No matter what a festival looks like how it feels is far more important- Nikhil Chinapa

Among the earliest crop of VJs in India that shot to instant fame in the 90’s with the popular show MTV Select, Nikhil Chinapa is a one-man-band that plays many tunes. The Vj turned Dj turned festival curator shaped India’s iconic music festival Sunburn back in 2007 and was instrumental in bringing knockout DJs like Swedish House Mafia, Tiesto and Hardwell to India. The 42 year old is currently curating Supersonic along with wife DJ Pearl and claims to be “blowing with the wind”. Ahead we snatch a few moments with him for an exclusive and very candid chat.


What is the scope of work you do?

I have been a part of MTV for 19 years so I inadvertently end up doing some work on television like I’m doing now for MTV Roadies. But most of the work I do happens to be in the live events industry, more specifically music festivals and music events particularly in the electronic dance music space.

You were among the few people who made VJ-ing aspirational for Indian youth and then you went on to revolutionize the music festival scene in India. Where does your heart truly belong?

I enjoy DJ-ing the most because it allows you to connect with the music and the fan in a very intimate way. Although I love putting the large festivals together I however enjoy smaller clubs and spaces when DJ-ing as compared to larger venues.

When did you decide to start DJ-ing?

I have never planned for anything in my life and I don’t wish to start now. Its just a happy journey and I’m just going whichever way the wind blows and so far its been a lot of fun.

How much of what you’ve been able to build has been inspired by the international festival scene?

When I built the first festival (Sunburn) in 2007 I built it purely from imagination, I had never been to an international music festival back then although I and my wife Pearl had been clubbing a lot abroad. So we built it in a way that we thought a festival should be. And we still rely on that vibe rather than bringing in ideas that exist in other festivals, because what works abroad may not necessarily work in India. At the end of the day no matter what a festival looks like how it feels is far more important.

Where does India stand in the global music festival scene today?

In terms of festival experiences I think we’re well up there among the best in the world. In terms of the number of people attending festivals right now we’ve barely touched the tip of the iceberg.

What is that one thing you love doing when you’re not working?

I love scuba diving. It’s my happy place to be underwater and I try to getaway to dive in the Maldives the slightest chance that I get.

If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?

I would have loved to learn a musical instrument, perhaps a piano or the guitar, when I was younger.

What has been your greatest achievement?

I think getting Pearl to say ‘Yes’ to marry me.

Your favourite event agency to work with?

There are a few of them. I love working with Phase 1, I think those guys are very professional. Fountainhead is exceptional with the work they do as is 70EMG and Wizcraft. Fountainhead probably tops this list purely because I share some good memories with them of those early days of throwing parties and radicalizing the music scene.

Agencies that always pay on time?

Submerge and Viacom. Not necessarily in that order.

Your pet peeve?

People that stand in doorways or corridors and block your way.

Isn’t there conflict between you and wife DJ Pearl since you work so closely together?

We disagree on many things but to be honest I always aspire to be more like her because she is far more intelligent, her vision is much clearer and she is truer to what she wants to be as an artist and a DJ than I am. I’m a little bit kamikaze. After a couple of shots, I’ll admit things can get a little bit hazy. With Pearl there’s never a moment when she isn’t laser focused.

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