October 1 2017 (Sunday) India @ Ziro Festival of Music

Damo Suzuki with The Holyhead Hunters : Shiv Ahuja (Synthesizer), Tony Guinard (Bass), Anup Kutty (Guitar) and Paul Schneiter (Drums)

This is THE longest trip I ever done for just one appearance.
It took 2 days and half ONE WAY…(Loud) TWO DAYS AND HALF, ONEWAY! You know, most far place from Germany by flight is New Zealand, if you have luck you can reach in 24 hours with one stop.
Let’s start from very beginning of contact how this arrangement came to stand.
One day, one of the organiser Anup contacted me, I guess when I was still in hospital.
Surely you get seldom feeling when you get an offer like this…..festival in Himalaya!?
I have no idea how is music situation there, do they know my musical adventure that I’m doing now?
First thing I said him was I wouldn’t sleep in tent. No, no!
It’s not matter of my illness, I’m not found of camping, I’ve not good experience, once strong wind rain blew our tent away when my kids are small, we were having summer holiday. Also if you get older you’re not ready for such an adventure (anyway my case), it may no interest or the body condition won’t allow.
Open Air Festival?
These questions are not stronger than my curiosity, just simply… “Himalaya” sound interesting for my ear.
I’d never been at this part of the world. Even I had heavy surgery or not, to visit new place brings me longing. I’m a self-accepted bohemian, you know. I cannot stop to move.
So, my answer to Anup was just 3 letters. Y.E.S! Followed by loud I COOOOOME!

Since this offer came, I again opened my curiosity habit.
A kind of adventure, I didn’t for really long time.
Surely there is risk after long illness and a lots of surgeries.
Therefore I won’t travel alone now a days when Elke cannot make it I ask someone at my family circle and my friend circle.
Anup promised me he’ll find someone attend me from Delhi Airport, all festival days and attend me back to Delhi Airport.
But, train ride from Cologne to Frankfurt how I can manage? It’s strange coincidence, two days before departure from Germany, Vero, a nice young lady from Berlin called me up, saying she is intend to visit Cologne and stay between September 26 to 28, she wants to visit me. I explained her, it’s absolutely not possible to meet up as same day of her arrival I fly to India. “ You can attend me to Frankfurt Airport..” I wasn’t expecting she’ll come, she is a spontaneous girl, she has interest to come and bring me to the airport beside she was saying, she has a special train ticket for four days, and she has no plan at all. She likes Cologne, she just like to be here, instead stay all time in Berlin. You know you need sometimes fresh air, escape from daily regular life. So, she came along with me, even it takes only 50 minutes, we have many stories to share, we didn’t see us together probably 5 odds years.

Even my flight departure time to Delhi was at 21:20, I like to be at airport far early enough as I cannot trust Deutsche Bahn (German Rail). It’s necessary to arrange like this, I have a lots of problems with DB, never come in time, (if you have direct train, problem is rather less, but if you have to change two times onward you meet trouble with connecting train, I have so much stories I can tell. On it, I guess DB shamefully offer most expensive train price in Europe, and bad service, especially in holiday seasons or busy time, toilet is messing, etc. Heigh price value doesn’t bring better quality.
So, at airport we had enough time, take snacks and cups of espresso, thanks to untreatable train company.
The flight was full booked, left no special wish for me. My seat was middle that is most uncomfortable seat you know that. With my illness side effect problem with dejection problem, better to sit aisle seat…. Anyway I’ll have many problems on this trip for sure. For pain I have to take a strong medicine that makes me “stoned” for 8 hours plus an another strong medicine for dejection. Both products are product of Opium, now you know how it is. Therefore I had to prepare papers that is written to bring those DRUGS signed by my doctor, (Fortunately this wasn’t necessary, they didn’t control at Indian side immigration at all.)

After 8 and half hours in air arrived in New Delhi.
Anup kindly, arranged me a day hotel at airport where I rest and relax until next action, quiet room with shower. I was totally SLEEEEEPY. First I did there is to get information of Champions league during my flight, unfortunately my team…Dortmund lost game at home against Real Madrid.
At this point I spoke with two people since enter India, at immigration and a receptionist of this hotel, both are quite difficult to understand they had strong Indian accent.
I don’t know how long I slept, I had to wake up, telephone is ringing, the voice from phone is saying something, didn’t understand well, I was half sleep and the voice was with strong Indian accent. (I have to use to it.) She was saying something like: someone will pick me up in 3 or four hours, I have to meet her out of entrance sign, terminal 6 or somewhere. At this moment it doesn’t matter, not my brain need rest, just all my body anyway I have to get out here in 5 hours, then I’ll see what happen.
If someone wake me up in middle of sleep, back to sleep again is not easy thing and fight try to sleep is not best way, you get more awake.
After 4 hours, finally clearness, the answer what voice on phone said in middle of sleep, a young girl named Shreya came at almost same time as phone voice mentioned.

I don’t know other airport in India, here this international airport only passenger can enter to terminal building, at entrance you can see many police (or military), some of them with machine gun, controlling document of booking, so family, friends are not allowed to enter terminal building. Therefore terminal building is astonishing silence.
Took taxi from Terminal 3 (international) to 1 (local), there we met Jonny, a solo artist from Brighton who will also perform at the festival. He was telling me of hard travelling once, performing in Brisbane, Australia for a show and come back to UK.
Next flight to Guwahati took 2 and half hours.
At this Assam’s capitol city, we met a band from Israel. Life is always full of surprise. Manager of the band knew Dor from Tree, “yeah, I know him he is my friend” you may remember I was in Tel Aviv performed with Dor’s band (even we made live CD of that night together later on) few years ago. The Manager took selfie and sent to Dor, he answered prompt with many compliments, whishing me healing, you know, you can’t imagine how small is the world.
It’s very hot here, must be more than 35°C, also with high humidity.
The airport to train station took quite long, one taxi with all luggage, other three taxis with all staffs.
The city reminds me of just any spots in Southeast Asia, many people on the street, many shops under dull light of low power bulbs.
Night train schedule, departure at 20:00, we had plenty of time, all musicians cme tgether in a busy restaurant for hanging around. I accompanied some of passengers, went for walk near by, better than hanging around, quite often asked by very young skinny kids for money. Someone explained me, don’t give them money, they won’t buy foods, even they’re small but taking drugs, cheap bad quality ones that totally damage brain and health.

You can see directly life of poorest of poor people life here.
Shreya, has responsibility to bring musicians and stuff to the festival, was quite nerves all the time as the band from Nepal didn’t show up until this point and delayed. When they show up late in the day, she became free from her pressure, she is just glad. Kathmandu to Ziro, they took 2 and half days, same as me. I can imagine mountain roads, less official traffic connections, hey, it’s middle of Himalaya they’re come from.
Night train from Guwahati to Naharlagun.
Probably almost all passenger is going to the festival.
No places free, all cabin is for 4 people, later change to 4 beds, also on alies space to sit also become beds.
Strangely, some people know me (I never thought somebody know me here) and talk with me. One came from Bangalore around 3,200km far from Ziro. India is so huge. It’s incredible not just travelling km. Visitors must have time and a bit of pocket money even they make camping. Surely some of them took long path.

I never had good sleep in night train, you cannot see anything, out side endless darkness continuing, quite baring cinema, occasionally stop at spots I never heard of and I never will hear.
It’s not comfortable at all, I’m too old for this kind of life and I’ve not very best condition after my surgeries, even I’m forgetting meaning of „condition“.
From time to time, close my eyes, flash back from last few years, stand up for loo, speak with long-term waker.
Arrive at Naharlagun early morning 5:00.
Time seems to be counting here difference, I felt already 10:00 or similar. I once this kind of experience, while ago at Izu peninsula in Japan. Elke and I walked 2 hours….we thought …. real trial time length was just only 20 minutes! It may possible some spot in this world has different time sequence, it’s very difficult to understand… Izu experience was s intense with time. Anyway whole at ZFOM (Ziro Festival Of Music), time went so strange..from nature surrounding.
Here are feet of Himalaya, Federal State Arunachal Paradesh, a sensible part of India-China conflict.

At the station identity control, sure I need visa that was prepared by festival organiser, even Indian people must have visa if he is not citizen at this part here. So feeling like visiting another country.
Immigration took quite long, I’m so tired and sleepy, and length of time is too longer than of normal. Morning light is biting my eyes. Morning breeze is very welcome solution, before heat and humid attack next to appear.
Now we take last stage to Destination….Ziro, very adventurous trail. We were separated to few jeeps.
At first layover, morning coffee and bread at standing bar, it was more than necessary.

Right side of car is deep cliff, but deep…, mountain road is terrible condition, some spot not easy to pass due to fresh landslide. Jeep hopping likes a lonely small ship on angry ocean that seems to sink. Holes on path filled up with rainwater, the driver choose on seems-too-be-safe part. Passenger moves left to right, up to down, you know condition of the mountain road is horrible, especially with fresh prepared stomach like mine. Narrow mountain road, must much attention to opposite traffic. Only good thing is we have a jeep with the driver who has experience enough for this situation/condition of road.
First plan was, go to the festival directly at 10:00 for breakfast, anyway it’s already getting almost to noon. And I was not able to communicate with people, I was too tired after all long trip. We went to our accommodation directly. I like to have additional sleep, if not just rest. We, Johnny from Brighton and Kathmandu Killers stay at a modern house (if you compare with other houses here) of former singer Sofia. (Later on she showed us her album performed with her husband very proudly). The house has many rooms and some housekeepers are working. It’s in middle of rice field. Just opposite we can see the festival ground, it’s 2km front. Sofia took us showed us rooms, she offer, we can take whichever we like. I took one with a large space with bathroom. Window parts are open (Without glass and frame) …First I thought it’s common here at the end of the world, has no real window like this. My suggestion was wrong, she said it’s under the construction. Ach so… even so I took this room for next days. So, so under construction…took not long to realize I don’t have warm shower. A house helper brought me buckets of warm water from down stairs. Inner architecture of the house is kind of Pop Art to me, it’s something between kitschy and tradition.

Took nap for few hours, saw Jonny waiting at entrance. He looked fresh.
People at this part of India is not like Indian I thought of, more they’re looks like me, Mongolian. Geographically this area is neighboured by Butan, China and Myanmar. I don’t feel like in India, rather somewhere in East Asia.
Entrance to the festival is controlled by many policemen/military,
Anup, one of arranger of the festival and a sound carrier guitarist welcomed me at the festival, als another arranger Shaj. They’re in good mood.

There’re many eatery huts, local foods, local drinks. I heard of grill frog and grasshopper tradition here, I MUST to try them! First day they were sold out, I was too late. Hopefully next day.
Shreya was singing „Vitamin C“ beside me while singing asked me if I sing this song at the festival. I can’t remember if I answered, anyway I gave her „Vitamin C“ tablet from my rucksack. She didn’t drop it, left saying „ I keep this as a souvenir“. Since this moment I used it instead my business card share, some people take it like it is.
On the muddy festival ground, two girls joined me to talk, asked to If I sing this and that song from my early 70’s at my performance here, I said I just create songs at the spot with ever changing local sound carriers. They say they came to here from Calcutta that is 1,500 km far from here.
The festival attracts young Indian people. Anup remember when he travelled all over India, he found this place is beautiful spot that stayed in his brain, later come with idea to establish festival here. Attendance this year is around 3,500. Every year its growing. For some music fan, keen on little bit of adventure and camping, it may worth to visit.
Sound carrier drummer Paul is a French guy, used to live in India for 20 years and has good connection to domestic people and also music scene, he says, he had been every part of India and found most peaceful and beautiful space is this area.

Whole festival long, mornings always landscape of rice field in rain, partly really hard rain that makes the festival ground a mud sea.
I went with my favourite shoe, it’s nothing of shine any more.
Guests at Sofia’s were Johnny and 3 members of Kathmandu Killers, a punk band from Kathmandu.
Johnny is a funny lovery guy, brings jokes and builds up warm communicative atomsphere.
I had enough time to spend the time together with the band from Nepal. Guitarist/singer is a lawyer, sympatric female bassist Sareena is a mountain guide, Drummer is youngest of the trio, remind me of someone I know in Japan. After conversation about this and that, the trio is quite similar to me on political level…. (violence less) anarchist!
2nd day at Ziro, We 4 went to centre village of Ziro, being tourist. Kindly a local person took us in his car. He is representative of some thing in this village, guide us where to go to eat. Every angle of the town is exotic for my eyes. No town planning, time after time the town is developing with improvisation.

To get a cup of coffee at this area is not easy, yeah, sure here is tea domination clearly, it’s tea origin.
I don’t know what friends from Nepal is easting everyday, we had really hot dish I couldn’t finish it all. It was huge amount of rice, hot sauce and a (really) bit of meat. Sauce is fairly hot like if directly burn your tongue form first spoon, you cannot taste anything else, but hot. Sweats pouring down from all part of body, we were speechless.
Finally we found place to have a cup of coffee, it’s instant coffee, it’s doesn’t matter we don’t get it real coffee.
Young friendly festival visitors took us in their bush taxi dropped us at our residence, which is on the way to the festival.
This evening, finally I had Grasshopper and frog!
Grasshopper is well grilled and taste good, remembering of Nagano prefecture in Japan. It’s healthy with much calcium.
But, Frog, I imagined of French style, just eat legs, but this one is whole body frilled, it’s a bit grotesque, so try just one piece was enough.
It’s all sound just journey, what is music at the festival?
Mainly music was what you hear in western countries at now. Hip Hop and Techno… just copy, so what I have to say, I say just nothing, it’s not my world. Between acts dance and music of local folklore that was much interesting, mainly I missed for my condition stay outside in uncomfortable weather.

Here and on the way I met good amounts of musician/bands from Israel. I have known that is part of Israel-Indian culture exchange. Anup’s band performed also in Israel recently, he said.
Network band of Himalaya was 2 Indian (Guitar and Synth), 2 from France (Drums and Bass) and I. Sound check and show time is delayed for few hours on technical solution caused by weather, Actually this made better for our appearance. Relax before concert I appreciate. Especially nature place like here. Our show time is sunset time.

Next day, early in the afternoon, when I enter the festival ground a policeman with smile on his face came to me, give his hand saying he much enjoyed our show last night. When unexpected thing happen, you feel something another level.
It was one of a most exciting festival trip ever, it’s still for me incredible, and 3,500peple came to the end of the world. They must have time and off course financial aspect.
When the festival is over silence rules again all over rice fields,
Festival staffs are cleaning up,
Visitors are getting less and less.
Dream of last days were melt into time and space.
I just wonder with all these festival materials, for example 2 x stages and many huts, boos for drinks and foods serviced, also merchandising huts? How they transport all things? Mountain road is impossible for big transporter, road is too narrow, sensible and risky for heavy transporters.
The answer to this, found little talk with Anup, after his festival started some years ago, few other festivals are also started here. So, they can leave it here. Also it’s not expensive to build new stage made by bamboo, material costs are low as bamboo is a traditional used and glows everywhere here.

It was not good weather next morning, as usual of all festival days, pouring rain and fog followed our trip back to the train station.
Thanks Anup, for invite me to an amazing place like here, without his invitation, I may not know this part of the world. And meet all those music fans come from every parts of India, domestic bands/artists and bands/artists from neighbour countries. It was fun, especially with not my real condition after surgery I’ve done this adventurous trip, I’m proud I’ve done it! It helps me on my motivation in future.
When we left this village, as many cars are driving same direction became traffic jam. It’s didn’t move. our driver was a crazy mountain road-well-experienced local driver, for him the words „manner“ is foreign.
He took right side of road take over hundreds of cars before us, stocked in traffic. Suddenly he cannot go further, and then many divers and passengers shut at him (us), „how possible to do thing like this!“. “Arshole!” They’re almost near to attack us….
A western driver even said to us„ You come from civilisation, how is possible to arrange shit driver like this guy.?“
In fact, kilometre long queue, in bad weather (road) condition, cold and wet, landscape hide behind curtain. We have to shame ourselves even it was not our fault, the driver was a shameless crazy guy, drives like rocket right side take over hundreds of cars.
We left early enough village, but now we’re tight with train schedule, passengers of other cars all take same train.
In train, every festival visitors are very relaxed, talking their experience, favourite show at the festival, change their address, everybody seems to be satisfied to visit this festival and already noticed in their dairy to visit next one, next year.

At Guwahati, we 7,8 people rest at one of festival staff’s father’s house. I lay down a bit, just close my eyes, and bring my self far spot/scene…
Outside is grilling, anther heat day in India, in the night slept in Hotel near Delhi airport. Attended by Sahaj with turban this time, he is a proud Sikhi, I left India back to my reality.

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