Ziro Festival - Into The Great Wide Open
The rain gods in Arunachal Pradesh hadn't been too kind on Ziro festival last year. The festival happens once a year and this was the second chapter. A 17 to 20 hour gorgeous drive from Guwhati airport, this music festival really takes you into the great wide open. Last year was a sludge fest where the rains didn't stop the crowds from rolling in and creating a Glastonbury-esque atmosphere. With the blessing of the tourism industry of Arunachal, this time they decided to start with a singer songwriter with an auspicious name.
'DAYGLOCRAZIE' got to the smaller of the two stages wearing his shades with his acoustic guitar. The sun had a gathered a few balls of cotton clouds to give us the best possible magic light you can dream of. Wes Anderson, you can eat your shirt. The sound was great and so were his songs, especially 'red star'. The crowd which was rolling in settled on the grass with their bamboo glasses of rice beer and millet wine. There was loose banter on and off from the stage and back. The atmosphere was cinematic, cozy and friendly in general.
His set was followed by purple fusion, mixing folk melodies with the blues and rock, namely. The crowd was eagerly waiting for the 'Vinyl Records' and as the sun went down and lights came on they hit the stage. All of them still in college in Delhi but with their roots in the north east they decided to slam the home sector. An all girl post punk band usually attracts a lot of attention. In fact there's nothing usual about them. Most of them still early in their musical journey, they were able to play an energetic set with a lot of glam and novelty. Especially when the front woman Cherryian took out her 'Keytar' (a keyboard that slung on your shoulder like a guitar) every musician was present, with a smile as the older more experienced lot watched the newcomers charm the pants off the crowd.
The whirling kalapas came on. Uday Benegal, Mahesh Tinaikar settled in with their acoustic guitars while multi-instrumentalist prodigy Sankarshan Kini sat on a cahun, played the violin, acoustic guitar, trumpet, apart from harmonising to Benegal's familiar voice. Old hands in music always have their touch. The difference can be easily felt. True, that the material was less contemporary than some of the cutting edge acts, but the performances from the kalapas were heartfelt and very melodic. The crowd loved every moment while the millet wine and rice beer was playing havoc in the blood streams of the unsuspecting humans.
The required Slam to wake them up came from 'Don Bhatt and the Passenger Revelators'. An electro live Rap-Pop-Rock act. As I write these words it becomes clear to me, how pointless the genre mapping of music is becoming. This act was slick as an oil spill - never over the top, yet never losing the energy. One rapper, bassist, drums, female and male vocals, guitars and electronica put them on the cutting edge of today's festival scene in India. 'Stars align' and 'Was an Animal' stuck out in the set. Everyone was tripped or dancing. The temperature was single jacket or hoodie supportive. Stars were in fact aligned on the massive clear sky.
The alignment of stars brought out The Peter Cat Recording Company as the closing act for the night. Suryakant the front man was in one hell of a mood. He even ran off the stage and hung out in the crowd for a bit just to check how it was sounding while the crowd tried to figure what he was doing there. What goes in the brilliant minds of Brilliant songwriters is anybody's guess, but surely the millet wine and rice beer had made their presence felt. Having said all that the spirit was just right for the PCRC gig, no pun intended.
Gigs over, it was dinnertime. We ate a lot of foreign meats. I’m quite a dog lover, but I tasted dog for the first time. I was shocked at myself and the taste of the meat which was in fact rather nice. The Paradise Guest house beckoned as we had to practice for the next day's gig. Most of the musicians were lodged there so the hotel had quite an electric atmosphere.
The next day saw Reuben mashangwa sending the crowd into frenzy with his blues and Naga folk cocktails. Although he himself is from Manipur, his work in contemporarising Naga folk with his Bob Dylan and Marley influences is commendable. Polar lights played some of their originals namely 'murder machine' to warm the crowd up. This was followed by a stunning three piece act from Shillong. 'Dosser's Urge' slammed the crowd with their Brit pop rock sound. The arctic monkeys, white stripes, Blink 182, and green day seemed to be apparent influences to their originals which struck home with the crowd. Songs about being broke and facing family pressures to earn money made their set quite real. "The band is tight as an ant's ***hole" I heard someone say. Quite accurately put I must say.
The frisky pints came on next with their pacey pop rock energy. I realized that music has changed in the North East in the past few years. The Brit influences were far stronger in the representation of bands here at Ziro from the North East than the trademark American hangover. This shift had been quickly I felt. Cerebral transatlantic migration. The crowd was really in motion. We 'Gandu Circus' were getting on next. Our fingers, feet and brains were twitching from the adrenalin rush. 'Shaai'r n Func' wished us the best and we picked up our guitars and computers and climbed the stage. Here goes nothing!
To be continued...
Post and Pictures by Neel Adhikari
Neel Adhikari is a music director/ singer songwriter from Kolkata. Fiercely independent, Neel has steered clear of the mainstream music industry. A rocker at heart he hosts the Open Mic in Kolkata and plays with two bands 'Neel and the Lightbulbs' and 'Gandu Circus' while helping and inspiring younger musicians in the city.