The third edition of Orange Festival of Adventure and Music (OFAM), in the remote Dambuk village in Arunachal Pradesh in north-eastern India, is a unique event that positively impacts communities in the region.
With the global sensation, heavy metal guitarist, Yngwie Malmsteen as the headlining act for the OFAM 2016, this year’s edition turned up the excitement of music lovers and adventure enthusiasts a few notches. Putting a focus on bands both from the northeast of the country as well as the rest of it, OFAM offered a platform for the coming together of music lovers from India and over 10 countries. Alongside the musical shows that delighted audiences, the picturesque Dambuk village situated in Lower Dibang of Arunachal Pradesh played host to the Maruti Suzuki Rally Championship alongside adventure activities such as river rafting and zip-lining. The festival also catalysed the process of uplifting the local community of Dambuk. It also provided a boost to the tourism the north-eastern region of India, which still remains largely unexplored, while giving platform podium to bands of the region.
“OFAM 2016 has carved a niche space for itself this year by hosting Yngwie Malmsteen’s first and only ever show in India. There was an unprecedented interest, success and turnout for the show and I expect more bands to be visiting the northeast and firmly putting this region and OFAM on the map of the world music scene, and not just India,” states Lubna Shaheen, consultant for the OFAM. Malmsteen, who is also visiting India for the first time, remained excited ahead of the show. “I am aware of my large fan base here in India; what I expect is a great crowd who loves music and just wants to have a good time. And, a rocking good night we will have!” he exclaimed.
However, bringing together the festival wasn’t without its fair share of problems. Even as the beauty of Dambuk is enhanced in summers due to the surrounding tributaries of the Brahmaputra river that cuts it off from the rest of the world, Shaheen points out, “This is a place that had no electricity till last year and till today, in the summers the only way to get across to Dambuk is on elephants and in winters by driving over a rocky dry riverbed. Logistically, this proves a big challenge as everything needs to be brought in from far away cities.”
Locals under spotlight
Music programming consultant Getem Apang, who serves as a guitarist for Arunachal-based bands Omak Komut Collective and Tani, who played at OFAM shares, “Festivals such as OFAM definitely play an important part in bringing opportunities for smaller bands. Bands get to interact with other artists from all around the country and get wide coverage from media houses across the region. Since the OFAM is now recognised as one of most sought after festivals, playing here also boosts chances of getting entry into other festivals.”
By having local involvement and promoting regional bands, the OFAM has brought forward a new way of showcasing the heritage of the state and the northeast of India in general. Apang says that the music of his bands is shaped by story-telling and narratives in local dialects, enchanting listeners with the unique local sounds. “Folk music definitely has been a source of influence for our music. Additionally, issues and events surrounding the local areas help as sources for our song writing,” shares Apang.
Abu Tayeng, the local man who initiated OFAM, shares, “The festival has changed many things in the area. Primarily, this has happened through the increase in the tourist inflow. Secondly, it has contributed by providing self-employment avenues to local people. All the stalls, homestays, most production crew, even some camping partners are from the state. Now, we have a trained pool of human resource. OFAM has become a training ground for the state’s off-roading enthusiasts,”
Offering an experience of the local way of life and culture of this unexplored land while bringing a taste of the world to the locals, this festival pushes for growth in the local community. Supported by the local MLA and Parliamentary Secretary, Gum Tayeng, as well as the Department of Tourism, Arunachal Pradesh, OFAM is transforming the lives of locals in the north-eastern state.