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Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Hornbill International Rock Contest: Top-billed event risks going off-key with venue change

'Daddy Cool' and 'Allah Ke Bandeh' are set to headline the Hornbill Festival music scene this December, but not all are humming the Happy Song as organisers hint at a 'hasty' change in venue of the top-billed Hornbill International Rock Contest 2017.

Written by Kallol Dey | New Delhi |
Updated: November 9, 2017 4:41:32 pm
A guest band performing at the Hornbill International Rock Contest. (Source: Facebook)

Come December and Nagaland will take centrestage once again with one of the most attractive and extravagant tourism offerings in the country – the Hornbill Festival. For 10 days, Nagaland dons the crown – its depilated road conditions, illegal taxation, corruption and messy state of politics and governance, all cloaked with a tapestry of rich and colourful tradition, young talents, and unmatched hospitality.

One of the most anticipated events that sit like a jewel on Hornbill Festival crown, is the Hornbill International Rock Contest (HIRC) and music festival. Arguably the biggest domestic rock fest, and indisputably the highest prize money rock contest in India, the HIRC has become a big draw since its introduction in 2004 as Hornbill National Rock Contest. The event went international in 2013. With Nagaland setting sight on developing music as an industry, the Hornbill Festival has decisively been promoted as a music destination over the years with both international and national big names roped in to perform in every edition. This time, the big draw is German vocal group and late ’70s disco sensation Boney M, who will perform on December 10, the last day of the festival, in Kohima. Singer-composer Kailash Kher, who is quite popular in the otherwise western-music obsessed Nagaland, will ring in the Hornbill music festival on December 1, also in Kohima.

Gugs Chishi, Project Director of Music Task Force (MTF), Nagaland’s very own government body which conceptualised and developed the HIRC, talking to this scribe over phone informed that while Kailash Kher will be part of the official programme, the Boney M concert is being organised by a private promoter. Kher, he further informed, will be performing with SurFira, an indie band the Bollywood playback sensation is mentoring.

The four-day Rock Contest will kick off on December 5 and culminate with the grand finale on December 8. The HIRC is being managed by Nagaland-based event management group LiveNow Events. Ensuring the tempo doesn’t die down with the end of the HIRC, the MTF will promote local EDM (Electronic dance music) artists as part of the Hornbill Music Festival, Chishi informed.

True to its global billing, the Rock Contest will feature three international bands – Ghouls (Singapore), North H (Bhutan), The Kids We Used To Know (USA). Vying with the three for the huge INR 10 lakh top prize will be 18 selected bands from across the country and four Nagaland bands. Cash prizes of INR 5 lakh and INR 3.5 lakh are up for grabs by the first and second runner-up bands.

But even as music lovers and tourists from all over the country eagerly wait for 1st December date with Nagaland, clouds have gathered over the Hornbill Rock Contest. It is being reported that the organisers plan to shift the venue of the HIRC from Kohima to Dimapur. The decision is being seen by most as hasty, and one that would cause inconvenience for tourists, music lovers, and local hosts. Local newspapers in Nagaland, in their October 28, 2017 reports of a press conference by MTF mention Hockey Ground, Indira Gandhi Stadium, Kohima, as the venue for the event.

With an insufficient number of private and government hotels in Kohima, visitors from outside Nagaland plan their itinerary and arrange accommodations way in advance. A Naga tourist guide who has been handling foreign tourists since 2001, termed the move as irresponsible, stating that some bookings, especially that of foreign clients, are confirmed almost a year ahead of the festival and accommodations arranged accordingly. “One of the toughest aspects of our job is to ensure accommodation for our clients and we start booking hotels from the beginning of the year. Many of our clients, domestic or foreign, come to attend both the main festival at Kisama Heritage Village (venue for the main Hornbill Festival) and the rock contest. How will we manage them now if the venue for the HIRC is changed?”

While travel by road from Kohima to Dimapur takes about two hours in normal conditions, covering the same distance during the duration of the Hornbill Festival, would take up double the usual time, especially in the absence of good roads.

A few musicians based in Kolkata and New Delhi, who have been attending the festival since the past couple of years, and have already booked tickets and stay for the 2017 edition, were aghast on being informed of the probable change in venue of the HIRC.

When this scribe reached out to Alobo Naga, one of the most popular and internationally-known Naga musicians, the reaction was not encouraging either. He feels the change, if final, comes “too late in the day” and that the organisers should have announced their plan at the conclusion of HIRC 2016.

“I am from Dimapur, and it would be convenient for me if the HIRC is held in my area. But that would be selfish of me. As hosts we have to think of the convenience of our guests”, Alobo states, while adding that those who have timed their visit to attend both the main festival and the contest would have to miss out on one.

The Hornbill Rock Contest has become an integral part of the main festival, and taking one away from the other would rob both of their overall appeals, the musician feels.

Alobo then makes a most significant observation. “The whole point of the Hornbill package is to showcase the Nagas. For that visitors to our state have to be taken beyond Dimapur, which is not truly representative of the Naga way of life.” Dimapur, a border town and commercial capital of the state, has a cosmopolitan culture, and also not mountainous like the rest of the state.

No official announcement has yet been made by the organisers of the Hornbill International Rock Contest regarding the relocation of the event from Kohima to Dimapur. Hopefully, when the bonfire to mark the conclusion of another edition of the Hornbill Festival lights up the sky over Kisama, everyone would be humming a happy tune. Scraping through a depressing year, people in Nagaland need Boney M and their Happy Song to ring in the Christmas spirit.

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