The organisers of the Ziro Festival of Music, held in the rolling green fields of Arunachal Pradesh, against the backdrop of gently sloping mountains, released a statement in August saying the event had been cancelled. The message ended with a broken-heart emoji.
In November, however, there was some good news. The Instagram @ZiroFestival page announced that The Ziro Focus 2020 Virtual Festival would be held on 21- 22 November, in partnership with Focus Wales, a UK-based festival for emerging talent in music. But it won’t be the typical virtual music festival, where artists live-stream performances from their living rooms or a studio. There will not be any videos; the music will be available only as audio. “In our virtual festival, we are focusing on the joy of listening and not watching,” says Lubna Shaheen, festival programme director.
The virtual edition will have six bands from India and Wales playing music, narrating stories and sharing what motivates them as artists. The lineup has performers from two record labels—Amarrass Records from India, which works with traditional folk musicians, and Libertino Records from Wales, which provides a platform to independent artists.
Apart from these labels, there will be the foot-tapping folk songs of the Tetseo Sisters from Nagaland, the head-banging neo-psychedelia music of Lo! Peninsula from Manipur, the funky dance tunes of The Derelicts! from Kochi, the hypnotic music of Islet from Wales and the charming indie-pop of Kidsmoke from Wales. Incidentally, Kidsmoke shot to fame when one of their songs was picked up by Jodie Foster for her Black Mirror episode Arkangel. The upbeat song, titled Take Me To The River, with tunes somewhat similar to Oasis’ Wonderwall, is a must-listen.
“Ziro Focus 2020 was originally supposed to be an artist exchange and collaboration project between the two festivals, but because of the pandemic, we had to take this online this year,” says Shaheen.
Apart from the music, the organisers have attempted to gamify the experience and attendees can explore a virtual magic forest or go on a treasure hunt.
All you need is a laptop with good headphones, an uninterrupted Wi-Fi connection, a quiet place to lose yourself in music—and a space to dance like no one is watching.
The festival is free but entry is limited. Register on www.zirofocus.com.