Ziro unplugged: Capturing the magic of Indian indie music

  • Debarun Borthakur, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Oct 10, 2014 17:21 IST

There are a few places in Northeast which even the most enthusiastic of travelers prefer to give a miss. One such place in Arunachal Pradesh is Ziro.

Tucked away amidst lush green hills of the lower Subansiri district, Ziro, until a few years back, didn't feature in any mainstream travelogue. Its unpredictable weather, frequent landslides and bad connectivity kept Ziro out of travelers' radar for a long time.

However, things changed after 2012. So much so that today this land of the Apatani tribe is dubbed as a hub of Indian indie music scene in the country.

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Every September this sleepy little village echoes with sounds of music.

Reason: Ziro Music festival (ZMF). An indie music festival that features some of the best known acts this country can boast of.


Indus Creed's stellar performance at ZMF (Photo: Parakram Hazarika)

The first chapter of the festival took place in 2012 and it got bigger and better thereafter. This year ZMF commenced on September 25 and unlike previous years, it was a four-day affair that saw around 30 bands from around the country belting out compositions potent enough to make one forget life for a while.

This year ZMF treated its audience with two stages- Danjii and Piilo. While Danjii entertained folk music buffs with soulful and traditional compositions throughout the day, Piilo with its eclectic lineup of power pact bands got everybody to raise their fists in the air and scream for encores after sunset.

While during the day, festival goers lazed around in the paddy field sipping local brew (read aapong) and listening to acts like Reuben Mashangwa, Omak Kamut Collective, Phuningdin, Sajda Sisters and Tetseo Sisters to name a few, the nights pumped adrenalin into each and everyone in the crowd with dynamic acts like Ganesh Talkies, The Supersonics, Ska Vengers, The Superfuzz and of course (how can one not mention) veterans Indus Creed.


The Folk You stage at ZMF (Photo: Parakram Hazarika)

It was a good and balanced lineup for a four-day festival that comprised of almost every genre of music one can ask for- blues, rock, folk, bluegrass, electro, punk; you name it they have it.

Also read: Indie music scene today is the best anyone's seen

However, if we had to pick three favourites that shook us for four days one after another, they would definitely be The Superfuzz, The Stereophonics and Uday Benegals' Indus Creed.

The Superfuzz, which started off as grunge-driven Superfuzz Bigmuf (named after Jimi Hendrix's two guitar pedals) in early 2000 in Delhi, was a sheer treat to watch. They were brutal on stage. Being a three-piece band, it needs real quality to deliver a mature sound (especially when you are following bigwigs like Soundgarden, Kyuss, Pearl Jam and their likes) and they indeed stood up to audiences' expectations.

With songs like Four Times And Once After, Traitor and What I really Think, these first timers in Ziro created a musical riot on stage and we happily obliged and followed their lead.


An artist waking up the sleepy little village at ZMF (Photo: Parakram Hazarika)

The Supersonics (the Navy Cut-smoking-Kolkata-band as we call them) have matured from their Maby Baking (their debut album released in 2006) days and their performance spoke exactly that.

Ananda Sen and co. with their "when Collective Soul-meets-early-Dire Straits" sound reaffirmed our belief in Indian indie scene that we too can produce class acts capable of giving some of today's big international alternative rock acts a run for their money.

They were crisp, tight and right on the money. To put it short, their well structured sound never let us feel, even for a second, that we were listening to an Indian band belting out indie groove pop standing in a paddy field in one of the remotest villages in the country.

The headlining act of the festival was deservingly Indus Creed. Uday Benegal and his "creed mates" did exactly what they have been doing for the last two decades - giving rock-hungry audiences some good time to cherish.

With hits like Thief and Fireflies they got the whole of Ziro singing along with them (at least it felt like that). Indus Creed's set-list comprised mostly of songs from their latest album Evolve and no one complained.


Camping, music and camaraderie under the sky (Photo: Parakram Hazarika)

In a nutshell, ZMF is not just about music alone; it's a celebration of freedom in one of the most scenic landscapes in the country. From camping under the open sky for four days, savouring some of the best indie acts in the country to gorging on some delectable local cuisines and brew, Ziro is simply a one-stop-shop in the wilderness for any music buff to cherish and remember.

And being a journalist isn't it always exciting to report from "Ground Ziro"?

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