A designer’s view of the aesthetic brilliance of the celebrated music festival
“We stood there,looking at each other, saying nothing.
But it was the kind of nothing that meant everything.”
- Jenny Han
On paper, the Ziro Festival Of Music (ZFM) 2016, was as good as it gets.
35 stellar Indian and international acts; a four-day-long outdoor picnic in the picturesque Ziro valley; welcoming Apatani homestays; camping under the stars; the local (and very potent) rice beer or apong and delicious Apatani cuisine. Much to look forward to, especially if you throw in the day-long music sessions, the afterparties, and exhilarating jam sessions that go on all night.
And then I reached Ziro after an arduous journey involving almost all modes of transportation. I was there as the manager and stylist for the Kolkata-based bluegrass band, No Strings Attached.
Life, as I knew it, changed. For me and for most of the others I met. It’s impossible to describe the exact impact of that first moment when you enter the festival grounds and walk up the hillock that gazes onto lush paddy fields with a lone house standing amidst an endless field of gold, with wispy clouds suspended over rolling plains surrounded by silent, watching mountains.
You are rendered speechless. But of course, there is more.
The unflinchingly blue sky, despite the alternating bursts of whimsical rain, and a fierce sunshine that scorches and heals in equal measure. And the wind, well, in Ziro it is an instrument.
When you finally recover enough to look around you, you begin to grasp the playful cleverness of the folks at ZFM. There are inviting benches on the hillock, mysterious yet interactive installations , dancing festoons that are the merry markers of the festival grounds and, of course, the dedicated performance areas. The Danyii (sun) Stage for day-time performances and the Piilo (moon) Stage for evening performances, are designed as a natural extension of the festival space, with innumerable food and merchandise stalls thrown in for good measure. Each beautiful element, a device.
Which brings me to my field of work: design.
As an extension of my work for my sustainable fashion label, KSR, I’ve been designing No String Attached’s look. It mirrors the songs of love and life that they play, with straw hats and handloom waistcoats and dresses, using the indigenous weaving technique of khesh. To me, the coming together of two kindred sensibilities to contribute to the look and feel of the band is very important.
I found something very similar at ZFM. The festival’s overall concept works because it encompasses much more than just the music. It’s an insightful, engaging and deeply respectful celebration of three core elements: nature, (wo)man and music. The overall aesthetic is seamless and syncretic, making you forget you are in fact in a man-made, artificial space. The Piilo Stage is hand-crafted with local bamboo and organically engineered using the natural slope of the ground to create an au-natural amphitheatre for perfect acoustics. Bamboo-and-cane greenroom with billowing curtains for doors; no-frill tarps to protect the sound equipment from the inevitable rain; helpful signs made from scrap wood and eco-friendly paint; the many beautiful cane trash holders that blend right in with the space, all add to the aesthetic experience. The laidback artists’ city, a fairyland teeming with hand-carved bamboo lamps lighting up spacious army tents with artsy portable toilets and bamboo basins took even brushing my teeth to new heights! Every detail was infused with an informal thoughtfulness, and that makes ZFM one of the coolest, hippest and happiest music festivals in the world.