Last year I decided to break the drudgery of my life by taking a 15-day trip to the Northeast. Initially I had planned to visit only Meghalaya and Sikkim but while doing my research I stumbled upon the Ziro Music Festival in Arunachal Pradesh. The event was happening around the time I was getting back from Shillong and seemed like the perfect way to combine my love for music and travel. I booked my tickets for the festival, a tent for my stay and my budget ride (a mini bus) for the trip to Ziro from Guwahati. These are some of my reflections from my Ziro Festival of Music experience.
You are not alone:
There were ten other people in the bus like me, solo travelers all of us. This made me very happy because I had been thinking that I would be all alone in this trip but I realized solo traveling lets you meet the most wonderful people from all over the world. I met an American who writes occasional articles about India for American magazines and is a DJ in Delhi, a writer from Mumbai, a girl from Bengaluru, a couple from Chennai and a girl from Guwahati who came with her dog Juno. Juno was adorable and it was love at first sight. The beautiful thing is you never forget people who travelled with you for 20 hours in an uncomfortable bus passing through mesmerizing locations and with little effort you can remain friends with them for a lifetime. My Ziro trip gave me two such wonderful friends with whom I hangout whenever and wherever possible.
Tasting the local culture:
Like any other place people really make the culture and a place interesting. People in Ziro to my pleasant surprise were fluent in Hindi. However, it was their warmth and openness that really helped us connect. One day I decided to take a walk in the village to check out the houses and the paddy fields. I went to the house of a girl who I had met the day before at the festival grounds. She belonged to Apatani tribe and was sweet enough to show me around. I met the elderly Apatani women with their tattooed faces and their unique sense of calmness. I also saw the process of making rice beer, called Apang in the local language. I had some fish and rice, talked about life in cities versus life in Ziro and came back to my campsite swaying with some Apang in my system. That stuff is potent!
Music -The new finds:
Thanks to the Ziro Music Festival I discovered several bands / artists who I wouldn’t have come across if I had not come to the event. Some of these great musicians are now regulars on my playlist. My favorites from Ziro include: Your Chin, Laxmi Bomb, The Ganesh Talkies, Tetseo Sisters and Omak Komut Collective. I was also able to catch a number of superb folk music acts.
… And the (G)old:
Five8: a band close to my heart performed on the first day and I couldn’t be happier. We’re from the same college in Delhi and hearing them live almost after eight years made me ecstatic. They rocked the stage with their brilliant musical performance and puns.
Menwhopause: The band needs no introduction and when they came on stage the crowds went wild. They have such fan following and were brilliant as usual.
The moment you enter the serene atmosphere of Ziro Valley there is always a smile on your face. Everything around you is green, the sun comes up as early as 5:00 am and you wake up to the chirping of birds. The mornings are beautiful and as you sit outside your camp with a cup of tea looking at the lush paddy fields and the green tree-covered mountains you get lost in the wonders of nature.
I formed some incredible memories with my trip to the Ziro Music Festival. If you love music and traveling then this is one experience you should not miss!