Read the story of how Nikhil Chinapa persuaded Eric Prydz to come to India

Eric Prydz

While a man like Eric Prydz needs no introduction, it is no secret that Eric hates long flights and that fear has kept him from playing at some major festivals at times. Eric would drive down to different countries to avoid long flights. He cancelled shows in Australia and New Zealand in 2008 after not being able to board a plane to Australia. As a result, the possibility of Eric Prydz performing in India looked very unlikely.

Nikhil Chinapa, one of the most passionate individuals this country has seen in multiple aspects, was on a mission to get Eric Prydz to India. Nikhil Chinapa is the man behind getting some huge artists to play in India and the brainchild behind Vh1 Supersonic. It took over a decade of abortive attempts to finally convince Prydz and his management to play in India.

Nikhil Chinapa, along with his friends traveled to Ibiza, Tomorrowland, Ultra, Stereosonic, Creamfields, Global Gathering and so many other events to help persuade Eric Prydz to come to India. They expressed to him how far along the Indian dance music scene has come and that there are some huge fans in India. After many years of trying to lure him to India, they finally convinced Prydz to come to India. This will be Eric Prydz’ first ever festival in India and we are not sure if it will happen again. DO NOT MISS!!

Read the inspiring story here.

The first time I heard the name Eric Prydz, it was off a record Pearl was playing at the time. That record was “Diamond Girl” and this was 2003.

Back then, whenever we couldn’t travel to buy our records, we listened to the music, on an absurdly slow internet connection, and ordered them online. The vinyls took a few weeks to arrive – and if we were lucky, they survived the journey unscathed. You can imagine just how prized each vinyl was because of this.

Pearl and I played completely different styles of music back then.

We would test these vinyls soon as they arrived and get immersed in the process, with records scattered all across the living room usually. One day, Pearl was testing a new batch of vinyl that had just arrived and she played a track that sounded very different from everything else. I asked her what it was, telling her, “it’ll never work” and Pearl just smiled. She still gives me that smile whenever I act a bit clueless.

A few weeks later, she was playing at Smirnoff Experience – a massive gig at Kamala Mills that Sasha was headlining. Pearl came on after Sasha and settled into her gritty, driving sound that had slowly become characteristic of her sets. The dancefloor settled into a heaving sweaty mess, heads down, arms working and feet moving rhythmically. Midway through her set, she dropped a tune and I remember that moment vividly. Whatever was unleashed through the speakers sent a huge surge of energy through the floor. The entire dancefloor picked their heads up and moved their feet harder. It was the kind of track that “changes gears” during a set. Curious about this incredible track, I jogged up to the console to ask her what it was.

She pulled off her headphones, looked me in the eye and gave me that smile again. “It’s the one you said wouldn’t work.” Then she lightly touched my hand and turned back to her record bag. She does that hand-touching thing when I’ve acted like an idiot, I know I’ve been an idiot – and she doesn’t want me to feel too bad about it. For the record, it happens a lot – me being an idiot.

The track? It was Pryda – Aftermath. Go listen to it and you’ll understand. After that came RYMD and Armed – two sides of the same record and both, melodic monsters. No better way to put it.

The next year brought Eric Prydz’s mix of Paulo Mojo – 1983 and it’s safe to say that every single DJ in the world worth their salt was either playing this tune or losing their marbles to it on a dancefloor when some other DJ played it. There’s a great video on Youtube, of Pearl playing it during our Submerge Beach Festival at Zanzibar in Goa in 2007 and all of us going nuts in the sand.

By now, everyone in the world had heard of this amazing DJ called Prydz, and everyone also gradually learnt that he really didn’t like planes and flying.

2007 was also the year I set out to build a new festival in Goa. Hermit, Pearl and I at Submerge had already been building a blueprint for such festivals through our annual Zanzibar events, which by now were drawing 15,000 people to Baga beach over the 5 days between Christmas and New Year’s.

I named this new festival “Sunburn” and went about booking talent for it. One of the acts I booked for its first edition was a trio you’ve probably heard of called “Above & Beyond”. A&B’s booking agent was a really nice guy called Simon Clarkson, whom I met in London later that year to discuss details about their gig in Goa. India was still an unknown space for DJs to work in and some of those early conversations I had with agents, involved considerable convincing and cajoling …and the explaining of local conditions.

Simon also happened to be the booking agent of an artist I was very keen to book, but I knew I probably wouldn’t be able to – Eric Prydz. We all knew Eric didn’t like to fly but Simon dropped an amazing bit of information. Eric had managed to slowly conquer his fears and was beginning to take some flights now. A tour of America was imminent and I told Simon, that when the time was right, I’d love to bring him across to India. I left it that that.

However, 2008 brought some bad news. Eric’s fears of flying had returned. He had tried to board a flight to Australia but was unable to. Seven dates in Australia and New Zealand were cancelled. When we heard that news in India, we muttered our groans and shrugged our shoulders. We now knew that Eric coming to India was going to remain a long, long shot.

In 2010 or 2011, if my memory serves me right, I travelled to Ibiza – in an effort to book another DJ for India. On that trip, I went to hear Prydz, who had just announced his residency on the island. He was playing the terrace at Amnesia, with Chase and Status in the other room. It was the first time I’d heard him play and saying that I was blown away is an understatement! It was a phenomenal night, both musically and visually.

A couple of years passed with me listening to more of his music in Pearl’s sets back home (Europa was a favorite then). People had also begun to recognize another avatar of Eric’s … Cirez D. Pearl introduced me to Mokba and what a monster tune it was! The buzz across the world was that this was an act that wasn’t to be missed. A few years later, I traveled to Tomorrowland to check the festival out and to have my usual meetings. Eric was playing at the festival that year.

The DJ playing before Eric was AN21 and he and his manager, Ozgur, had become friends after they’d come and played for me the previous year. I went backstage to say hello to them and Ozgur grabbed me in a bear hug and yelled “come and have some shots”. We crawled unseen behind the DJ console and Ozgur poured out a bunch of Jager shots. He handed one to AN21, gave me one and handed one to someone who had crawled in beside me. It was Eric Prydz.

If you were ever wondering what the definition of surreal was – that was it. Having shots with Eric Prydz under the console right before his set. I stayed behind that console as Eric started his set and I couldn’t see the dance floor from where I was crouched – but when he dropped his opening track, I heard them.

The track was his new edit of Personal Jesus and the roar that went up from the floor made my hair stand on end. My buddy Nawed Khan was on the floor when it dropped and he said he’s never seen or heard anything like it. Till today, that set remains one of my favourite sets of Eric’s.

Backstage at Tomorrowland was the first time I spoke to Eric about India, what we’d been doing here and how many fans he had across the country. Like so many other DJs I’d spoken to over the years, Eric was also surprised that people in India listened to his music and knew who he was.

Somewhere along the way Eric switched agents and was now being looked after by Cris Hearn – a senior agent from the UK. Every once in a while I’d ping Cris about Eric and he’d humour me (bless him) – but we both knew it wasn’t going to happen. India was too far away and the flights were too daunting.

Then came the A380. Airbus’ new flying behemoth was so large that their 1st class suites could accommodate a double bed and a shower. Most importantly, flying in one of them didn’t make you feel like you were in a plane at all. They called these suites (and rightly too) – the “apartments”. Eric felt comfortable enough in one of these to fly more often. Fans of Eric in India smiled at this news but shrugged and said “these planes will never come to India man.”

But a remarkable thing happened – the A380’s started to fly into India! I still remember being bombarded with messages from Prydz fans the day Emirates announced their flights to India, saying “Look! He can come to India now!”. It wasn’t going to be as easy as that though. I spoke to Cris and he said it was still a long way to come and taking flights was still quite difficult.

Sigh. Move on.

As luck would have it, around this same time (around 3 years ago), Pearl was offered a slot to play at “Global Gathering” – a large UK festival at an abandoned airfield outside Startford-Upon-Avon. The stage was the Essential Mix stage and the headlining artist of her stage – Eric Prydz. After Eric’s set, we met him backstage and both Pearl and I spoke to him again about the legions of fans he had in India (That’s the picture at the top of this note, with our dearest friend and business partner Hermit Sethi). Eric also remembered meeting me backstage at Tomorrowland and introduced us to his manager Michael Sershall. Pearl and I told Michael about the scene in India, how far we’d come as a scene, Eric’s fans here, and how we’d love to see him playing here someday. Michael said, “Send me an email. I’ll be happy to see if we can make it work someday.”

I never sent that mail.

I hadn’t given up, but another piece of the puzzle – Vh1 Supersonic – wasn’t in my life as yet – and without a concrete plan and offer, I didn’t see the point of sending that email. Michael’s a really nice guy and he was just being nice to us – this couple from India, fan-girling over Prydz as people generally do across the world. I did however keep pestering Cris and bless him, he never said “No” outright, he just kept humouring me. We both knew in our hearts that a miracle would be needed for this to happen. Eric was very much in demand globally and India was still too far away and still too hard a flight to take.

I resigned myself to catching Eric’s sets across the world – at EDC Las Vegas last year, where I again spoke to him backstage, Ultra Music Festival this year (we had another quick chat about India outside his trailer) and more recently at Tomorrowland playing B2B with the Mau5 – where again we met and spoke about India before he started his set.

Then out of the blue, the universe started making a miracle.

The new head of Viacom’s live business – Saugato Bhowmick had taken the decision to relocate our festival Vh1 Supersonic to Pune and as I periodically do, I reached out to Cris to see if Eric was an option. This time, instead of brushing me off, he said, “lets talk.”

Wait, what?!

Eric was planning an Australia tour and it happened to be around the new dates of our festival. India was still very far away, but all the chats I’d been having with Eric and Cris over the years, may have finally started to lead to something.

The situation still was very complicated and needed a ton of planning before things would actually start to take shape. Saugato, Sameet Sharma, Ishaan Ahluwalia and I – all a part of our SuperCrew from Vh1 Supersonic, went to work putting a comprehensive plan together and let me be frank about this – no matter how dogged I was about bringing Prydz to India, this would not have happened in a million years if it wasn’t for the team at Viacom 18 getting behind the idea and putting all the pieces together to make it work. It’s also important to acknowledge that Supersonic wouldn’t have got to where it is today, without the unstinting support of Starlight (Shailesh Shetty, Ashwin Raikar, Sandeep K. Raju, Uday Singh and Raghav Holla)– our friends and festival partners from Goa.
The next few weeks were filled with endless conversations, discussions and negotiations with Eric’s team. Plans were made, modified, bounced around, rejected, re-edited, tweaked … it seemed like a never-ending process. I’ve lost track of the number of phone calls I made or emails we wrote, working on every tiny aspect of putting this plan together.

We presented the plan to Eric’s team and while waiting for news, I flew to Hyderabad to play a gig with my buddy Rohit Barker. He’s my closest friend in the whole world and though my head was buzzing with everything that was going on, I couldn’t tell him what was on my mind. I think he sensed it though.

I landed in Hyderabad and drove to my hotel. I had to record my weekly radio show and when I got to the room, I turned on my laptop and there it was. A mail from Cris telling me we’d managed to get it over the line.
I called Cris to have a chat and when we finished he said – and I remember this clearly – “Mate, I can’t believe this is happening.”

“What, Cris?”

“This. I never thought we could get him to India. I can’t believe we’ve actually done it.”

He then started to laugh; I tried, but I couldn’t. I was still a little shell-shocked.

The first person I called was Pearl.

I then called Saugato, Sameet and Ishaan and told them.

Prydz was finally coming to India.

From the time I first met Simon Clarkson (Eric’s previous agent) It’s taken us – our little Indian dance music scene – over 10 years to make this happen – 14 years if you count the time when Pearl first started playing his music at a beach shack in Goa – and the greatest joy for us is being able to share his music with friends of ours who could never have traveled to Europe, America or Australia to hear Prydz play. Friends like Basith, who’s heart, body and soul are tuned to Prydz’s music at a cellular level, I kid you not.

I’m really not sure if he’ll ever be back after this trip and I have this to say – wherever you are in India, please make a plan. Figure out a way to get to Pune from wherever you are. There are trains from every major city in India. Overnight buses from Bangalore, Goa, Ahmedabad and Surat… and Mumbai is literally just a jog a way.
Pune is filled with hotels, hostels, AirBnB apartments, OYO rooms – the works. Just figure it out and get there. I honestly have no idea when … and if, this will ever happen again.

Sagar Deshmukh
Follow me!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here