A few months ago, the St. Giles Church in Wrexham, Wales transformed into a venue for a cross-country gig like no other. Manipuri folk artist Mangka Mayanglambam, who incorporates the Moirang Sai of storytelling in her music along with electro soul pop music producer and singer-songwriter, Eädyth performed their collaborative track ‘ReRaReHei’ at the church as part of Ziro Focus, the international collaborative project in partnership with Focus Wales, UK and produced by the Ziro Festival of Music. The track will soon be available as an NFT, marking India’s favourite sustainable music festival’s foray into the metaverse.
The Wrexham performance was accessible to everyone worldwide as an augmented reality (AR) experience, followed by Mangka and Eädyth’s extensive touring across the UK with performances in churches, bars, and arts spaces. Now the Ziro Festival of music which is currently underway in Arunachal Pradesh is recreating another such experience during its ninth edition that’s returned to full scale after the pandemic. “We have an AR experience that is something completely new this year,” says Lubna Shaheen, Programmes Director, Ziro Festival of Music adding that the second AR experience will be a live event during the festival.
Peers and partners
For two years now, the folks over at Ziro Festival of Music have worked on various collaborations across the UK and India, supported by the British Council. The resultant endeavour, Ziro Focus, is a year-long celebration of the long-standing relationship between the two countries that will continue to see creative collaboration, education and cultural exchanges online and in cities across both countries. Artists from the Northeast as well as countries like Lithuania, UK, France, Israel, and Japan too are performing.
In a bid to embrace technology further, the Ziro Festival of Music app was launched a few weeks back, featuring the entire festival schedule, complete with details of performing artists and times. Users can also create their own schedules on the app, look for accommodation options and other services. Plus, it features playlists of all the artists performing at the festival and there’s a store to buy tickets and merch.
Attempting to be genre-agnostic and inclusive of all forms of music, the festival’s lineup includes electronic, folk classical, rock and fusion artists. Some of the performers from the surrounding region include David Angu and The Tribe (Arunachal Pradesh), Abdon Mech (Nagaland), Dokodoko (Sikkim/West Bengal), Bipul Chettri & The Travelling Band (West Bengal), Da Minot (Meghalaya), Salakhala (Sikkim), Dr Declan Oppenheimer’s Polyphonic Experience (Assam), Mangka (Manipur), Meewakching (Manipur), Takar Nabam (Arunachal Pradesh), Origami (Mizoram), Sky Level (Meghalaya), Street Stories (Meghalaya/Nagaland) among others.
Emilie Hanak from the French folk band, Yelli Yelli will be making her maiden appearance in India with the event. There’s also a storytelling hour with Shubha Das; a learning session to make an indigenous Apatani flute from paddy straw; dance and movement sessions with Denis Barwa as well as yoga and meditation. “The artists are chosen by our curation team that works through the year,” explains Shaheen. “One of the main things we look for is artists who have original music and probably have a new album released recently.”
Often described as India’s most ecofriendly music festival, and not without reason, Ziro Festival of Music features infrastructure made from bamboo and timber (oak and pine are cultivated separately) sourced from the Birii village where the festival is conducted. While single use plastic has been banned, the festival is providing free water through water stations that can be refilled by guests in their own reusable water bottles. Food too is served in betel leaves and adornments are made from upcycled cloth buntings and bamboo light fixtures.
To be environmentally respectful is a tenet shared not just by the festival’s organisers. It is in fact, a way of life for the residents of the region too that extends to community-driven campaigns like Clean Ziro and Green Ziro. In a bid to boost economy in the area, the festival has employed the craft and art of local artisans from the Apatani community.
The festival site has two stages, Signature Danyi (Sun for day performances) and Simba Pwlo (Moon for night performances) and these have been constructed using bamboo and pine. Metal waste sourced from local scrap yards will be used for sitting arrangements and art installations. And to drive home the green message further, the festival will have Dharitri Boro, an artist from Santiniketan to lead a participatory art project on tapestry weaving with plastic waste. The greenest music festival in the country walks the talk as far as making sustainable choices are concerned.
For more details, visit zirofestival.com