Festival Report: Orange Festival of Adventure and Music 2018, Dambuk, Arunachal Pradesh
From guzzling orange juice to going off-roading and taking in a variety of music, the festival has solidified its position
When our plane landed at Dibrugarh airport in Assam, we could only see one strip of concrete that was the runway, while the rest of it was brimming with greenery, hinting at what the rest of the days in the North East would look like. The travel from the airport to Dambuk, Arunachal Pradesh –which played host to the Orange Festival of Music and Adventure last month — began in a long and bumpy bus ride full of scenic views with patches of low lying clouds. Right from arriving at the farthest airport in the country to the second longest bridge, Bomjir slowly arrived by the end of the night. The long commute meant we arrived by the end of Day 1 and left before the end of the festival, missing a few important hours of performances.
While documenting a festival, it’s ideal to stay closer to the venue grounds to interact with people and musicians. There was basic stay and accommodation available for the artists and the festival attendees, at the festival camping grounds in Dambuk and we were hosted at Bomjir, roughly a half-hour drive away from the venue, in a more comfortable tent setup. The view outside the tent was beautiful, with a river flowing by and a long stretch of mountains in the distance.
The day began at 9:30AM with a view of oranges being sold in bamboo bags outside the camp. The plan was to have a look at the other activities at Orange Festival which included 4X4 and off-roading. Sadly, we lost our way and weren’t able to make it and watch those activities. As the bus approaches Dambuk, there’s a noticeable hustle-bustle at the road itself, with the festival’s orange and white branding visible everywhere. There are women selling oranges there too, there’s some jewellery, trinkets and stalls by locals there. The moment you enter the festival grounds, you start seeing camping sites set up and run by locals in different areas of the festival. It’s a good 10-minute uphill walk to the stages, all the while passing camps and stay for people and musicians. There was music playing at every camp’s sound systems, feeling cozy and inviting.
Two stages, many moods
The festival had two stages, a Day Stage and a Night Stage. The day stage was a smaller stage with a lovely thatched bamboo roof that had artists like Aarifah Rebello, Lydia Hendrikje, Yugo, Suraj Mani and Valerie D’Souza perform. As we stayed at Bomjir, and were trying to see other outdoor activities, the acts on the day stage were missed. It was nice to see artists hanging around the stages checking out every other performance. Day two showcased quite a mood-shifting spectrum, starting with Mizoram band This Chord opening the evening stage with slow, mellow and colorful sounds. They had an impressive sound considering they wrote all their songs (“Caffeine,” “Closure” and the funk-leaning “She”) in the last month and are currently producing their EP.
Shillong act Tarik got on stage with their punk sound making the crowd yell “Aayiye Ko Ye” which translates to ‘Mother said so’. Their music was a lot about standing up for ourselves and making a point, along with corny song names like “Boro Plus.” Meanwhile, “Model Police” was making a statement about cops who think they could do whatever they want. Their sound was very energetic with punchy riffs and a bassline that stood out in the mix while the bassist sang as well. Their set featured an all tongue guitar solo, a spectacle that was made even better thanks to a ‘HI MOM’ sign stuck on the back of the guitar.
Homebred indie rockers Yesterdrive battled a few sound issues, but broke the ice when their guitarist Haggai Rongmei yelled out, “Someone please buy me a new guitar!” Their music was full of happy melodies with upbeat rhythms and choruses with carefully strung words that played up vocalist Molie Lollen’s sweet voice.
Next up was genre bending band The Bluegrass Journeymen with singer Nabanita Sarkar from Kolkata who played a lovely set that included bluegrass numbers like “Carukesi” and “Things in Life.” They also performed a poem by Rabindranath Tagore, comfortably switching between Indian classical and bluegrass numbers.
The final act was Bombay Bassment who had Mumbai-based Gillian Pinto on backing vocals and bassist Ruell Barretto was noticed playing guitar as well. The crowd was barely on the ground through their set and spent more time in the air jumping, pretty much obeying vocalist Bob Omulo aka Bobkat’s lyrics. The grooves of the bass guitar and the fluid style of Bobkat gave the audience an awesome time as they danced away.
Out and Outdoors
On day three, we managed to go for some outdoor activities like white water rafting, scuba diving, parasailing and lighting the odd fire in the middle of the hills as we were really cold. This section of the festival was well organized and manned by National Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports (NIMAS).
We also got a chance to browse through the food stalls as the day stage kicked off. The cuisine was from different villages in the area and carried their own flavors. The most amazing orange juice was also available, freshly squeezed right in front of you and ready to drink. It was Rs. 100 a glass and 200 a bottle, but it’s definitely something widely distributed fruit juice brands should aspire to be.
The Day stage had Mumbai-based singer-songwriter Ramya Pothuri performing her tunes with guitarist-vocalist Ronit Sarkar. The view of the mountains in the day gave you a great feeling about being in Dambuk. The girls from jazz/funk band Ladies Compartment also joined Ramya on backing vocals to add harmonies to her songs. Germany’s Lydia Hendrikje had a set that was full of variety and music from all across the globe, including songs in Portuguese, French and English. With her mellow voice and the band playing songs like, “If You Never Came To Me,” “La Javanaise” and ”Rosa Morena,” the crowd was settling into the music as the sun set.
The Night stage on day three kicked off with multi-genre bands such as Ladies Compartment (whose members Aditi Ramesh, Ramya Pothuri and Aarifah Rebello were also performing solo material at the festival on different days). Their vocal harmonies with some jazzy piano and slow moving grooves in songs like “Logo” and “Don’t Waste Your Time” transitioned beautifully to Kolkata-based acoustic/folk band Fiddler’s Green. They kicked off with tunes that people resonated with like “Dama Dum Mast Kalandar” and “Resham Firiri.” Most songs had vocal solos with more childlike sounds made as he sang. There was a certain playfulness and innocent attitude towards their music and sound, soaring throughout.
Myanmar’s The Reasonabilists was a band whose musicians were aged from 17 to 23 years old. A certain portion of the audience was sufficiently tipsy and started asking for Bollywood songs, which wasn’t very surprising. The band couldn’t really hear or understand much of the audience banter and continued playing their energetic set. Their sound was a high energy rock band with harmonies and broad smiles. The Many Roots Ensemble picked up on the same energy levels, bringing back the world-fusion vibe of Fiddler’s Green, albeit with more of a jazz approach, MC Tod Fod also joined them on stage with some of his songs. Although there were some sound issues on stage with respect to the guitarist, Subid Khan, it was soon Chennai electronica act Sapta‘s turn. They took day three to another level, playing tunes like “Take the Flow” and more. They kept moving the mood of the music, revelling in jungle and drum and bass. Breaking out of the regular duo setup, Sapta featured Shakti on vocals, with Bharath Shankar on keys and Jhanu on guitars.
From what we experienced, the Orange Festival of Adventure and Music still gets points for music programming, considering they plan out a good flow of different genres, but they perhaps need to find a better way around transport and timings so that everyone can make the most of their time at the festival.