The inaugural Edition of Ladakh International Music Festival Rocks The Valley with some help from the Army
Ladakh has been a prime tourist destination whether it be for its pristine natural landscapes or its Buddhist heritage. The region has also spawned some under-the-radar music acts that deserve more recognition, including the likes of local Ladakhi bands such as Faisal Ashoor, Rolyangs, and Anonymous.
This May, the usually silent and pristine Ladakh rocked with an all-new music fest that was the brainchild of some unlikely organisers. Not only were Assam-bred music composer Joi Barua and the theatre company Picturetime’s founder and CEO Sushil Chaudhary behind the festival but they also collaborated with the Indian Army.
Christened as the “Ladakh International Music Festival”, the event was organised within just a short span of 30 days. And as Ladakh is no metropolitan hub like Weekender’s Pune or Sunburn’s Goa, it can be quite a Herculean task to pull off a fest in a high-altitude region like this.
The 4-day affair took place from April 30 to May 4 at the Sonam Wangchuk Stadium in the city of Leh. Not only did the festival showcase Ladakh’s local homegrown, indie rock bands but also more mainstream names like the aforementioned Joi Baruah, folk fusion veterans Indian Ocean, and the vocal quartet Tetseo Sisters, among many others.
Set in the backdrop of the snow-clad Ladakh range and the white-domed Shanti Stupa, Ladakh International Music Festival also bore witness to a rock band competition. Even though it was intended to be a competitive event, the judging panel from The Musical Society of Ladakh decided to felicitate all of the competing bands. Ultimately, it is the local music scene that emerged victorious!
What also needs to be noted is the Rezang La War Memorial which lies in the vicinity of the area. The latter half of the festival bore witness to a closing ceremony at this memorial as a mark of tribute to the Army’s war veterans. For this occasion, Baruah himself composed and sang a “Rezang La Anthem” to celebrate the exploits of war hero and Param Vir Chakra awardee Major Shaitan Singh and his unit.
Among Bollywood actors like Richa Chadha and Darshan Kumar, one of the esteemed attendees was Corps Commander Lt. Gen. A Sengupta who had the following views on the song, “I congratulate Joi Barua and his band for performing such a revered song on this precious land, based on the 60-year-old war [the 1962 Indo-China War]. This song is an honest composition that comes out straight from the heart. We dedicate this entire festival to the 114 bravehearts who gave their lives 60 years ago.”
“To perform and sing at such a high altitude, above 15,000 Ft is not an easy task. Something like this has happened for the very first time in such a region.” Sengupta added.
Picturetime’s Sushil Chaudhary was actually the one to come up with the idea as he had been working in and around Rezang La for quite some time. The story of Shaitan Singh and his mens’ sacrifice to guard the mountain pass seemed like a relevant tale to be retold with such a song for which Chaudhary floated the idea with Barua at an Arunachal film festival. The result was a heartfelt ode to valour to end the ceremony.
All in all, the fest was quite a success especially for a settlement like Leh that would otherwise hardly witness a musical event of such scale. To sum it up in Baruah’s words, “This festival is proud to showcase the rich musical talent of Ladakh to the rest of the world. As a 1st time initiative I am so excited and proud to be a part of this”.