The North East as an alternative music festival destination in India


There are many assumptions about the North East region of India especially concerning the homogenous identity the rest of India places on its land, people and culture. Only someone who’s lived there or from there will be able to tell you that it is perhaps one of the most diverse parts of the country— each eight-state (seven sisters is an ancient myth) very distinct in all manners of identity, geography and heritage.

With the announcement of several major festivals like The Weekender, Magnetic Fields, Far Out Left and DGTL in various parts of mainland India, we sometimes forget (perhaps ignore) that the North East also has a lot to offer— The NH 7 Weekender hosts one of its legs in Shillong, Meghalaya, The Ziro Music Festival in Arunachal Pradesh and Hornbill Festival in Kohima, Nagaland.

These festivals allow its attendees to have an immersive cultural experience in places that have been continuously alienated by the government as well as its people. There are assumptions about the difficulties involved in travelling and accommodation, but the local state governments take enormous initiatives in accommodating the large influx of people who go to these festivals. In fact, these are the only festivals where the tourism and transportation departments of the government are involved in order for these events to function smoothly. Larger roads were carved and a separate venue was designed from scratch for last year’s Weekender in Meghalaya, the number of buses from Itanagar to the Ziro Valley were increased for easier mobility.

It is very evident that the northeast (it is an honest disservice, and racist almost, to group all the states together) is yearning to build a larger network with India. However, the myths that surround this part of the country in terms of guerrilla militant issues, difficulties in travelling, language barriers, cuisine problems (the unavailability of vegetarian food) have kept the rest of the country at a distance. 

The truth of the matter is that visiting the North East is, in fact, going to be an educational experience for anyone— the art there is more pagan, unlike other places where it is influenced by Hindu mythology or Mughal aesthetics, the food is exotic and organic, the people are warm and welcoming and the weather is fantastic. The mystery that shrouds this part of the country adds to its beauty and charm.

So, if you’re looking for an alternative musical experience, which will enrich your life, add to your travel experiences, in climates that are pleasant and far away from the bustling city life, then there is else to go. Visiting the North East is discovering a part of India that is hard to believe exists outside our multi-storied, tethered-to-the-wifi kind of life we know (and abhor and love in equal measure) in the cities. You will probably not have access to late-night food deliveries and google maps might not be the most accurate in these lands, but getting away from this maniacal, modern capitalist life structures as we know it might be good for a change.

The Ziro Music festival starts from Thursday, 26 September until Sunday, 29 September in Arunachal Pradesh. You can tent and trek across the vast Ziro Valley while attending this festival that has an amazing live music line up of Zokova, The Rootless,  Still Waters and many more.

The Bacardi NH7 Weekender in Shillong takes place in The Festive Hills, created specifically for this festival and it starts from Friday, 1 November until Saturday, 2 November and has a stellar line up with names like Blot!, Lifafa, Raja Kumari etc.

The Hornbill Festival also called the Festival of Festivals because it incorporates cultural traditions of Nagaland while hosting a variety of musical artists. The Hornbill Festival is from Sunday, 1 December to Tuesday, 10 December. This is more a carnival and a getaway than just a festival, it is a participation in an anthropological journey.