A festival celebrating the music and unique craftsmanship of the indigenous Apatani tribe of Ziro, Arunachal Pradesh, the Ziro Music Festival (ZMF) is regarded as India's biggest outdoor music fest. Founded in 2012 by Apatani tribe members Booby Hano and Anup Kuttu, the ZMF began as a platform enabling local and Indie artists to showcase their talents by entertaining a crowd as passionate about music as them. Over the years, ZMF has become the face of the place and attracts thousands of people at both a national and international level. With four days of unlimited access to good music and authentic local food, in nature's pristine lap at the high hills of Ziro Valley, ZMF is undoubtedly the paradise of music and art lovers!
We know you're excited about attending the Ziro Music Festival this year and why wouldn't you be! ZMF is supported by the Department of Tourism (Government of Arunachal Pradesh) and the Ministry of Tourism (Government of India).
How did the Ziro music festival begin?
The Ziro Music Festival which has now become the biggest music festival in North East India, began as a dream project for its founders. The overwhelming success of the festival in its first year inspired Bobby Hano and Anup Kuttu to continue the festival year after year by keeping the feedback of attendees and performers in mind.
Several renowned artists such as Lee Ranaldo, Damo Suzuki, Steve Shelley, Shye Ben Tzur, Acid Mothers Temple, MONO, Louw Majaw, Divine, Shaa'ir n Func, Indus Creed, Menwhopause, Peter Cat Recording Co, Barmer Boys and Guru Rewben Mashangva have performed at ZMF over the years.
The sustainable manner of constructing the entire festival venue using locally sourced bamboo, maintaining a zero plastic tolerance policy and encouraging attendees to be mindful towards the environment distinguish the essence of the Ziro Music Festival.
Where does it happen?
The Ziro Music Festival takes place at Ziro, a small town in the Lower Subansiri district of Arunachal Pradesh. The pined-covered hills of Ziro are home to the Apatani tribe who are known for their unique facial tattoos and unconventional system of wet rice cultivation. Apart from the rich heritage of Ziro, the sublime natural beauty, and soothing weather of the place make it the ideal spot for tourists and musicians to gather every year to rejoice in the wondrous world of musical notes.
Ziro has been proposed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site owing to its mesmerising landscapes and rich cultural history. Naturally, an outdoor music festival as grand as this one is bound to happen at a place as beautiful, limitless and peaceful as Ziro!
What makes the Ziro music festival special?
There are many reasons why the Ziro Music Festival and its location are popular and widely loved. The festival not only celebrates the global independent music scene but also offers the local community members an opportunity to increase their livelihood by producing bamboo infrastructure for the festival and actively participating in hosting the event. Over the last decade, ZMF has reached and engaged local artists and artisans via its many community outreach programs.
No commercial properties are used for hosting the festival, instead, ZMF happens on community land. Special care is taken to keep the premises clean, and plastic-free. The two stages too are painstakingly constructed by Apatani artisans over 40 days prior to the festival.
What makes this year special?
The year 2023 is the tenth year of the Ziro Music Festival. ZMF has promoted indigenous artists for a decade now. To commemorate ten successful years of the festival, the ZMF founders have tried to make the 2023 line-up as amazing as possible. And this time, it's not going to be just music. A whole lot of exciting events distinguish this year's festival.
Get ready to groove to the beats of some new artists and engage in fun workshops such as flute-making and playing, dance and movement etc. Attendees will also witness a grand performance of the Apatani traditional dance - Daminda by 800 tribal women.
In addition, a new, third stage has been introduced this year called the 'Takvr stage'. Takvr means star and this stage is dedicated to electronic music. Marti Bharath has curated an interesting line-up keeping in mind that this will be a live electronica.
Who is the Ziro music festival for?
Although there is no need for us to answer this question after all the wonderful things we've just told you about Ziro and the Music Festival, let's still try. The festival will stage over 40 bands and music acts covering everything from pop, electronica, and jazz, to rock, rap and blues. The festival exposes you to new genres of music, and artists you may or may not have heard of before. So if you like discovering new music and enjoy live performances, then Ziro Music Festival is where you need to be.
What can I do at the Ziro music festival?
The most engaging thing you can do at ZMF is attend the music sessions on all four days. The festival has two stages set up by local artisans. These are called Donyi (Sun) and Polo (Moon) and different artists are scheduled to perform here on the four days of the festival. The names of the stages are inspired by the animist Donyi Polo faith practised by the tribes of Arunachal Pradesh.
Apart from music, there is also the Ziro Literary Festival that happens simultaneously. You can enjoy different literary workshops here such as filmmaking, creative writing, storytelling and poetry.
There are multiple stalls on the festival grounds where you can shop for locally made souvenirs. The stalls also offer an array of food options. If you love to stroll through colourful lines of outdoor stalls in exhibitions and expos then this part of the ZMF might be quite exciting for you!
Since this year marks the tenth year of the Ziro Music Festival, you will also get to engage with a host of additional sessions. This is a novel beyond-music experience that will expose you to sessions on dance and movement, yoga and meditation etc.
How to reach Ziro?
Indian citizens need an Inner Line Permit (ILP) to enter Arunachal Pradesh, and for international guests, a Protected Area Permit is required. The ILP costs Rs 100 and can be procured from Arunachal Tourism’s website. It is valid for 14 days. The permit cost for international visitors is US$30 and it is valid for 10 days. The permit needs to be arranged before visiting Arunachal Pradesh, so make sure you do that before taking a flight.
You can reach Ziro by taking a flight to Guwahati (Assam) and then travelling by road for 17 hours. You can also take a train from Guwahati to Naharlagun (Arunachal Pradesh) and then take a 3-hour cab ride to the venue. This train route is the most preferred one by Ziro attendees. Alternatively, you can take a flight to Holongi (Arunachal Pradesh) - this is the closest airport at a distance of 100 km. Yet another way is taking an overnight bus or train from North Lakhimpur (Assam).
Where to stay?
One of the most exciting parts of visiting the Ziro Music Festival is the prospect of camping. There are three major campsites available for you to choose from - Kite Manja, Stay High Adventures and Camp Zingaros. These are trusted partners of ZMF and have consistently provided attendees with comfortable facilities.
Each of these campsites has a unique feature about it, for instance, Kite Manja is known for its dome and alpine tents. They organise jam sessions and bonfires every day, even after the festival is over. Stay High Adventures offers packages that include your travel to and from Guwahati. Camp Zingaros gives access to concrete toilets and showers in the woods, and their tents on higher ground too. This is done to avoid muddy grounds after the rains.
The campsites at Ziro also facilitate the bring-your-own-tent (BYOT) option. But if you're not a camping person then that's okay too! A nearby town, Hapoli, has some good budget hotel options. Yet another option is a homestay at one of the local villagers' houses.
What else can I do in Ziro?
You might be wondering about the other prospects of exploring since you are planning a trip to the North-East and you'll be pleased to know that the festival usually starts at 1 pm. So you have the entire morning to yourself to explore Ziro and other nearby places. You can visit the famous Talley Valley Wildlife Sanctuary and witness the rich biodiversity of the Ziro Valley, or you can go trekking and biking in the many hills of the region.
A visit to the Dolo Mando viewpoint is a must! Here you get a breathtaking view of the sprawling greens of Hapoli and can also see the old Ziro settlement. Other viewpoints that you can trek to include Kile Pakho Ridge and Ziro Puto.
There is also the Tarin Fish Farm where you can learn about the various rice varieties grown in the valley. The Himalayan Heritage Park is another option, especially if you are travelling with family and kids because it has a beautiful botanical garden and amusement park.
But if you want to take it slow then just sitting by your campsite with your friends or a book for company, and a mug of the local rice beer - Apong, to go with the scenic view is a vibe in itself! If you are someone who likes exploring the local cuisine of a new place then perhaps Apong and the many types of bamboo shoot pickles prepared here might interest you. These include pika pila, chutneys, bamboo chicken etc. Chura sabzi, smoked meat served with rice, and momos are some of the other things you can try here.
You may also enquire at the information booths at ZMF for more information on things to do around here. If you have a few more days in hand, then consider visiting Tawang (known for housing the second-largest Buddhist monastery in the world), and the Bum La pass where you can see the Indo-China border.