Of Bullets and Melody


Among all the art forms, music is supposed to be the greatest leveller, the healing and nurturing qualities of which never cease to amaze. The power of music is best evident in Northeast India, where lives have been torn apart by continuous violence and bloodshed brought about by insurgency and inter-communal clashes. Yet, as is the hallmark in the Northeast, despite all the violence and unrest music runs in the veins of each and every person residing here, binding them with its latent force and at the same time, healing the blistering wounds.

This immense latent quality of music came to the fore once again in Assam’s North Cachar Hills district – the worst affected among all the districts of the State in terms of insurgency, communal bloodshed and corruption. The district, which is under the purview of an autonomous council, has been occupying news headlines in the regional media for the last few years on account of the unabated killings, extortions, kidnappings, blasts and inter-communal clashes that have resulted in thousands of lives being lost, families shattered and countless houses destroyed. For the people of NC Hills, life, filled with despair and despondency, has lost its charm; with the sole thrust being on survival.

Thanks to the unifying force of music, however, attempts are now being made towards resurgence. Haflong, the sole hill station of Assam and the financial capital of NC Hills district, recently witnessed a unique music concert aimed towards bringing peace and reconciliation among the various tribes and communities residing here. It was after eight years that Haflong, one of the most beautiful and exquisite locales in the entire Northeast, was witnessing a music concert. This is despite the fact that the district has produced some of the finest musicians in the Northeast.

The aptly-termed peace concert was organized by the newly formed Haflong Music Association (HMA) – a forum of musicians and artistes seeking to revive the dying music scene in the district. The networking support to the event was provided by the Eastern Beats Music Society.

HMA secretary Jivraj Daulagupu said that the basic objective behind holding the concert was to try and bring peace in the district and to also voice out the hopes and aspirations, as well as frustrations, of the youth and artistes. “Since 2002, when the clashes between the Karbi and Dimasa communities broke out, the entire area has been thrown under a security blanket even as clashes and untoward incidents have kept occurring at regular intervals. The concert is our attempt to provide a new vision to our youth.” HMA president Father Nilesh Parmar said that it was their dream to unite the people in the ever-volatile district through music that gave birth to the HMA.

The peace concert was supposed to be held in Lal Field but the venue had to be finally shifted to the Cultural Hall in the middle of the town because of administrative inconveniences. The event, which saw Guwahati-based progressive rock band Digital Suicide sharing space with Soul Tree, Bistar, Sot Recho and Onion Trees – all local bands of Haflong – was a tremendous success, primarily because of the participation of all the tribes and communities. NC Hills is home to as many as 19 major tribes and communities, besides various sub-tribes; the Khelmas, Rongmei Nagas, Dimasas, Zeme Nagas, Karbis, Hrangkhawls, Biates, Hmars, Jaintias, Kukis and Vaipheis being the major ones.

The evening began with a choir presentation by the students of a local school before the rockers took over the stage and enlivened the crowd, which had not witnessed a live performance for almost a decade. Even though rain tried to play spoilsport, the organizers had to bow down before the enthusiasm of the crowd and shift the venue from the open field to the adjoining cultural hall; that too, within the space of just half an hour!

Father Tom Mangattuthazhe of the Diphu Diocese who was present at the venue with his team of peace activists said that the peace concert was live testimony to the power of music. “The latent quality of music, in all its forms, is truly amazing. The fact that it has managed to bring so many people, who are otherwise at loggerheads with each other, together is proof enough,” he said.

If music can indeed usher in peace and development and bring cheer to people’s lives, I would just say: Let the music play on!

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Posted on September 3, 2010, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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