first generation that leaves the country to find a new land and new dreams only wants to embrace their new country. The second generation wants to have no connection with their motherland. But the third generation… They want to find some connect. But they want to find this connect in the version that they know. So they took Ricky Martin, polished him up into an American artist, and they gave him to the public. He became a huge Latin American world star. In the same way, the Indian population worldwide is becoming third generation optimum. We want our roots, but we want it packaged in the way that suits our ideal. We want Priyanka Chopra in the ‘Quantico’ package or Deepika Padukone packaged as Serena in 'xXx: The Return of Xander Cage' or our disc jockeys playing Indian-flavoured EDM. The money is going to be here!     

Box Item
Mahindra Blues Festival Firsts

  1. 1st Blues festival in India
  2. 1st homegrown festival to be exported out of India. No other non-cultural, non-government music festival started in India has gone abroad, and that too to the heart of the Blues - Chicago.
  3. Largest blues community in the world.
  4. 1st Blues Band Hunt in the country
  5. 1st Music Festival in Mehboob Studio.
  6. 1st and only International Music Festival to be hosted in the Queen of Mumbai’s Suburbs – Bandra!

Mahindra blues

Owen Roncon is a man who possesses something rare in an industry riddled with stress and the continuous dealing of egos – he is a man with an amazing sense of humour, a ready smile, and the ability to make everyone in a room laugh. As director of Oranjuice Entertainment - India’s premier brand solutions and music entertainment company; his razor sharp mind has created and curated music events that one can only liken to a magnum opus.

The ideas or opinions expressed in the articles are solely of the author. Any article written by an author will be given due credits wherever necessary. We do not take any responsibility for the ideas expressed in the articles.

© Copyright 2015-16. All rights reserved.