yellow periscope Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2017 blog post

6 Experiences at Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2017

Kala Ghoda Arts Festival (KGAF) makes me nostalgic. Many years back, when I moved to Mumbai, it was the first place that served culture on a delectable platter filled with Street Performances, Food, Dance, Music, Visual Arts, Cinema, Literature and a place to find that rare piece of handcrafted jewellery. Until then I went to individual events for each of these. It also meant coming down to South Mumbai (a.k.a. Town), walking around the heritage precinct, soaking in the atmosphere and then eating at old Irani and Parsi places that have now become legendary.

I have memories of incredible evenings at Rampart row watching the likes of Zakir Hussain perform an open-air concert and MF Hussain gracing the walls and streets with his brush.

How to make sense of it all

Fast forward to Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2017. There are no less than 12 categories with over 400 things to do across events, stalls and installations at multiples locations. How does one make sense of all of this? The event scheduler is a labyrinth of information that needs decoding. And the fact that it is badly designed on the website adds to the woes of festival goers. Let me attempt to put down my experiences from this year so it helps you pick and choose the best next time.

As KGAF gets bigger, better and bland, all at once, calling it an ‘Arts Festival’ is becoming a misnomer.

# 1: Unrestricted access. Come one, come all

The best part about Kala Ghoda Festival is that it is a public festival open to all.  There are no tickets or entry fees – all events are free. Which means all seating is on first come, first served basis. It also means be prepared for popular events and weekends to be overcrowded.

Kala Ghoda Arts Festival, Rampart Row, Mumbai
As the crowds gets bigger and bigger every year, the quaintness of Rampart row seems to disappear


# 2: India’s top talent is still performing

Though not the leading lights they once had in the past, you can yet have the privilege of seeing India’s top talents perform here. Sadly, as commercialization and sponsorship grow, this opportunity is dwindling. It was disappointing to see Bollywood remixes and a sensual singer trying their best to stir the crowd that was waiting for a Parveen Sultana concert.

Begum Parveen Sultana, Indian Classical Music, Kala Ghoda Arts Festival, Azad Maidan, Mumbai
A breathtaking performance by Begum Parveen Sultana, along with Shri Ojas Adhiya, Shri Shrinivas Acharya and Ms. Shahdab


Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2017, Music, Rahul Sharma Live, Azad Maidan, Mumbai
Rahul Sharma Live. A spectacular fusion of Indian Classical and World Music. Accompanied by Avinash Chandrachud, Manas Chowdhary, Mukundraj Deo and Vinayak Pol.



# 3: Introduction to the New

Every year, I attend a few events that introduce me to new music, theatre or dance. This year it was a pleasure to attend performances by Pulse Conversation and Flute Symphony.

Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2017, Music, Pulse Conversation, Azad Maidan, Mumbai
A thundering performance by Pulse Conversation featuring Gino Banks, Vinayak Pol and Andrew Kanga. What to expect when you have three drum kits on stage.


flute symphony orchestra, performance at Kala Ghoda Arts Festival, Azad Maidan, Mumbai
The surprise package for this year. Flute Symphony with Vivek Sonar. This symphony orchestra consisting of a group of artists on flute in the centre, and other artists on saxophone, guitar, keyboard, dholak and tabla.


# 4 : A roadside view of Art in Mumbai’s Art District

Not sure of visiting highbrow affairs at art galleries? This is your answer. Walk through streets and grounds lined up by art. And don’t worry if you don’t get what’s happening. You are not expected to be an art connoisseur. Only a selfie clicking expert.

Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2017, Art Installation, Cross Maidan, Mumbai
Art Installation at Cross Maidan. Tunnel of Lights by Bajaj Electricals


# 5: Want to do something other than the Arts? Try the Heritage Tour

After you have had your fill of the Arts, try Heritage and Architecture. South Mumbai is home to several architectural landmarks and the history associated with these will blow your mind away. I have been to south Mumbai countless times and yet when I pass a heritage structure, I am awestruck by the sheer genius of its design and execution.

Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2017, Heritage walk, CST station, Mumbai
Inside view, central dome, CST Heritage Building. This year I attended a heritage walk called ‘Celebrating the Life Line of the city’ that included a tour inside the iconic CST station building in Mumbai.


# 6: Participate in a Art Workshop or Literature Talk

If you want to feel the pulse of the festival, participate in a workshop or a talk. It’s a chance to deep dive into an interesting topic, meet people who are passionate and be part of a group who’s eager to learn.

phad painting workshop at Kala Ghoda Arts Festival, Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai
This year I attended the Phad painting workshop by artist Vijay Joshi at Jehangir Art Gallery. A tradition that is over 600 years old, Phad paintings were used as dramatic backdrops for narrating stories from Indian mythology. It was disappointing to not see the art form in its original avatar but only artists eager to attract customers



Straddling between the classes and masses is both an opportunity and a challenge for the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival. It needs to artfully step up its performance if it wants everyone in the audience to applaud.

Hope this convinces you to visit the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival next year. I am waiting for it. If you have visited KGAF, I would love know about your experiences.


Kala Ghoda Arts Festival is one of India’s largest multicultural festival, held in February each year in Mumbai, India. For more information, visit:

Do read my other reason-lists from 2017 that summarize what I loved most about art shows: 5 reasons to visit Kochi-Muziris biennale  and 5 reasons to visit Sassoon Dock Art Project 2017 and my travel experiences 5 reasons to visit Bhutan – The Kingdom of Happiness




  1. Hi, Really great effort. Everyone must read this article. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thank you so much for reading it! I am glad you liked it. Hope this convinces you to visit the festival.

  2. […] I have started making reason-lists because they compel me to summarize what I love the most about each experience. If you want to see my other reason-lists, do visit: 5 reasons to visit Kochi-Muziris biennale  and  6 experiences at Kala Ghoda festival […]

  3. […] our Last Year’s article titled  6 Experiences at Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2017  we lamented the absence of leading lights who performed in the festival’s formative years. […]

  4. […] 6 Experiences at Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2017 […]

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