Ziro Festival Pro-Tips
A total of 28 acts are slated to perform at the Ziro music festival in Arunachal Pradesh between Thursday, September 24 and Sunday, September 27. The line-up includes indie rock bands Thermal and a Quarter from Bangalore and Neel and the Lightbulbs from Kolkata and singer-songwriter Prateek Kuhad from Delhi, each of whom released new albums this year. Flight tickets to Guwahati and train tickets for an onward journey to Naharlagun in Arunachal Pradesh, which is a four-hour drive from Ziro valley, where the festival takes place, are available so you can still plan a last-minute trip. Hotels, however, are booked out, but there are camping facilities and an option to bring your own tent. If you’re planning to travel to Ziro, which may not be anywhere near as popular as NH7 Weekender but is fast rivaling it for ‘the happiest music festival’ tag, here’s what you need to know.
Everybody who has been to the Ziro festival, which is now in its fourth year, talks about the nearly 24 hour-long arduous bus journey from Guwahati to Ziro. Once you reach, the valley is said to be so beautiful that you forget about the pain because you feel like you’re in paradise. “It’s like a gift at the end of the slog,” said Sameer Ghauri, who works with music channel Pepsi MTV Indies and made this visual ode to Ziro last year. It includes interviews with locals who belong to the Apatani tribe. This year, however, there is a much more comfortable option – an overnight train from Guwahati to Naharlagun.
While you can reserve tickets on your own, you can also book them trough the festival website if you want to start the revelry early. Organiser Bobby Hano said that this time they’ve arranged for a special train coach for festival-goers and artists. It leaves Guwahati on the night of Wednesday, September 23 and leaves Naharlagun after the festival on Tuesday, September 29. Once you get to Naharlagun, you’ll need to get an Inner Line Permit, which you can obtain at the railway station itself by submitting a valid ID and a photocopy of it along with two passport photographs and a fee of Rs100. You can also apply for it online here. From Naharlagun, you can hire a cab to take you to Ziro. You can also sign up for one of the travel packages put together by the organisers.
The launch of the train has encouraged a number of music lovers, who were hesitant to make the trek for previous editions of the festival, to attend this year. As a result, hotels and homestays are fast filling up. The campsite inside the festival area is completely booked but you can book a tent through Kite Manja and CampVenture who you can get in touch with by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
WHY YOU NEED GUMBOOTS
While the weather in Ziro is mostly pleasant, the ground gets mucky when it rains. Gumboots are thus essential, and you can save yourself the trouble of lugging them from here by picking up a pair before you head to the festival from the market in Hapoli, which is four kilometers away from the venue. Other items to take along or buy include a raincoat and light jacket, say the organisers. Be prepared to do a fair amount of walking as “auto-rickshaws are not a common feature in Ziro”, said Hano. “One could either hire a car via their hotel or just hitch rides. You might just end up making friends.”
Walks though are a great way to spend your time when you want to take a short break from watching gigs, says Raxit Tewari, who has played each of the three editions of the festival so far either with his band Sky Rabbit or as Your Chin, his solo project. “There are Apatani villages a stone’s throw away (from the grounds),” said Tewari who recommends heading out into the forest and stumbling upon paddy and bamboo farms. “Where the festival happens, whichever direction you head it’s a great track.”
ACTS TO WATCH OUT FOR
Gig wise, one of the USPs of Ziro has been the opportunity to check out folk and indie music acts from the North East. This year, along with festival mainstays, Arunachali folk band Omak Komut Collective, there’s Tripura rapper BK aka Borkung Hrangkhawl, dancer and singer Mangka and “the ever-popular Tetseo Sisters are also making a comeback after being hugely popular last time,” said Hano.
THE FOOD AND DRINK SCENE
Apart from the music and surroundings, Ziro also offers plenty of regional cuisine in the form of pork and fish preparations (there are sadly limited options for vegetarians) to help line your stomach for what is the second most commonly talked-about highlight of Ziro, after the natural beauty – the freshly-brewed rice beer. According to Ghauri the beer, which is homemade, doesn’t give you a hangover and also helps keep you warm in a place where you might not have access to hot water. “We took freezing cold bucket baths,” he said.
For the line-up and other information regarding transport and stay, visit the festival’s official website.