The Valley’s Ziro Point

This music festival delivered top-notch performances from artists from around the globe

Updated - October 05, 2018 12:47 pm IST

Published - October 05, 2018 12:46 pm IST

When almost every musician on the billing is grateful, you know you’re doing something right. The seventh edition of Ziro Festival of Music in Arunachal Pradesh last weekend lived up to its promise of delivering top-notch performances from new and established artists from around the globe, while staying true to its ethos of promoting talent from the region.

The four-day festival oddly hosted its biggest names on the first day itself, with Japanese instrumental rock band MONO performing on September 27 at the Piilo (night) stage. While there was a LED backdrop out at Ziro for the first time, the band decided to use it sparingly where other artists would gladly have visual projections to complement the music.

MONO clearly did not need anything more than their instruments, rigged to produce mind-numbing walls of noise and guitar poignancy that kicked off the festival on a high. As people headed back to their respective camp sites and after parties brewed, it was evident that the festival that involves at least 24 hours of transport will always have its allure as a destination for visiting not specifically for the music.

Indeed, if the rock-infused local folk music of Omak Komut Collective or the high-energy indie rock of Yesterdrive wasn’t your cup of tea, you could lounge around the festival area as the music lingered in the background. But even then, ZFM seems to have its finger on the pulse of crowd-pulling acts. Chennai’s Tamil rockers Oorka had not only survived a near-fatal accident on the way to the festival, but also prevailed to deliver a rager of a performance that probably imparted new Tamil vocabulary to the mostly North Indian and local attendees.

Over four days, Ziro hosted food, music and even a little bit of literature. One of the major focuses this year was attempting a plastic-free, eco-friendly festival. Sure, you would find the occasional plastic bottle or wrappers making their way into a bin, but for the most part, the festival seemed to have instilled the importance of ditching plastic.

Like previous editions, the festival divided its artistes between the Danyii (day) stage and the Piilo stage. There was lilting, laidback folk and singer-songwriter music from the likes of New Delhi artiste Ditty, Mussoorie-based Ady Manral and Malian artist Madou Sidiki Diabate, but then they also gave room for unconventional artists such as Bhopal-based French artist Mathias Durand, traditional Manipuri act Sam Paa and of course, Bangalore ghatam artiste Sukanya Ramgopal and her group Layaakriti, who even stayed on for an encore.

As for South Indian folk, among the major draws at the festival was Oorali from Kerala, which started off a bit unsure but found their way to winning over the crowd with songs about life, truth and meaning and launching paper planes into the crowd as well as paper cut-outs of birds for audiences to wave in the air. If there’s anyone who knows how to get a socially conscious message through, it’s Oorali.

The Piilo stage provided top-notch sound quality for anyone who wanted it – whether it was rappers like Cryptographik Street Poets from Shillong or New Delhi’s Prabh Deep and most importantly, Arunachal rapper K4Kekho, who took on a rollercoaster set with help from DJ Bom. Electronic artistes like Func from Mumbai and New Delhi duo Komorebi made most of presenting a ‘live’ sound as opposed to leaning too much on recorded tracks. Rock bands like Avora Records from Mizoram, Shillong’s Blue Temptation, Itanagar-bred Takar Nabam Trio and New Delhi psychedelic act Dee En might just have realized the potential of a big stage thanks to Ziro. The only band it wasn’t new to was Yesterdrive, who have now performed at almost every edition of the festival and certainly never disappointed.

Representing the groovier end of the music spectrum were artistes such as the UK saxophonist Nubya Garcia (on day one), Mumbai neo-soul quartet Smalltalk (on day two) and the high-energy relentless madness of Israeli trio Malox. On day three, Bengaluru-based Nepali rock band Gauley Bhai played their first official show without any of the hitches you might expect new bands to fall into, delivering folk rock and fusion that veered between earthy guitar lines and a funky, bluesy rhythm section that was unpredictable.

The only surprise for most – including the organisers of the festival – was veteran percussionist Sivamani showing up at the festival and booking himself a slot. Building up with his steady world-fusion set played over his versatile drum kit, Sivamani became the unofficial closing act of ZFM.

Seven editions down, there are very few reasons why Ziro can’t become one of the must-attend festivals for every music fan. It may attract the general curious bunch making travel plans through the North East, but if their curation goes from strength to strength, future editions are likely to draw more crowds there for some great music discoveries at 1500 meters above sea level.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.