On December 13, EDM superstar DJ Hardwell returns to India to host a show where he’ll be attempting to break the Guinness World Record for the ‘World's Biggest Guest List’, by inviting 100,000 revellers to attend for free. The Dutch DJ, who has teamed up with Sunburn Festival founder Shailendra Singh to co-produce the event, is playing for free at the Mumbai event, with all profits being donated to help educate impoverished kids in India’s slums.
Dance music is mostly lyric-less, it’s a form of music based on energy & for our 29 states with hundreds of languages, & passionate people, that makes it perfect...For every 1500 rupees/20 Euros that we raise (after costs are covered for the event), we can nurture one child on the journey from childhood to livelihood, for one year,” says Shailendra.
“For the full 10-year journey, i.e. from the age of 8 to 18 years old, that’s 15,000 rupees we need, which will be going towards providing the the tools and empowerment some of the poorest children in India need, to be able to learn and earn a living.”
With the event being audited by global accounting corporation Ernst & Young, significant resources are likely to be channelled towards India’s notoriously over-crowded and impoverished ghettoes, so how aware are people living in these areas about Hardwell, EDM and dance music in general?
“Dance music is mostly lyric-less, it’s a form of music based on energy and for our 29 states with hundreds of languages, and passionate people - that makes it perfect. They might not know who made each particular track, or how high it went on the charts, but Indians love dance music, across all social classes,” he says.
When you pass by there every day, one aspect you’ll quickly notice is that the people living there grab any excuse to celebrate...“One of the amazing things about India, is that everyone is living side by side, in peace,” he continues.
“One of the largest slums in the entire world, Dharavi, is right in the centre of Mumbai city and when you pass by there every day, one aspect you’ll quickly notice is that the people living there grab any excuse to celebrate.
There are dozens of public holidays, office holidays, regional and religious holidays in the Indian year. Then there are weddings and birthdays.
Take a guess what is the most popular song that you will hear at any of these bashes? Animals, by Martin Garrix. No lie. You hear it everywhere,” he laughs.
Skrufff: How did you manage to persuade Hardwell to come and play for free?
Shailendra Singh (Sunburn): “Robbert has toured through India a number of times, with Sunburn. His last performance in Delhi was one of the biggest Sunburn Arenas ever, with 29,000 fans. Through those tours, we’ve gotten to know Robbert and his management, Anna Knaup, and the entire team that runs his shows, very well. Robbert is a totally great guy. He works very hard, and is completely dedicated to his music, his shows, and his fans.
India has given so much love to Hardwell, it might be time to give some back; both to the fans, and to the country itself...I had pitched the World’s Biggest Guest List concept to Anna, explaining that India has given so much love to Hardwell, it might be time to give some back; both to the fans, and to the country itself. From the very beginning of Sunburn, 9 years ago, I have known that dance music has the power to unite, to make a social difference. That time is now. And who better to start the fire, than the world’s number 1 DJ?!
Anna loved the idea, as Hardwell was just launching his own United We Are Foundation. And Hardwell didn’t hesitate for a moment. He was fully on board to offer his Indian fans something completely new – a chance to be on his personal guest list, for free, for one massive show.
And of course, everyone is very excited to be able to give the proceeds of the event to the education of children in India. It’s a need of the hour, and we’re going to make the biggest impact that we can. So, it wasn’t hard at all. It just took a few conversations and we all realized the magic and the impact that we could make with this event.”
This will be one of the biggest dance music events that India has ever seen, but my team has it fully under control...Skrufff: Operating a 100,000 guest list sounds like a potential logistical nightmare (could take a long time for people to find out if there name is on the list – or not?)
Shailendra Singh (Sunburn): “Ha. Wouldn’t that be amazing? 100,000 kids showing up at the stadium gates and saying, “I must be on there! Maybe it’s under my friend’s name. Just check again. How much – wink wink - to get on the list?”
Could you imagine? No, we’ll make it a bit more civilized than that. While the fans will be on Hardwell’s guest list, we will send them an entry ticket – again, totally free – for entry. The event is being held in one of India’s largest stadiums, so the infrastructure is already set up for entry and exit of so many fans.
And, yes, a lot of people would balk at the logistics, security, health and safety, handling of 100,000 fans, but we have been running events like this for almost 30 years now. I have landed helicopters in the middle of a cricket stadium for a left right charity match, I’ve hosted relief fundraising sporting matches on the Pakistan/ India border and, for the launch of Hero brand in the O2 arena, I secured visas and tickets for 2,000 Indians to travel to London – in just 4 days.
Skrufff: Will there be VIP spaces and VVIP? And VVIP guest list?
Shailendra Singh (Sunburn): “This is one of the areas where we will be raising funds towards the charity. VIP stands will be paid-for tickets. We are also selling corporate boxes for our corporate partners to entertain their clients and families.
I have launched the Guest List Events concept, in order to revolutionize the way that fans consume entertainment...As this is both an amazing, one-of-a-kind- Hardwell show, and because it is for such a good cause, we are expecting Bollywood celebrities, corporate magnates, socialites and politicians. We have to accommodate them, but we will ensure that their presence brings us more money for the cause. It’s all about how many kids we can educate.”
Skrufff: How many international visitors are you expecting will come?
Shailendra Singh (Sunburn): “To be honest, we have enough die-hard fans here in India. I have launched the Guest List Events concept, in order to revolutionize the way that fans consume entertainment. This model will certainly work globally, and I see it’s already being picked up by artists and organizers around the world, but... the Indian fans have been the sole reason that I have done what I have done in India – and I am happy to start with them!”
Skrufff: You said in a recent interview “I believe dance music unites people from different classes and countries. It has true power to create a social change.” How are Indian authorities reacting to dance music these days, any concerns that some might actually fear social change?
India has a burgeoning festival culture, and a new way to party. We offered them a new lifestyle, and they grabbed it and made it their own...Shailendra Singh (Sunburn): “Social change through dance music is a reality in India. But a reality for only the people who are truly experiencing it and absorbing it.
When we launched Sunburn in 2007, the only choice of entertainment for the 600 million people here under the age of 25 was cricket, Bollywood and shopping. Now, India has a burgeoning festival culture, and a new way to party. We offered them a new lifestyle, and they grabbed it and made it their own. The government, and all related officials, haven’t really caught on yet. They haven’t yet realized the value of music tourism or the intangible benefits of the youth population having a way to express themselves. India is a complex democracy, and I guess they have many other pertinent and interesting issues to tackle first.
Skrufff: The charity element involves supporting poor kids from 8 to 18: how are the kids selected: what exactly does the program entail?
Shailendra Singh (Sunburn): “For this, we have partnered with the Laureus Award winning organization, Magic Bus. Run by Matthew Spacie, a fantastically passionate man and a good friend, Magic Bus has been hugely successful here in India. I have worked with many government organization and helped establish and promote many charitable organizations in India, but Magic Bus is the most sincere, transparent and results-oriented foundation that I have ever worked with.”
Watch this fantastic video that sums it all up - It will answer all your questions of how it will happen.