India-wide release, 28th October 2023: The stage and the mosh pits of Mumbai’s Bayview Lawns are ready to be ignited once again with the return of India’s biggest rock festival – the Mahindra Independence Rock (Mahindra I-Rock) after its epic comeback post a nine-year hiatus last year. True to its tradition, this year, too, the iconic festival presented a country-wide online band hunt, Tomorrow’s Headliners. The winning band, Nemophilis, selected by an esteemed panel of judges, will kick off the 29th edition of Mahindra I-Rock with their power-packed opening act.
In almost three decades and across 28 editions, Mahindra I-Rock still remains the ultimate test for underground rock talents seeking national and international recognition, where new, raw talents compete to share the stage with veteran rock bands. Numerous lucky emerging acts like Demonic Resurrection, Motherjane, Parikrama, Bhayanak Maut, Indus Creed, Agnee, Zero and Pentagram (to which Vishal Dadlani belongs) have walked onto the I-Rock stage as aspirants, eventually rising to fame, their guitar riffs and choruses becoming anthems for generations and even returning to their alma mater as part of the line-up. This has been the festival’s unique legacy since its inception in 1986. And Mahindra I-Rock carried forward this legacy in its 29th edition this year through Tomorrow’s Headliners, which gave a new generation of artists the chance to follow in the footsteps of these legends.
The digital band hunt saw more than 100 aspiring rock acts from across multiple cities across the length and breadth of the country, including New Delhi, Lucknow and Shillong in the north and north-east, Pune in the west, Kolkata in the east and Bangalore and Chennai in the south, to name a few. These acts went head-to-head to clinch a spot in the finals. From amongst them, the top 3 moved to the final round to battle it out for the coveted win, from which Nemophilis was selected as the Band Hunt Winner and the opening act for this year’s edition.
While talking about the band hunt, Mr VG Jairam – Founder of Hyperlink Brand Solutions, said, “I was happy to see an enthusiastic response from a fresh new wave of rock bands for this year’s edition. The festival has always been about more than just music. It has not only witnessed but also played an intrinsic role in the evolution of rock music in India by identifying, empowering and nurturing local rock talent, who have, in turn, become an essential part of the enduring I-Rock legacy.”
I-Rock began largely as a covers festival. However, the festival’s eagerness to uncover and give new talent a chance to take the stage increasingly saw original rock music that isn’t English-heavy but having distinct layers of Indian musical sensibilities. This marked a profound evolution in the Indian rock landscape, where musicians proved the genre truly transcends languages and geographies by blending diverse sounds of tabla, mridangam, flute, violin, and many other instruments for a crowd that was raging, headbanging nevertheless.
Mr VG Jairam further added, “I believe we couldn’t have had a more perfect jury. They are individuals who were once on the other side, aspiring to debut on the I-Rock stage, and I believe this perspective enabled them to truly recognise their talent and pick a deserving winner.”
The panel of judges was made of I-Rock alumni and notable names who have shaped India’s rock soundscape: Subir Malik (a stalwart in the Indian rock scene and the backbone of the band Parikrama which is an I-Rock alumni and a living testament of the festival’s legacy) and Sahil Makhija, aka, Demonstealer (the face of Demonic Resurrection, another band discovered on the I-Rock stage which has pushed the boundaries and redefined the metal genre in the country). The jury represented the past, present and future of rock and metal in India. Their legacies are inspiring generations, and their immense wealth of experience offered them a unique lens to handpick the next-gen rockstars.
The festival, in its first year, witnessed around 40 to 60 entries, and over the decades, it has seen a consistent growth in the number of participating bands. Mahindra I-Rock 2022’s band hunt saw more than 100 bands, while this year’s edition also saw over 100 bands competing for the win. This is testament to the fact that there is no dearth of rock talent in the country, and that the rock movement of the 80s and 90s is alive and thriving.
Akarsh Singh (Drummer – Nemophilis) said, “We’ve grown up hearing about I-Rock and listening to indie rock bands who have been a part of its iconic stage. So, we are super excited to perform on the same stage as our favourite rock legends by being the opening act of the evening. It has given us the opportunity to be a part of the festival’s rich legacy, and I think that is very cool. I am glad that winning the contest made this happen! Also, the release of our album “The Iceberg” is closely coinciding with our show in I-Rock so we could not be happier and more excited to play these songs live for the first time with our new I-Rock family.”
As winners of this year’s edition, Nemophilis will get the golden opportunity to perform alongside Mahindra I-Rock’s phenomenal line-up of 10 exceptionally talented rock bands, including cult bands like Parikrama and Bhayanak Maut, besides T.ill APES, Girish and the Chronicles, Swarathma as well as Kathmandu-based Underside, making it a rich celebration of rock as a genre with diverse flavours of sounds from India and beyond.