BFS @ 20: Celebrating trailblazers of Mumbai's underground party scenes

BFS will start touring across India for shows to celebrate 20 years of existence


On May 13, 1999, four friends hosted Bombay's first ever rave music gathering under the banner of Bhavishyavani Future Soundz. The venue was Razzberry Rhinoceros, a space known to support underground, independent music acts.

The DJs mixed music no one really was exposed to—the sounds of acid house, drum ‘n bass, jungle and breakbeat from artists like Aphex Twin who once inspired Thom Yorke of Radiohead. The crowd—a gadabout tribe of "creative types" like filmmakers, artists, designers and advertising professional—spun around to the coolest techno from afar in the backdrop of trippy video art installations. Their poster aptly declared: 'Fast dancing for a new India'.

Since then, BFS became synonymous with the hippest underground parties, album art and posters, showcasing groundbreaking talent from the world of electronic music—futuristic music which can sync with their tagline: 'We don’t build spaceships, we are spaceships'.

As BFS—a collective of producers, designers and communicators —completes 20 years this week, the venerated party squad and DJ collective will start touring across India for shows. The first in the series will be a day-long gig at Famous Studios with Red Bull Music on May 11. Founding member Kutklass and Loopkin (Cyril Vincent Michaud) tell THE WEEK about their journey so far and how they are looking ahead.

What was Bombay’s nightlife scene like when you just started Bhavishyavani? What did you set out to change?

Night scene was pretty bad, it was either Daler Mehndi-type remix Bollywood crap or cheesy disco remixes. 90s-early 2000 was all about bad remixes everywhere. When we heard drum ’n bass and jungle and got hooked onto it we decided we should share this with our friends who worked in music labels, music channels, advertising agencies and similar creative industries. The aim was to relieve them and ourselves from bad night scenes so that we were able to step out and have a good time, listening to this badass new music coming out of New York and London.

How did you come to choose the name you did, Bhavishyavani Future Soundz?

I am a Bombay boy and I was and am very much inspired by the city and its street culture. At Grandmother and everyone involved in Bhavishyavani at that time knowingly or unknowingly were creating and almost defining the contemporary Indian creative scene. With that as our ethos, we all wanted to create a brand that was truly Indian, yet very progressive and into the future like the music itself.

For me, electronic music was the music of the future or to say it exemplifies the metaphor of ‘sounds from the future’. Headphones were integral part of electronic music and its association with Djs. I was also fascinated with these half-analogue, half electronic things like the weighing machine we used to have at railway stations. Similarly, I recollected seeing these trippy psychedelic robots on Juhu beach and I had also experienced using them for the fun of it. Once you put on those mad headphones you got to hear your fortune in a makeshift robotic Hindi voiceover. It was super tacky and super cool. This was the eureka moment for me. Connecting this Indian subculture reference of the robot telling you your future through this psychedelic headphones with our kind of music that represented the sounds of the future gave birth to the brand name ’Bhavishya-vani’, which literally means 'future sounds’.

How difficult was it to choose different venues back then, do publicity and find sponsorship for your underground parties? What about run-ins with the law, pesky neighbours and strict landlords?

We knew the regular night club won't be open to our kind of music, music without words! Also this whole couple entry crap was really annoying everywhere. So, we came up with a reverse strategy. We decided to approach night clubs that weren’t doing well or were completely unknown/shady/dingy/middle of nowhere all sorts of issues. The point was that if the night club had a good music system and good enough space, that’s all we needed to host a party. The deal was for the night that we will fill your club to the brim, you don’t have to pay us just take care of all the alcohol the BHA crew wants and 100 per cent of our guestlist should be given free entry. It was a win-win for both. We manage to get some sponsorship from music labels, alcohol and cigarette brands.

During Y2K days, night clubs used to be open till 4-6 am. We have had our fare bit of cops coming and bursting the party, people running helter-skelter. We also had mad experiences with goon night club owners, landlords that would call the cops….Once almost the whole party landed at the police station!

How much has technology and social media diminished or revitalised album art in your collective?

Technology has always been the backbone of electronic music. We always used digital tools to create flyers, posters or album art. Music has changed, formats of communication and medium of consuming those changed. So, I feel change is good. Evolving is a great sign of people embracing the brand and shaping it, because I feel whoever designs for BHAVISHYAVANI truly believes in its purpose and they get it, and of course, people running BHA get it. They have been doing this for 20 yrs. I love the work that Aniruddh Mehta or Nikhil Kaul and other younger designers have been doing for BHA.

Which electronic music acts in India typify your original vision right now?

The next one we are going to collaborate with, to be met in the close future I guess.

With so many music festivals popping up across venues and destinations, how does Bhavishyavani still maintain its cool cred, especially since it’s no longer underground

It is a nice feeling to not live underground anymore. What we bring and will bring more and more into the scene are new/bespoke festival formats for the audience to appreciate and participate in, and introduce them to a variety of electronic music acts. I think of immersive audio that we have started, hybrid mix-live that we are doing, virtual acoustic that we are experimenting with, in-video-game party could be interesting… It could also be as simple as letting a DJ playing 10 hours in a festival (we have done it too a few times and still very relevant for today’s time).