Ziro Festival of Music 2015 - one of the best outdoor music festivals in India | an experience

By Parag Chamuah
The Ziro Festival of Music is one of the best outdoor music festivals in India. It’s held in Hong Village in Ziro Valley, Arunachal Pradesh which is home to the Apatani tribe. The local Apatani people here claim Hong Village as the 2nd largest village in Asia.

How to get to Ziro?

To get to Ziro, one has to get to Guwahati, the gateway of Northeast India. There are regular flights and trains from all major cities in India to Guwahati. One can also fly down to Dibrugarh in Upper Assam and take a taxi onwards to Ziro. Other nearby airports are Tezpur and Lilabari but very few commercial flights fly there.

Option 1 : Direct APSTC bus from Guwahati to Ziro
Option 2 : Overnight train from Guwahati to Naharlagun. Taxi/Public Transport from Naharlagun to Ziro
Option 3 : Bus to Itanagar/Naharlagun/North Lakhimpur. Taxi/Public Transport after that to Ziro

About Ziro

Ziro is a beautiful valley in Lower Subansiri District of Arunachal Pradesh. It is located at an altitude of 5600ft above sea level and has a mild climate. However, the winters are known to be very cold. It is included in India’s Tentative List for UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Apatani tribe inhabits here mostly but there are few Nyishis as well. Their livelihood is predominantly dependent on agriculture and the amazing yellow paddy fields are a witness of that.

Paddy Fields in Ziro
Paddy Fields in Ziro

Ziro Festival of Music 2015

Ziro Festival of Music 2015 was the 4th edition of its kind. This festival is perhaps the best stage and platform for the dying Indie Music scene and which is why you see all the die-hard Indie Music lovers across India here in September. It is supported by Tourism Department, Government of Arunachal Pradesh and they have been largely been successful in luring people all over the country to witness the mesmerizing beauty of Ziro.

The 2015 edition was a 4 day long jamboree of unlimited joy & happiness. ZFM15 opened up with performances from Dayglocrazie, Yesterdrive and Omak Komut Collective on Day 1, which wasn’t so lively seeing the mood of the crowd. Day 2 started with a traditional dance form of the local Apatani women where others happily joined as well. The day became more lively courtesy to the colourful Tetseo Sisters, Nush Lewis and Menwhopause in the Danyii Stage. Later in the evening, Piilo Stage hosted Run! It’s the Kid, North, Pilgrim, Koniac Net and Side Effect, who came all the way from Myannmar.

Danyii Stage, Ziro Festival of Music 2015
A view of the Danyii Stage. P.C : Shaunak Bordoloi

Local Arunachali singer/musician Takar Nabam took the Danyii Stage after a powerful solo performance from Alisha Batth and mesmerized everyone with his vocals and guitar. Far away from a different culture and background Barmer Boys took the stage next and this 3 member folk band from Rajasthan took everyone by a storm and made everyone dance to their traditional folk songs. Prateek Kuhad started the evening in Piilo Stage followed by Neel & The Lightbulbs and the controversial band Digital Suicide from Haflong, Assam. Digital Suicide reminded me of Vinay Pathak in Bheja Fry, it’s like you want to see it as much you hate it. B.K Hrangkhawl was the last act of the evening and signed off the night in his signature rap.

The fourth and the last day was perhaps the best day in ZFM15. It started with a solo performance Gowri and later Takar Nabam assisting her in guitars followed by Tuden Jamir and Manipuri Meitei folk singer Mangka. It was the evergreen Naga folk singer/musician Guru Rewben Mashangwa who took everyone by frenzy when he took stage. The best moment of ZFM15 came when Rayis Khan of Barmer Boys joined him for some of his songs and thus west met the east. Nicholson started the proceedings in the Piilo Stage in the evening followed by electrifying rocking performances from F16’s, Thermal & A Quarter and Boomerang. The last jam by Guru Rewban, Takar Nabam, Rayis Khan, Boom and others was the highlight of ZFM15.

The Last Jam
The Last Jam

Following are my pick from ZFM15 :

Best Singer : Sohrab Nicholson
Best Guitarist : Takar Nabam & Boom Hangsing of Boomerang
Best Drummer : Avinash Chordia of Neel and The Lighbulbs
Best Bassist : Sashank Manohar of F16’s
Best Entertainer : Guru Rewban Mashangwa & Rayis Khan of Barmer Boys
Best Band : Boomerang
Best Folk Act : Barmer Boys
Best Solo Act : Alisha Batth
Best Song : Dresden Drumbeat by Thermal & A Quarter
Special Mention : Digital Suicide

A local foodstall
A local foodstall with fried frogs, roasted pork, rice beer and boiled eggs

Apart from the awesome music and picturesque location, the local delicacies and rice beer was the next best thing about this festival. There were variety of traditional pork, beef, chicken dishes. Some unheard items like frog fries and roasted grasshopers were also seen some of the food stalls.

What makes Ziro Festival of Music stand apart from all other music festivals is, here every stranger is a friend, every musician and artist an equal audience as much as the rest and everyone gets down to earth for these days and mixes with nature unwary of anything else. They all come to Ziro by the same route in the same vehicles and go back the same way. This is not merely a music festival but a journey to come down to one place and live together for 4 days as a family amidst the wonderful music, food, culture and the beautiful nature. As the organizers of ZFM15 says, this festival is surely #thejourneyofmylife. So if you missed out this year, you should start planning for Ziro Festival of Music 2016.

Parag Chamuah is a Mechanical Engineer by qualification and traveler by nature. He is the Editor-In-Chief & CMO of The Times of World. (editor@thetimesofworld.com)