Tag Archives: ziro music festival

Be like Apong.

We all see the world differently. A foodie remembers places based on how excited his tongue felt there. A history buff remembers places depending on its importance in the scheme of politics and civilization in the past. A visual artist remembers the colors of the streets, sun rise, sun sets, patterns and textures peculiar to a place.

Then there are beer lovers. They hardly remember anything, if at all. Their memory is patchy, filled with missing hours and events. Those missing events are generally way too embarrassing to be enquired about. They get excited by availability of cheap beer.

Just like each country has its own flag. Each region has its own cuisine. There is beer, which also defines the existence of a particular community.

Ziro, in Arunachal pradesh, India, is no different.

Their answer to the world of local beer is called, lo and behold, “Apong”

Apong is beer made from rice. It has short shelf life. It is made in almost every home. It is available as cheap Rs. 20 for one liter. It’s the drink of the masses.

Apong comes in various forms, depending on its  distillation and taste. The more expensive it gets, the more refined it is, and begins to look clearer, like wine and tastes sweeter.

Rice beer is not only a drink but an integral part of north eastern tribe culture. It is made by women mostly, and acts as an accepted ice breaker between men and women of the community. It is also a part of the marriage customs. Some also believe it to have medicinal properties.

Here is a quick run through on the process of Apong making.

  1. You need a starter ‘cake’. It is a collection of rice or other grains which is fermented to produce beer.
  2. Grains are ground with little water and then dried to make the cake.
  3. Then they are kept in an earthen pot.
  4. Then the ‘secret medicine’ or yeast is added to initiate fermentation and the earthen pot is closed.
  5. After 5 days water is filtered through the fermented cake, and what we get below is pure ‘Apong’

Apaptani household woman preparing Apong.



Apong collects in the white vessel underneath.


Apong is traditionally served in bamboo glasses. Pic from google search.


Beautiful Apatani house., where I learned about Apong.





Wandermates #5 – Gramlines


Of the many things I liked about the Ziro music festival was that it was very relaxed and informal. The artists who performed on stage came down and joined the crowd, sharing drinks, chatting, enjoying other shows, being one like the audiences.

So on my way back, in the sleeper coach of my train, I found myself in good company of the Italian band called Gramlines. They had performed at the fest and had kept the audience in awe throughout the show. They play rock in an alternative/soft genre with good lyrics.Since I had the opportunity to talk to them, I was curious to know what would they do in everyday life. As audience, the general practice is to hold artist o a pedestal, and one never comes to know about them as a person. I find it intriguing.

To my surprise, theirs was not a full time band. They are a bunch of long time friends who came up with their own music, but still  are pursuing their education. So, one of them is a pharmacist. One is pursuing PhD. in Physics from Australia. Two of the members are students of philosophy. I was impressed to see that these guys were rooted firmly in the reality and not whimsically drifted to the lure of glamour and money.

It was also interesting to learn their understanding of what makes certain bands super successful and some die an unnoticed death under the shadows of popularity. They said that its mainly because to please the masses,  as a band, you generally have to deviate from your own style of music and become what is promoted to the population as ‘cool’. So, in return of money and fame, you might give away your creative freedom and emotion of the music.

You can checkout their Facebook page here  : https://www.facebook.com/GramlinesBand/?fref=ts

Have fun.

The Apatanis of Arunachal.

Sometimes when I travel, I come across places far flung from the plague of industrialization and concrete shadows. At times, the philosophy of life imbibed in people living here makes me reconsider the meaning of progress, success, culture, values, tradition and civilization.


What do you do if you look so stunning that people of the other tribe want to steal you away? Tattoo your face and wear a nose ring, intentionally to look at ugly. Crazy.!

Meet the Apatani tribe.They are a non- nomadic tribe residing in the Ziro valley of Lower Subansiri district of Arunachal Pradesh, India. They worship sun and moon, Donyi-Polo. They cultivate rice and farm fish and frogs.

Social structure.

Hong is the second largest village in Asia, home to the Apatanis, I was told. Yet it felt uncluttered and peaceful to see. It got me curious about the working of the society and how did they maintain order in spite of being so spread out and populated. Speaking to the locals this is what I discovered. The Apaptani tribes are divided into small ‘titles’. Each title, from what I could understand, is like a big joint family. They have their own place of worship. People cannot marry withing the same title, but can freely do so from other titles.

Also, after the indoctrination of Christianity and Hindu ideas into their concept of worship, they have becmome more streamlined with the present day practices.

It is surprisingly forward compared to some communities popularized by mainstream media from mainland India in the light of enmity against inter caste marriages, love violence, etc.


Way of life.

Women hold  major stake in everyday life here. They work in farms along side men. Run businesses. Take decisions about property and household alike. It is in complete harmony with the men, unlike many modern societies we come across in cities often.

I was glad to hear that people from Ziro and north east in general feel as Indian as any of us. In fact, the anchor in Ziro Festival of Music, on many occasions would invite people from other states to come down and settle in Ziro, and marry Apaptani women. Way ahead of its time I say.




Tribal tattoos.

Amongst other things, tribes, world over are often known for their distinct tattoos. Apatanis are no different. The story goes that women of these tribes were/are so stunning that men form the the tribes would come to teal them. Hence, to intentionally look ugly, women would tattoo their face in T-shape to ward off unwanted attention. Of all the kinds of tattoos, facial tattoos are most intriguing to me. Your face is your identity, and to permanently modify it by tattooing is committing to a belief unconditionally. It means making the idea behind the tattoo a part of your identity.Its not only just tattoos, they also apply nose rings to enhance the ugliness.


Tattoos and nose rings.


Modern Apaptanis.

The present day generation swiftly switches between traditional and modern practices. They party with as much glamour as they dance to the folk songs. They believe in education. Hong village was full of schools and colleges and many book shops I saw. People are well aware of current affairs of not only their own region but rest of the country as well. They speak Hindi and English well and are able to communicate about their culture and feelings freely.And they love Bollywood and Apong, their local rice beer.


It was a pleasure hanging out with these folks..!


Sarpanch of Hong village, Mr. Tatungnada.


They showed me around the whole village and told me lots of what I have written above.Thanks for the ride guys.!


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