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Orange blossom special

Friday, December 28, 2018
Photos by: Verus Ferreira

The Kathmandu Killers

Verus Ferreira attended the Orange Festival of Music and Adventure in Arunachal Pradesh and came back not only with a box of oranges, but with fond memories of the place

The fields and mountains around Dambuk, three-and-a-half hours north–east of Dibrugarh, are for the most part of the year the playground of cows, goats and orange orchards, with tiny human settlements that comprise mainly cultivators of the land. But come December, and human visitors double up here to stroll in the orchards for the annual ‘Music and Adventure’ Orange Festival. With a tagline like that, this festival truly is one of a kind. Supported and largely sponsored by Arunachal Pradesh Tourism, festival attendees are encouraged to access the innumerable outdoor opportunities, which include rappelling, hiking, whitewater rafting, Para sailing, paragliding, scuba diving in the nearby Dirang and Brahmaputra rivers. All this set against a pastoral backdrop of rolling green hills and towering silhouetted peaks, an orange sky and an orange moon.

Festivities for the four-day fest began on Saturday December 15, when the event was inaugurated by the CM of Arunachal Pradesh, Pema Khandu, wherein he mentioned that festivals like OFAM, which he initiated during his tenure as tourism minister, aim to spur growth in tourism in Arunachal Pradesh and help the state improve connectivity, thereby also benefitting locals economically. The evening also saw the flag-off of the JK Tyres 4X4 Fury rally event.

Kirsten Roseberg of the Iron Maidens

Thereafter the hills came alive with the sound of music, as Trance Effect an Indi rock band from Nagaland, opened the fest with songs about mental health issues. From then on it was three days of music with bands from across the country showcasing their music. You had Jhanu, a Tamil rock band, Nepali singer – songwriter Bipul Chetri and the Travelling Band among many others on Day One. The crowd, mainly locals, was seen having a ball of a time, sipping on local snacks and apong, the local rice beer available in red and white varieties. Besides other attendees you had rally drivers, musicians, dancing in the front of the stage.

Talking of rally drivers, it was an adrenaline rush for motorsport lovers when a few off-roaders—modified Gypsies and Jeeps—engaged in challenging tasks during the morning hours. There were breathtaking moments when the four-wheel drive vehicles took a challenge in performing some dare-devil stunts. I managed to catch all the action, wonderstruck on the grit and determination of these young drivers who came from all over the country to participate in this annual event. Locals, including school children and women, watched in disbelief stunts we only see in the movies. Local favourites, the Manabhum Off-Roaders Club of Arunachal Pradesh, displayed strategic acumen and nerves of steel to win the JK Tyre Orange 4 X 4 Orange Fury title picking up the glittering winners' trophy as well as `2.5 lakh for their efforts, while last year’s defending champs Gerrari Off-roaders finished second. Incidentally, the winners, who are planters by profession and took up the sport as a hobby, are all cousins. They began competing in 2012 just for fun before it became their calling in 2015.

As far as lodging is concerned, OFAM offers a fully-loaded space with a number of awesome options. From tents situated in the open field adjacent to the festival grounds offering a scenic view, to thatched bamboo houses, small and large tents in Bomjir, 20 kilometres from the festival ground. Add to this the fact that camping offers you rest under a galaxy of stars.

Death Metal band Sacred Secrecy

On the food front, the locals brought farm-fresh orange juice, orange pudding, rice wine, a variety of local beers, egg with ginger, freshly baked cakes, a slice of quality fast foods, pork roast and  smoked meats, authentic vegetarian and Indian fare, not forgetting stalls which showcased kiwi fruit and pineapple. 

Back to the music venue on Day two and you had local AP bands taking centre stage beginning with indie singer songwriter Yugo, Delhi-based Indie/ Alternative Rock band Yesterdrive who played music of the 90s keeping with their band name, Mizoram’s This Chord and Mumbai’s Aarifah Rebello, The Bluegrass Journeymen brought blistering bluegrass jams with some groovy sounds on tenor and alto sax that made the chilly weather suddenly feel warm. The night ended with Mumbai favourites Bombay Bassment bringing on a live set they are so well known for. Hip shaking and festival-goers had a swell time on stage dancing with lead singer Bobkat.

Day three had Goa-based singer Valerie D’silva opening, followed by singer Ramya Pothuri, German singer Lydie Hendrikje who fused Brazilian tunes into her music. The night ended with electronic act Sapta consisting of Marti Bharath and drummer Tapass Naresh putting hard hitting beats.

Minam Tekseng and Cheyyrian Bark of the Vinyl Records

Despite the last day being a wet one, the fest saw a decent crowd and the best night of the fest. It was girl power right through. After slow melodies from Aditi Ramesh and Suraj Mani, The Vinyl Records led by the pretty Assamese lead singer and keytarist Cheyyrian Bark gave a nonstop rocking set. Big on guttural vocals and squalling, atonal guitar solos, occult-inclined, you had Sacred Secrecy, a death metal band. With a scary toothed facemask, the three-member Kathmandu Killers brought in a mix of Punk, Ska and Reggae. The Iron Maidens, the World’s Only Female Tribute to Iron Maiden, gave an absorbing performance which kept the energy levels high through the evening. Belting out classics of the Brit band like Fear of the Dark, 2 Minutes to Madness, The Trooper, Run to the Hills and many others, the one-hour set proved less for fans of the original band. But Sweden all-girl rock band Thundermother made up for it with wild guitar riffs, hardcore grooves and mind-blowing vocal energy.

The fifth edition of the Orange Festival was grander and bigger. The ambience, music and the adventure is to be experienced. Escape from the churn and burn of daily routine and find your version of heaven. In Dambuk, heaven can wait.

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