Monthly Archives: February 2011

Innovative music portal big draw for rock lovers

Rock outfits of the country, especially the Northeast, have long had to grapple with the lack of opportunities – be it a platform to showcase their abilities or a medium through which they can reach out to the populace. Practitioners of the genre would say this is nothing new but given the immense pool of talent here, it is indeed sad that nothing much has changed over the past couple of decades. Despite the dreary scenario, however, the enthusiasm and efforts of a few people still manage to bring a smile to one’s face, proving that when it comes to rock the spirit is all that is required, is all that it matters.

Meet Sanjib Kalita – a rock enthusiast who has combined his love for music and his expertise over the World Wide Web to create http://www.indianmusicmug.com/ – one of the most sought after music portals of the country, and even abroad. Witnessing hits from people in various parts of the world who all want a slice of the music scene of the region, the IndianMusicMug blog is a perfect example of how determination can move the greatest of obstacles.

Sanjib, a final year graduation student in a city college, says that the desire to provide his friends and fellow musicians with a platform to reach out to people was the sole objective behind starting his blog. As he says, “Given the lack of shows on television and space in the print media, I decided to start the web portal to promote the local talents by publishing their band profiles and reviewing their albums and singles. Since the web is not limited to any country or area, bands have been able to reach out to people all across the globe.”

The web portal has recently released an audio compilation, Metal Hangover 0.1, which has a number of Northeastern bands sharing space with other Indian and international outfits. The compilation was prepared with the basic objective of promoting the regional bands throughout the globe, says Sanjib.

The tracklist of the audio compilation includes the likes of Demonic Resurrection (Mumbai, India), Shift (Melbourne, Australia), Devoid (Mumbai, India), Testing Tomorrow (Los Angeles, California), Slain (Bangalore, India), Albatross (Mumbai, India), Phobia (Delhi, India), Shades Of Retribution (Duliajan, India), Weeping Roses (Guwahati, India), Violent Edge (Guwahati, India), Asylum (Mumbai, India) and Doorstep Casket (Guwahati, India). More than 200 copies of the album was downloaded across the globe on the day of its release.

The going, however, has not been easy for Sanjib who lacked the resources to launch and maintain a website. “Though I had nurtured the idea of launching a website for a long time I was not able to proceed because I didn’t have much technical expertise in the subject. I finally gathered enough money to register the domain name and include some appealing designs with a new server very soon.”

The young music promoter also feels that the overall rock scene in the region needs to undergo a major makeover if it has to win the favour of musicians, youth and guardians alike. “A number of gigs are organized in pubs these days but many youngsters and their parents are hesitant because of the use of alcohol and other narcotic substances there. As such, I feel that more gigs and concerts should be organized in open spaces, parks and other recreation areas.”

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PENTAGRAM enthralls Guwahati

One of the country’s most sought-after bands, Pentagram, recently performed live in Sanskriti – an inter-college youth festival in Shilpgram. The fest, which was organized by the Asian Institute of Management and Technology and Vodafone, was held over a period of three days from February 9 to 11.

Around 200 colleges participated in the fest, which witnessed the participation of several distinguished guests. A number of events, like quizzes, extempore speeches, dramas, RJ hunts, fashion show, street play, singing, dance, rock competition for all the North-Eastern Bands, face painting, canvas painting etc, was held over the three days. Besides Pentagram, the other artistes who performed that day included the like of Sai and Kriti – finalists of India’s Got Talent – who gave a special Salsa dance performance.

Book on Northeast Indian folktales released

In a commendable initiative to promote our age-old folklores among the younger generation, a compilation of folk stories from the Northeast was recently released in Dimapur. The book, which has folktales from all the eight States of the Northeast, is also marked by vivid and highly attractive illustrations. Folktales from the North East of India has been edited by Hekali Zhimomi, Lanusangla Tzudir and Akanito G Assumi. The illustrations were also done by Assumi. The book was released by NEZCC director Som Kamei.

During her tenure at NEZCC, Zhimomi worked tirelessly for the promotion and development of the art and culture of Northeast India. The recently released book is one such endeavour. Talking about the book, she says, “The folklore of a group of people carry their history, beliefs and creative imagination. The North East is a rich storehouse of folklores told and retold from generation to generation. To many communities of the Northeast, folktales are not just stories but a vital link to their past, enabling them to make sense of who they are as a people helping them preserve their unique cultural identity. With rapid changes and external influences fast affecting the communities of the Northeast, the stories have been silenced in many places and homes, particularly in the urban areas. This book, which is a compilation of folk stories from the north east, aims to reach out at children and help them connect to their roots, understand their history and identify with their cultural environment.”

The book has a total of forty folktales, five from each state. So while youngsters can now read the mythical tales of Tejimola and Queen Komola KOnwari of Assam, they can also at the same time learn about the origin of the Kwai eating habit of the people of Meghalaya. From the invention of the pena (a traditional music instrument of the Meiteis of Manipur) to how the Nagas stumbled across the procedure of making rice beer – the book truly touches upon a host of myriad topics that is bound to bring the reader closer to his cultural environs and appreciate his or her roots.

Lanusangla Tzudir has a doctorate in history from Jawaharlal Nehru University while Akanito G Assumi, who is a pass-out of the National Institute of Design, is an animation film designer, illustrator and photographer. Recalling how the project started, the editors said they had to travel a lot to gather materials for the book. Starting with a shaky foundation, the project took about a year to complete.

Shilp Award to Assamese music director duo

This year, the prestigious Shilp Award was handed over to noted music composer-director duo Jitu-Tapan for their enormous contributions to the field of music in Assam. The Shilp Award was instituted by the Government of Assam to honour people who have contributed significantly to the cultural world. The award is bestowed every year during Shilp Utsav, the death anniversary of Assamese cultural icon Jyoti Prasad Agarwalla.

In a career spanning more than four decades, Jitu and Tapan (Jitu Sharma and Tapan Bhattacharya) literally gave a makeover to the Assamese music industry. Inspired and guided by stalwarts like Mohammad Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar, the duo were also one of the first representatives of Assam to Bollywood, having worked as music directors in as many as 35 Hindi movies and around 7 television serials. Anutaap, Morisika, Tyag, Deuta Dia Bidai, Manab aru Danab, etc are some of the Assamese films where they have worked.

One of their most memorable achievements would be the creation of the song, Asomire sotalote rodalire senehote – one of the most popular and memorable songs in Assamese – which they created in association with Mohammad Rafi.

Both Jitu Sharma and Tapan Bhattacharya, who are related to each other by blood, grew up in Jorhat district of Assam. Having begun their early lesions in music under Darpanath Sharma and Shyam Sunder, both were deeply engrossed in the world of music from a very early age. Receiving the award from Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, soft-spoken Jitu said that the recognition had made him the happiest person in the world.

Kalpana blazing across Indie music industry

In a country with over a billion people, countless languages and multitude of musical influences, it takes special talent to stand out from the crowd as an entertainer. Luckily talent is what Assam’s Kalpana has sacks full of.

One of the most popular Bhojpuri singers in India right now, Kalpana came to attention in 2002 with her breakout hit album, Gawan wa leja Rajaji. Since then she has become a household name having performed on over 150 Bhojpuri film soundtracks, 100 Hindi film songs sung ,recorded more than 400 radio and television jingles and presented Sur Sangram’s season 1 & 2 and other TV shows.

Kalpana has been finalized as the judge for the upcoming show Nehle pe dehla “ Nan he Suron Ka Maha Sangraam” on Mahua Tv. The show will showcase the singing prowess of children from both UP & Bihar. In an age where talent coupled with great looks gives one the extra edge, the versatile singer is leaving no stone unturned as she gets ready to make a smashing appearance as one of the judges on Mahua Tv’s childrens music reality show NEHLE PE DEHLA. Apparently, Kalpana has been meticulously planning her looks as she wants to look young and contemporary. New hairdo, revamped wardrobe, a chiselled body… Kalpana can give even the Bollywood heroines a run for their money.

‘Let’s get innocent hearts closer. The show will bring together raw talented kids from all over UP & Bihar. The participants will be in the 8-13 years age group. Nehle pe dehla is a musical forum and opportunity for budding talent for children from UP & Bihar, says Kalpana, and adds, “Mahua channel came up with this unique concept, something different – a show that will have kids from all over UP & Bihar teaming up in a singing reality show where boys will be competing with girls. The girl’s team is boosted by Kalpana whereas the boy’s team is goofed by Pawan Singh.”

Kalpana believes that only those who sings well and performs well should win the show. But she also adds, “On a personal note, I support the girls as participants because when I entered the Bhojpuri industry, girl singers were not seen with very good eyes. Achhe Ghar Ki Ladkiya Nahi Gati Hai –the so-called society said. I entered the industry with bhajans, modern songs and even hot item numbers – but proved that singing can also be a professional career for girls. The scenario has changed and I am lucky to have set the trend.”

Kalpana is an amazing mentors and she has personally handpicked every contestants by indoor and outdoor selection rounds in Patna, Lucknow, Banaras and other places. At present she is busy with her world music project THE LEGACY OF BHIKHARI THAKUR to be released from Times Music, trying to relive the country’s long-forgotten treasure of Bhojpuri folk music.

Music lords of the Northeast

The Northeast is now witnessing another mega rock contest which is being organized in four cities of the region presently. The contest is being organized by Nokia to provide a platform where local bands can participate. The winners will win the title of Nokia Lords of Music and also a fabulous cash prize of Rs.1.00 Lakhs.

The objective behind this musical initiative is to promote and celebrate the Rock Music Culture of the NE states as well as provide a platform of recognition for the regions talented youth. This is in keeping with Nokia’s pioneering initiatives and applications for the music loving youth for whom the mobile handset has become a key device for various music led applications apart from listening to their favourite songs.

There are 4 rounds of auditions in Shillong, Kohima, Imphal & Aizwal with the mega finale slated for Shillong on 20th Feb at the Polo Grounds. Bands can come for auditions at any of the audition locations and if selected, will be given the opportunity to participate in the mega finale at Shillong. The finale in Shillong will be judged by Lou Majaw, Moa Subong (Abiogenesis) and Guru Rewben Mashangva who will also be giving special performances on stage together.

The local auditions of Shillong were held in Bishnupur on January 31, State Academy House in Kohima on February 4, Hotel Classic in Imphal on February 7 and I & PR auditorium in Aizawl on February 11.

When a writer gets a fan society

The year 2011 began on a bright note with fans of the Sourabh Kumar Anuragi Sangstha formally inaugurating a website dedicated to the litterateur. The Sourav Kumar Chaliha fan website – a first of its kind attempt – was released by Prof Ranjit Dev Goswami in a sombre gathering of academicians, litterateurs, journalists, entrepreneurs and people from all walks of life brought together by one common thread – love for Chaliha’s work.

Born in 1930, Sourav Kumar Chaliha is one of the doyens of Assamese literature who has long chosen to remain in anonymity by refusing to come out in public. Author of books like Ashanta Electron, Duporiya, Ehat Dhaba, Kobi, etc, Sourav Kumar Chaliha’s love for Physics, Marxism and World literature are duly reflected in his works. He has been bestowed with a number of awards, the Sahitya Academi for his collection of short stories, Golam in 1974, the Assam Valley Literary award being a few of them.

The Sourav Kumar Chaliha Anuragi Sanstha or SKC fan society was formed on January 1, 2010 in a meeting held at Lakhi Ram Barua Sadan. Formed by the fans of the writers works, the SKC fan society is probably the only such fan society in this part of the country dedicated to a writer. The society comprises of the fans, admirers, enthusiasts, followers, disciples, addicts et al of Chaliha’s writings. The website was inaugurated exactly a year since the formation of the society.

Chaliha, no doubt, is one of the most enigmatic writers of Assam and the inauguration of a website of him is a perfect tribute to his literary sensibilities. But besides the tribute itself, the website has also provided a boost to the entire literary scenario of the region. I say this for despite globalisation making inroads into each and every aspect of our lives, Assamese literature is yet to make its presence felt on the World Wide Web. Judging from that aspect, the SKC website is truly a fresh initiative. The website primarily consists of Chaliha’s sixteen original Assamese stories and their English translations by various other writers. Moreover, the two award acceptance speeches by Saurav Kumar Chaliha, both in Assamese and English, have also been included. A few audio links of a couple of radio dramas and a story-reading and two films, “Lakhtokiat Golam” and “Bhal Khabar” also find space in the bilingual site.

The lead for forming the society was taken by veteran filmmaker Altaf Majid and Nazrul Haque – both die-hard fans of the writers work. Altaf Majid had earlier even made a short film, Lakhtokiat Golam, on the writer. Besides the translators, the other litterateurs who spoke on the occasion included Dr. Deepika Phukan, who presided over the ceremony, Arup Dutta and Debashish Tarafdar – a long time enthusiast of Chaliha who shared his experiences on reading the author. No doubt, Tarafdar’s meticulous examination and analysis of Chaliha’s work and his own personal experiences while reading them added flavour to the evening.

Here’s wishing many more activities by the fan society in the days to come.

Indian immigrant’s debut offering bridges East-West musical divide

No space for the Tabla and Sitar in Ameet’s ‘global rock’

For a change, the voice of the Indian diaspora is now being heard, albeit without the expected, ubiquitous sitar and tabla. Mumbai-born and US-based musician Ameet Kamath recently released his debut album, Greasy Rails, in New York, breaking new grounds in bridging the popular divide of the music of the East and the West.

Talking about his debut offering with The Sentinel, Ameet says, “Greasy Rails is about coming to terms with what matters in life. It’s about refusing to take anything less than what you’ve been seeking.” He adds, “In it, I’m telling stories so that the listeners can understand life as I do – constantly negotiating spaces as an immigrant in the 21st century.” The language he chooses to narrate his stories in, however, is pure global rock.

Having been born and grown up in Mumbai, Ameet’s tryst with music began as a member of a school choir. But then came the wave of western pop – in the form of Beatles, ABBA and Queen – which left an impact more far-reaching than anyone ever imagined.

It was this infatuation that brought him to the West. And once there, living in New York and San Francisco, what he grew into and found was a way to give voice to his experience of the modern, young, Indian diaspora—not the stereotype of the immigrant Indian cab driver or doctor—in the musical language he’d come to love. “I wanted to be an Indian vocalist who told his stories through Western pop. How hard is that to imagine? Pretty hard, I guess, from the reactions I used to get when listeners didn’t hear any tabla or sitar. But the musical language is the same, what we have as garba-dandiya music for example is actually just music in 12 8 time signature for example. I’ve incorporated more rhythms than actual Indian instrumentation, so it’s a bit more subtle than overt.”

Ameet went to the US as a “techie” in 1995. But it was only after he moved to New York after a couple of years that he began to immerse himself in jazz and began performing the American songbook whenever and wherever he could — at weddings, street corners, parks, cafes, and bars. His persistence paid off with a jazz-pop residency at the notorious Marion’s Continental on Bowery, where the patrons and fans encouraged him to set his own story to song. Needing to find inspiration for his original material, he set off on a creative quest across the country that landed him in San Francisco. It was there that he conceived Greasy Rails; the ensuing material was written and composed over the next two years.

A musician whose honest storytelling is set to pop-rock music, his first offering is pure global rock that gets up-close and personal. “I didn’t want to be another Indian crossover singer. If my music crosses over anything, it’s from pop to folk-rock.”

Those, for him, are the global, barrier-breaking languages.

Not insurgency, but music rules the roost in Nagaland!

STATE ROUND-UP – PART 2

Moving on with this new episode on the state of the independent music industry in Northeast India, let us look at the state of affairs in Nagaland – undoubtedly the most vibrant State in the entire country as far as music is concerned. The Naga stalemate in the form of the talks between the NSCN (IM) and the Indian union may have resulted in a stalemate, stretching on for more than 13 years now, but that has not stopped the blooming of a pulsating music environment in this interior state.

Besides being home to the “mother of all insurgent outfits”, as a political commentator had once commented, Nagaland also has the proud distinction of having an entire governmental department dedicated to the promotion and development of music in the State – the Music Task Force (MTF) – the first in the entire country. One of the biggest achievements of the MTF is the successful hosting of the annual Hornbill Rock contest, which over the years, with a prize money of around Rs. 10 lakhs, has become the most sought after competition for rock bands of the country.

The following is a brief take on the scene there:

1. Major cities: Dimapur, Kohima

2. Population: 1,990,036 people (According to 2001 census)

3. Major language: English, Nagamese, Hindi

4. Radio stations: AIR

5. Telecom operators and subscriber figures: http://www.coai.com/index.php

6. Popular television channels: A number of operators run their own cable networks. Naga cable, City cable, Global Chapter are the popular ones.

7. Music stores: Lot of music stores can be found dotted over the landscape of Dimapur and Kohima. In Dimapur, most of the parlours are concentrated in Super Market and Hong Kong market area. Dimapur also has the only retail outlet of Furtados in the Northeast.

8. List of popular local talents – Artistes, composers, lyricists, musicians.

• Nise Meruno – Composer and pianist
• Abiogenesis – Experimental Rock band
• Lipokmar – Founder of Chancel Choir
• Theja Meru – Musician and founder of Rattle n Hum society
• Dr. Tekatemjen Jamir – Pioneering Ao sound composer
• Alemtemshi – Composer
• Methanelie – Composer and singer
• Melodrama – Rock band
• Dementia – Rock band
• XTC – Rock band
• OFF – Rock band
• Divine Connection – Rock band

9. Venues for live performance and whether the State has a culture of live music: DDSC stadium and the NEZCC ground in Dimapur, Indira Gandhi stadium and local football ground in Kohima are the main venues for major live performances in Nagaland. The IMC Lobby and Town Hall is also another favourite venue for shows in Dimapur, while the State Academy Hall is a favourite venue in Kohima. A lot of gigs and concerts are also held regularly in music cafes and lounges, the prominent among them being Dream Cafe in Kohima, Jumping Bean Cafe and Cafe Hiyo in Dimapur.

10. Major local music labels: APH Records

11. Local organizations for the promotion or appreciation of music

• Music Task Force
• Rattle and Hum Music Society
• Mindblowers Club
• Robust Network
• Native Rising Network
• Mokokchung District Art and Culture Council
• Abiogenesis society

12. Genres of music that sell here: Rock, Gospel, pop, country, choir, Hip-hop. Gospel and rock music would top the charts in Nagaland each and every time. The State also has a good choral culture.

13. Studios or recording facilities: Most of the studios are located inside Dimapur. Some of the better known studios are Crescendo, Soul Speak studios, Gospel studio and Aries Music Foundation.

14. Unique facets:

– The Nagas are also wonderful singers and dancers, having a wonderful sense of rhythm. Their traditional festivals and ceremonies are usually incomplete without a heavy dose of traditional folk songs and dances. In fact, music is an integral part of life here; whether it is the folk songs eulogising the brave deeds of warriors or poetic love songs immortalising ancient tragic love stories; be it Gospel songs that touch your soul or the modern rock ‘n’ roll tunes –– music truly defines life in Nagaland.

– Music runs in the veins of the Nagas. So much so that the State Government became the first government of the country to dedicate an entire government department for the promotion and development of music. Scholarship schemes, music development workshops and seminars and courses in college, contests, etc are some of the initiatives of this task force.

– The Hornbill national Rock contest, organized as part of the week-long Hornbill festival of Nagaland, is one of the biggest initiatives of the Music Task Force. The Hornbill National Rock Contest is the biggest rock event in the country, having a total amount of Rs. 10 lakh as prize money.

15. Organizer, music promoter or label guy who is in the news

Akum Jamir, who is a musician himself and guitarist of XTC, runs Crescendo – one of the best music instruments shop in Dimapur. He also provides the sound gear for most live performances in the State. Theja Meru of the Rattle ‘n’ Hum Music Society organizes the Handshake concert in different parts of the country, wherein folk artistes and musicians from the Northeast perform to audiences in the mainland.