Category Archives: Concerts/ Reviews
My views/ reviews on some of the concerts/ events which I attended
A unique folk fusion album, Rajabasa, was recently released at the Guwahati Press Club. The album is a collaborative effort of Karbi folk fusion band Jambili and singer Rajlakshi Bora. The album features a beautiful fusion of Dimasa folk songs with Karbi folk tunes.
Photo courtesy: Hafiz Ahmed
Guwahati / Mumbai, Aug 3: Children’s Film Society, India (CFSI)’s newest production “Ishu” is a feature film that will instantly take the viewer to a world of a kid whose innocent and happy-go-lucky world turns topsy turvy thanks to the superstitious society of adults around him.
Set in a remote tribal Rabha village in Lower Assam area bordering Meghalaya’s Garo Hills, this Assamese feature film is based on renowned Assamese writer Manikuntala Bhattacharjya’s popular novel “Ishu”, and marks the feature film debut of National Award-winning film critic and acclaimed documentary director Utpal Borpujari.
The film takes a look at the inhuman practice of ‘witch hunting’ that is prevalent in parts of Assam as well as some other parts of India, through they eyes of an innocent child whose favourite aunt is branded as a ‘witch’ by the evil village “Bej” (quack) who conspires with another aunt to do so.
Treated like a fairy tale albeit set in today’s times, “Ishu” is a sensitive take on how such incidents impact a child psychologically, with the narrative taking the viewer along protagonist Ishu’s quest to find his aunt who goes missing after being assaulted by the villagers at the instigation of the villainous quack.
The social evil of ‘witch hunting’ has been a recurring problem in Assam, so much so that the state Assembly unanimously passed the Assam Witch Hunting (Prohibition, Prevention and Protection) Bill 2015, following years of sustained campaign by civil society organisations and an intervention by the Gauhati High Court. The Bill, however, is still awaiting the President’s assent to become a law.
Several incidents of witch hunting has been reported in Assam during this year too, while according to data placed in the state Assembly, 93 cases of witch-hunting were reported and 77 persons, including 35 women, were killed during 2010 to 2015.
“However, despite its sensitive and serious backdrop, my film treats to subject in a way that it is suitable for viewing by children. In fact, the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) has given it a U certification without any cuts,” says Borpujari, who believes that children’s films can affectively take up social issues if handled sensitively.
CFSI Chairman MukeshKhanna said this movie will give a clear message to the people that social evils are bad and must be eradicated from the society. “Children are the future of our country and should always be motivated. By practicing social evils like ‘witch hunting’, we are making circumstances worse for children and disturb their psychology. This will have an adverse effect on the children and will not help them in their career and overall development.”
“Movies like ‘Ishu’ bring awakening in the society about the ill-effects of social evils and educate people about their harmful aspects on the society. CFSI will continue to make and promote such films whose themes are aimed at bringing about transformation in the society for the benefit of mankind, particularly children,” he says.
According to Dr Shravan Kumar, CEO of CFSI, “This is a highly sensitive film in which exploitation of people due to social evils such as ‘witch hunting’ is highlighted. The movie is informative, educative and throws light on the harmful effects of social evils practiced by people in the society. The movie tells the audience that such evils harm children and have an adverse effect on their psychology. Our attempt at CFSI has always been to focus on issues concerning children and their welfare.”
“I am happy to note that in Assam, a Bill to prevent social evils like “witch hunting” has been passed by the State Legislative Assembly, and is awaiting President’s assent. Let us hope that it would become a law soon.”
“This is the first feature film made by well-known film critic and documentary film maker Utpal Borpujari and we hope that children as well as elders will like it,” he says.
Incidentally, the script of “Ishu” was chosen as the only Asian entry into the 2012 Junior Co-Production Market of Cinekid International Film Festival, Amsterdam.
In the film, the lead role is played by 10-year-old Kapil Garo, who hails from Sonapur area near Guwahati. Kapil, who has given a performance with a maturity much beyond his tender age, was selected for the role after the director and his team interacted with nearly 300 kids across Assam. “Kapil has the required innocence and charm that I had visualized in Ishu, and being from a village himself, he blended naturally with the character,” says Borpujari.
The film also stars two-time National Award (Special Jury Mention)-winning actor Bishnu Kharghoria and National Award-winning Manipuri actress TonthoingambiLeishangthem Devi, along with veterans like Chetana Das and Pratibha Choudhury and talented younger actors like MonujBorkotoky, DipikaDeka and NibeditaBharali. Others in the cast include Mahendra Das, Rajesh Bhuyan, Naba Kumar Baruah, MonujGogoi, etc.
Along with KapilGaro, other child actors in the film include MahendraRabha, SrabantaRabha and UdayRabha.
The film’s dialogue, with emphasis on how the Rabha people living near Goalpara area speak Assamese with a particular accent, has been written by Borpujari in collaboration with award-winning theatre director SukracharjyaRabha of the famed Badungduppa Kala Kendra of Rampur, Agia.
Several actors from the Badungduppagroup, including Dhananjay Rabha and Basanta Rabha, have acted in pivotal roles in the film, which has been shot in pristine locations of several Rabha tribal vilages near Agia in Goalpara, located on the south bank of the mighty Brahmaputra.
It may be mentioned that NSD graduate and actress Pranami Bora conducted an 8-day workshop for the actors of the film at Badungduppa Kala Kendra premises, and MadanRabha and BasantaRabha were in charge of imparting accent training for the actors so that all of them could deliver their dialogues in the local accent.
The film has been edited by the legendary A Sreekar Prasad, while its sound design is by Amrit Pritam Dutta and music is by Anurag Saikia, all National Award winners. The cinematographer is Sumon Dowerah, a veteran of many award-winning and mainstream films in Assamese, while other prominent crew members are JItendra Mishra (executive producer), Hengul Medhi (final sound mixing), Monjul Baruah (associate director), Homen Borah (production manager), Golok Saha (art director), Rani Dutta Baruah (costumes) and Achitabh (Shanku) Baruah (make up). The assistant directors of the film were GhanshyamKalita, Ronal Hussain and MonujBorkotoky.
An M.Tech in Applied Geology from IIT-Roorkee, Utpal Borpujari won the Swarna Kamal for Best Film Critic at the 50th National Film Awards of India in 2003. As a professional journalist, apart from cinema, he has written extensively on politics, society, culture, literature, etc., while working with some of India’s top media houses. Since 2010, when he decided to turn a filmmaker, he has made several acclaimed documentary films that have been screened across the world in various film festivals. Among them are “Mayong: Myth/Reality” (2012), “Songs of the Blue Hills” (2013), “Soccer Queens of Rani” (2014) and “Memories of a Forgotten War” (2016). Borpujari has also served in international film juries as an erstwhile member of the International Federation of Film Critics, apart from having served on juries for National Film Awards and Indian Panorama. He has also curated films as well as served as a consultant for the Northeastern sections in the International Film Festival of India as well as various other film festivals. “Ishu” is his debut fiction feature. He is currently developing scripts for a Hindi and an Assamese film.
It has been nothing short of a rollercoaster ride for Debo Borkotoky, who in a span of three decades has established his family business into a mega empire. His label NK Productions, a King maker of sorts in Assam, has seen it all – a stuttering start with simple humble beginnings, which reached its crescendo during the nineties, to now reach a stage where it has been compelled to diversify to other allied industries in the wake of the fast evolving music industry and stiff competition from national and international labels. The evolution of NK Productions through the past few decades has stood as perfect testimony to the fast transitioning music landscape of Assam.
Having been in the business for the past 29 years, NK Productions started off a family business in the Borkotoky family when they used to produce Bihu albums, besides records of Khagen Mahanta and devotional music albums. Debo took over the reins of the business in 1985, at a time when the physical market was rapidly growing in Assam. The eighties was a defining point as their albums started registering huge sales, with one particular Bihu album selling around 60-70,000 copies.
Although NK Productions major focus area was Bihu albums and devotional albums – both of which enjoyed a lot of popularity in Assam during that time, young Debo also started the trend of introducing contemporary artists. One of NK Production’s major finds was none other than Zubeen Garg, one of the most popular singers in the history of the State and the State’s first export to Bollywood. His debut album, Maya, which was released under this label sold a record 7 to 8 lakh pieces in the first year alone. “We have released records of almost all the popular artistes of Assam. Khagen Mahanta, Bhupen Hazarika – they have all shared a long relationship with us,” says Debo.
Just for the record, NK Productions is the only music label in Assam to have a full professional set up. “I installed a Loopbin system in 1995 and also have three studios with my own dedicated manforce of directors, assistants, technicians and other crew members,” says Debo. Banking on this set-up, Debo also was the first to produce audio and video cds on a mass scale and make it available to the average consumer for sums as low as Rs 12- 20.
Dwelling on his move, he said, “Piracy was a major menace that we had to encounter. We decided to sell our cds for as low as possible to beat the threat of piracy. We also started the concept of making short Bihu video albums where all the songs were weaved around a story. We normally used to produce 15-20 such albums every year during the Bihu season, all of which were much in demand among the public and registered sales of around 15-20 lakh copies every year. One such product, Janmoni, had become a craze and we had to produce it sequels every year.”
However, the VCD craze has also petered out and Debo released only 2 VCDs this year. “After the entertainment channels came up in Assam, the sale of Bihu VCDs totally diminished. People still love to listen to their preferred music. The only difference is that now they won’t buy for it,” he rues.
During the heydays, another strong factor in NK Production’s favour was its extensive distribution network. “We have our own dealers in every major town and city of Assam and we do our own production as well as distribution.” While other national and international labels are now foraying into the Northeast’s folk and devotional music market, Debo certainly has a upper hand here.
While Debo made a smooth transition from cassettes to cd productions, the changeover to the digital era has been pretty taxing. In his words, “Assam is the only State in the country where physical sales continued till the last. While the switch over to the digital era has hit us hard, we are doing whatever little we can to keep pace. For instance, we have uploaded our entire database of songs on the internet and have also tied with all major telecom companies for revenue sharing on song downloads. But the market is not even a shadow of what it was a few years back and we are gradually diversifying into film production.”
It started off as a small celebration amongst a few friends. But the Bob Dylan tribute concert organized by Lou Majaw of Shillong has literally assumed gigantic proportions, with its popularity spilling over to various parts of the country and even abroad. So much so that Lou has almost become synonymous with Bob Dylan himself in India.
Lou – a icon in the Northeast himself – has started the Bob Dylan celebrations on May 24, 1972. What started off a small get-together amongst friends has continued for more than four decades now, with the magnitude of the show increasing every year. Also has increased Shillong’s passion for one of the greatest musicians in the world.
While hundreds of people from different parts make a beeline for this small hill town of Meghalaya ever year to take part in the festival, Lou has been pressurising the government of Meghalaya to declare the day as a government holiday. A number of well known bands have performed in Shillong on May 24 every year to honour, what Lou says, “how his music infuses life with meaning”. “His songs lit up my life and gave it a lot of meaning. His new stuff doesn’t touch me as much though,” says Majaw, the 59-year-old rocker who grew up playing in clubs of Shillong and Kolkata.
Since 1972, the Bob Dylan fest has been organized in Shillong with unfailing regularity – irrespective of whether there is rain, or a venue, sponsors being a second entity. Be it in parks, halls or personal residences of the many music aficionados living here – Bob Dylan is sure to come alive in Shillong every May 24. And in every tribute session, the set list remains the same – edgy, angry Dylan, which somehow reflects the youth angst of this hill station.
The festival is slowly spilling over to other parts of the region as well. Musicians and music lovers of Guwahati who have been part of the festival with unfailing regularity had started their own tribute concert in the capital city last year. Christening themselves as the Guwahati chapter of the Bob Dylan society, these musicians join Lou celebrate Dylan’s birthday over a distance of 100-odd kilometres.
“Lou is undoubtedly India’s own Dylan. However, it has become increasingly difficult for us to go up to Shillong every year to take part in the celebrations. That does not, however, mean we will stop celebrating the day. So some of us friends decided to open the Guwahati chapter of the Dylan society so as to make it easier for us,” says Dr. Nandan Phukan, one of the founders of the Guwahati chapter.
Last year, the celebrations were held in Cafe Hendrix – a local pub in the city which saw a host of senior and new musicians jamming together to celebrate the day. Veteran bassist Dr Ganesh Deka, vocalist Hridoy Goswami joined the Guwahati chapter of the Dylan society and classic rock bands Stags celebrate the occasion.
This year too, several initiatives have been lined up in different towns and cities of the region. While Lou is all set to celebrate his idol’s birthday in his hometown, the Guwahati chapter has organized a night of creativity to mark the occasion. The event, organized in association with Eastern Beats Music Society and Cafe Hendrix, will be held in the newly inaugurated performing lounge of Cafe Hendrix in the city. Besides jam sessions of Dylan numbers by musicians of the city, popular Manipuri rock band Cleave and city-based band Bolt from the Blue is also scheduled to take part in the celebrations.
Dr Nandan says, “Dylan is a person who advocated creativity and change throughout his life. So this year, the theme of our celebrations will be creativity in any form – it can be writings, poetry, music, songs, whatever. Anyone who has a piece of something creative with him or her is encouraged to come and take part in the event.”
Meanwhile, the sense of creativity has been taken up in Shillong as well. Noted poet and folklorist Dr. Desmond Kharmawphland has also organized a “poetry and song” event in Cafe Shillong on May 25. “All those who write poetry or sing songs are invited to come and be part of the event,” he said, even as he asked Dylan fans to spread the word among their friends.
Thanks to Lou Majaw, Dylan certainly lives on in Northeast India. And will surely do so for quite some time to come!
Robust Network, Dimapur in collaboration with the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, successfully organised a grand cultural show to commemorate the 8th Bamhum Day with performances by various artistes at Soul Speak Studios Hall, Nuton Bosti, Dimapur last Thursday. The Bamhum is a wind instrument invented by Moa Subong of Grammy nominated experimental rock band Abiogenesis.
Abiogenesis presented the first ever Bamhum songs composed by them like Saramati Tears, Misty Dzuko, Wah Taj and Hitch Hiker. All these songs are from their first album Aeon Spell, which was released by Saregama and which was listed for nominations in the 50th Grammy Awards. Arenla, the front lady of Abiogenesis, said that the invention of the Bamhum brought about Howeymusic, a fusion of Naga music with various genres of music.
A young upcoming rock band from Dimapur, ‘Gentlemen and Slippers’ also presented a few numbers during the concert. A jam session followed the programme where musicians got to meet each other and played and jammed together for a few hours.
For connoisseurs of art and culture, Panchkula in Haryana was the place to be last week. This small township in the northern part of the country was host to the gala Silver Jubilee celebrations of the seven Zonal Cultural Centres (ZCCs) of the country. For four consecutive days, the Panchkula parade ground became the perfect setting for visitors and families from the nearby towns and areas to converge and soak in the vibrancy of India’s rich culture and tradition laid out in front of them in a nutshell. The seven ZCCs had constructed their own special villages where they displayed the entire spectrum of the culture of the various communities in their zones, much to the delight of the thousands who thronged the venue, despite the storm that lashed Chandigarh earlier this month.
The festival, titled ‘Matti ke Rang’, was inaugurated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the presence of AICC president Sonia Gandhi and Minister for Culture Kumari Selja.
Integration Through the Arts
For those who are unacquainted with the functioning of the ZCCs, these cultural centres were conceived by former Prime Minister late Rajiv Gandhi in a bid to promote national integration by disseminating the vibrancy India’s culture to its people in the rural areas. The foresightedness of our former Prime Minister can be gauged from this very act of his. He was one of the first to realise that the diversity of our country is “a practical reality and not just a theoretical concept”, and that culture is the most suitable tool that can be used as the base for national integration. For culture has the capacity to reach across to people, cutting across barriers of time, space, language, values and traditions.
It is pertinent to remember the words he spoke during the setting up of the ZCCs: “The performing arts reach across all communities, all language barriers, and have a unique role to spread the values that have inherited. Participating in the performing arts is an osmotic process of building values, awareness, familiarity and respect and even reverence for different strands in the rich tapestry of our civilisation and our heritage. So integrating our country must be seen as one of the functions of the performing arts today.”
The Zonal Cultural Centres (ZCCs) were set up 25 years ago in second-tier towns of the country so as to reach the people in the grassroots. Since its inception, these centres have been working towards its objectives to preserve, innovate and promote the projections and dissemination of folk arts, cutting across regional cultural borders and bring about unity through culture. The seven overlapping zones comprising the Zonal Cultural Centres have promoted, cross-promoted and created opportunities for cultural exposure and awareness among the people of different states and regions.
With the philosophical implication that the number 7 has, the seven ZCCs epitomizes a celebration of cosmic time and space. The seven ZCCs are North Zone Cultural Centre, Patiala, South Zone Cultural Centre, Thanjavur, Eastern Zonal Cultural Centre, Kolkata, West Zone Cultural Centre, Udaipur, North East Zone Cultural Centre, Dimapur, North Central Zone Cultural Centre, Allahabad, South Central Zone Cultural Centre, Nagpur.
The North East Zone Cultural Centre, which encompasses the eight States of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Tripura, Nagaland, Manipur and Sikkim, is based in Dimapur. With a competent staff led by a dynamic director in the form of Som Kamei, the Centre has been organizing a number of intra and inter-cultural events in all the States of the country, and even abroad. In Guwahati, the centre organizes regular events through its amphitheatre Shilpgram, which is located adjacent to the Kalakshetra.
Although the seven ZCCs did have a bleak period it between, it was able to rejuvenate itself and make a major contribution in the process of nation-building. The fact that it was able to complete 25 years did warrant a mega celebration, which resulted in the Silver Jubilee celebrations in Panchkula as it was.
When I say the Silver Jubillee celebrations were a gala affair, I mean every word I say. For the choreographed performances of the cultural event at the main stage, which were based on more than 15 singing forms and 12 martial arts, were performed by more than 1000 performing artists alone! During the day there were more than 30 art form performances being simultaneously enacted within seven Mini villages of all the seven Zonal cultural Centre of India. Large crowds thronged the courtyard of mini villages of the Seven Zonal Centres to purchase exquisite traditional items from various parts of the country. But the major highlight of the entire event was the food streets where the special cuisine of each zone was laid out for the visitors. Offering traditional and sumptuous food, the food area was undoubtedly the most sought after area during the entire celebrations. The master craftsmen who were ferried from the different nooks and crannies to set up their stalls also made brisk sales.
A number of popular and eminent arts performed across all four days of the celebrations. The highlight of the festival, however, was the concluding day ceremony when the audience was able to witness the entire spectrum of the country’s culture on a common platform. The choreographed dance presentation of the final day included the famed Chanting form of Sikkim, Thumchen from Jammu & Kashmir, Sankh Vadan from Orissa, Algoza from Rajasthan, Baul Kirtan from West Bengal, Bhortal from Assam, Jangam Gayan from Haryana, Bhakan from Jammu & Kashmir, Dhadhi from Punjab, Tati singers from Nagaland, Nirgun Bhajan from Rajasthan, Kajri Gayan from Uttar Pradesh, Golparia musical instruments from Assam and performance of Langa Mangniar singers from Rajasthan.
An exemplary martial arts display was also a major highlight of the celebrations as martial warriors from various parts of the country – Akhada wrestlers of Madhya Pradesh, Dahal Thungri from Assam, Dand Patta from Maharashtra, Diwali of Uttar Pradesh, Raibanshe of West Bengal, Dandia Gair of Rajasthan, Talwar Raas of Gujarat, Ruk mar Nacha of Odissa, Kalaripayattu art from Kerala, Naibul Thangta of Manipur, gatka of Punjab and Silambattam martial Art from Tamil Nadu – performed together on stage in perfect synchrony.
Northeast India Rules
Northeast India, too, was beautifully represented by the Dimapur-based North East Zone Cultural Centre, which had facilitated the travel and performance of a more than 2,000-member troupe for the festivities. Thanks to the able leadership of its chairman Nagaland Governor Nikhil Kumar and its director Som Kamei, the Silver Jubilee celebrations had begun in the twin cities of Dimapur and Jorhat last month itself.
A Special North-eastern Folk music and Dance presentation, depicting the rich and unique cultural milieu of the region, was also held on the concluding day of the festival. Around tribal music and dance forms were displayed in the event, which was inaugurated by Hon’ble Shri Paban Singh Ghatowar, Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER).
The dance forms from the Northeast which were displayed during the concluding day celebrations included Maibul Thangta dance from Manipur, Wangla from Meghalaya, Juju- Jhajha from Arunachal Pradesh, Tamang Selo from Sikkim, Ngada dance by Rengma from Nagaland, Barat dance from Assam, Hozagiri dance form of Tripura, Punh Cholam of Manipur, Bro Zai of Arunachal Pradesh, Ka Shad Mastieh of Meghalya, Sangrai Mog from Tripura, Singhi chham dance of Sikkim, Dhol Cholam dance of Manipur and Bohag Bihu dance of Assam.
Food is culture too!
Besides art camps, folk dance, handloom and handicraft exhibition and music performances and cultural exchange events, a major highlight of the three-day celebration in Panchkula was the food festival which sought to display the culture of the varied zones of the country through the prism of its cuisine. And judging from the response of the people, North-eastern food, which has been labelled exotic by many, was a clear favourite.
The food street behind each mini village offered a range of traditional cuisines prepared by chefs who were brought in from their zones especially for the celebrations. The North East Zone Culture Centre had also set up stalls for each of the eight States. While the Assamese food stall offered traditional lip smacking delicacies like Black rice Pudding, Chicken coconut rice and Rice beer, the Manipuri food stall offers unheard but very delectable cuisines like Eromba, Sinju, Proautti, Pakoda and Natuga. The Naga Food stall was also very popular for its famed Chicken with bamboo shoots whereas the Sikkim food stall offered its range of Special noodles, momos and other Tibetean dishes. Assamese rice powder gur ladoo and til gur ladddoo were also much sought after by the visitors from outside.
Not only the Northeast, the other Zones too laid down the best of its fares. While one at the Allahabad food stall couldn’t resist the temptation of tasting the Awadhi Dum Aaloo, Jalebi and the chaat papdi, the Maharashtrian food stall had Jawar ki roti and Baingan ka bharta. The popular Hyderabad food stall also served a variety of non vegetarian and vegetarian Biryani.
Art Should be Instrument of Change
The mega Silver Jubille celebrations of the ZCCs concluded amidst a lot of gaiety and merriment on April 16 last. As artists from various parts of the country came together on a common platform to project the diversity of the country, one could remember the words of late Zakir Hussain: “Arts should not only be a mirror of contemporary life but should function as an instrument of social change. There could be no better instrument than the medium of music, dance and drama to bring about national integration.”
For any organization, 25 years is a long time to look back in retrospect. As curtains came down on the celebration in the august presence of Hon’ble Union Minister of Culture Kumari Selja and Sh. H.E Shivraj V. Patil, the resolve of the people manning the ZCCs to usher in “development through culture” further deepened.
The Best of the Northeast lined up for the North East Spring Festival
The onset of springtime is undoubtedly the most preferred time to visit Northeast India. For this is the time when the people of the region, belonging to different tribes and races and with myriad ethno-cultural traditions, languages and religious beliefs, give full lease to their joy and exuberance in the form of unbridled festivities celebrating the mood of nature.
In keeping with the Silver Jubilee celebrations of Zonal Cultural Centres (ZCCs) of the country, the North East Zone Cultural Centre (NEZCC) is organizing in Jorhat a mega Northeast-centric carnival capturing the mood and brilliance of springtime. With more than 250 artistes participating, the festival will showcase the biggest ensemble of folk dances, folk music, craftsmen, choral singers, tribal folk musicologists and others who will present the best of regional dance, music, culture, et al.
The North East Spring Festival, will be inaugurated in the presence of Honourable Chief Minister of Assam Shri Tarun Gogoi, Cultural Minister Pranati Phukan, NEZCC Chairman and Honourable Nagaland Governor Shri Nikhil Kumar and a host of other luminaries, at the Jorhat Court Field on March 24 next.
From the rhythmic steps of the Nunu Pipi dance of the Adi tribe of Arunachal Pradesh to the mesmering Cheraw of Mizoram; be it the fierce display of warrior skills of the Thang-ta and Maibang dances to the graceful moves of Wangala dancers – this festival will reflect the best of the culture from each North-eastern State. A 60-member troupe from the other Zonal Cultural Centres (ZCCs) will also be participating in the festival, which also has performances by premier experimental musicians Guru Rewben Mashangva of Manipur and Naad Brahma from Assam lined up.
The decision to host the Spring Festival in Jorhat of Upper Assam was made following the tremendous success that the NEZCC’s premier Octave festival received in other parts of the country in the past few years, and also in keeping with the mandate of the cultural Centre. NEZCC Director Som Kamei says, “Our Centre annually organizes a showcased event, “Octave” in different parts of the country to highlight the rich cultural heritage and art-forms of the region. In fact, Octave has become one of the biggest and most successful events to be organized by the Zonal Cultural Centres under the aegis of the Ministry of Culture, Government of India. Following the tremendous success of the festival in other parts of the country, there have been demands within the region itself for such festivals wherein we introduce people in second-tier cities with the richness and diversity of our culture. With 2012 being the Silver Jubilee year of the ZCCs of the country, Jorhat, with its rich cultural heritage, was undoubtedly our first choice for the festival.”
A major thrust area of the NEZCC has been to promote the lesser known art forms of the different States of the region, especially in the hinterland. Not surprisingly, the North East Spring Festival seeks to place lesser known art forms like Khupilile of the Pochury tribe of Nagaland and Ghantu dance of Sikkim on the same platform as much more established folk dance forms like Bihu of Assam and Dhol Pung of Manipur, informed Kamei.
The entire festival will be choreographed by internationally acclaimed Assamese folk musicologist Dr Prassana Gogoi. Entry to the event is free.
About Northeast India and Northeastern spring festivals
Northeast India is known for its geological marvels, nature’s splendor and an unparalleled spectrum of ethno-cultural multiplicity. A multitude of tribes and races with myriad ethno-cultural traditions, languages and religious beliefs live here side by side keeping alive their traditions, institutions, languages and religious practices. A fine texture of diverse hues spraypainted on a beautiful landscape makes this melting pot of human races a true ethnological wonder, perhaps the only one of its kind in the whole world.
About the Folk Art performances to be featured in North East Spring Festival
The following art performances from the Northeast will be featured in the spring festival.
1. ARUNACHAL PRADESH – Nunu Pipi
2. ASSAM – Bihu
3. MANIPUR – Dhol Pung
Guru Rewben Mashangva
4. MEGHALAYA- Wangala
5. MIZORAM – Cheraw
6. SIKKIM – Ghantu dance
7. TRIPURA – Mamita dance
Md Chanu Miah group
8. NAGALAND – Khupilile (Pochury)
OTHER ZONAL CULTURAL CENTRES: 60-member troupe
Instilling hope in times of despair
Providing a spark of hope during the tumultuous times that the north-eastern State of Manipur is going through, a group of musicians and music lovers of the State have come out with a first-of-its-kind compilation music album. Rock Music Manipur Vol. 1, a compilation album of original music featuring 25 bands and individual artists, was released in a formal gathering of Manipur’s most well-known musicians in Imphal last week.
At a time when normal life in Manipur has been virtually ripped apart on account of one of the worst phases in the State’s tumultuous socio-political history, the production of the compilation has instilled renewed hope and enthusiasm among the minds of the musicians here. As Sanjeev Thingnam, guitarist of Imphal-based band ‘Fringes’, says, “This is indeed a path breaking moment for musicians of the State, irrespective of which genre they belong to. Despite everything that ails Manipur, the production of this compilation proves that we still have it in us to move ahead.”
The production and marketing of this compilation was an initiative taken by the Rock Music Manipur (RMM), a community of rock musicians and enthusiasts living in the state, as well as a few people who are now settled outside. This community has compiled a total of 37 tracks of different genres, creating a sort of history in the age-old tradition and culture of Manipur. The album also features a couple of tracks by two of Manipur’s most well-known bands in the national and international circuit at one point – Post Mark and Phynyx.
“Quite a number of Manipuri musicians and rock bands have written original songs, and some of them released their songs and albums via internet and as CDs or Cassettes. These are usually known in private circulation while many are unaware about the songs and the musicians who created them. The idea behind RMM Vol. 1 is to make the musicians and their songs reach a wider audience, right from the grassroots level,” says Ithooiba Potshangbam, one of the coordinators of the compiling team.
Many would not be aware that the genesis of heavy metal as a genre in our country can be traced to the emergence of a couple of bands in Manipur in the late eighties. Bands like Post Mark and Phoenix had took heavy metal to all new levels of popularity.
For a State where independent artists have not really got the opportunity to be promoted in an organized and professional manner, the release of the compilation augurs hope for a new beginning. Internationally acclaimed tribal folk musicologist Guru Rewben Mashangva, who was present in the ceremony, said, “It’s hard to compose, record and release an album. It also takes a lot of money to record an album. I thank RMM and the music lovers for making this compilation a reality.”
Featuring artists from Maram, Ukhrul, Tamenglong, Imphal and Bishnupur in Manipur to Bangalore and Delhi-based Manipuri bands, this compilation album is sure to carve a common platform to share and act as a social force of consciousness and change. Most of the songs in this compilation too reflect life in general and more particularly various situations in Manipur – be it the deteriorating law and order scenario in the State or the transitory moral values.
Besides just bringing the music fraternity of Manipur together, the compilation has also brought to light several other facets of the music industry in Manipur, like the absence of good recording and mixing facilities. “We need good recording studios in Manipur. The sound system in Manipur hasn’t improved much over the last few decades; it’s the same sound system we have been seeing since our heydays in the 1990s. Sponsors and organizers are virtually a non-entity here,” said Selin Takhellambam, founder member of the pioneering extreme metal band Black Insurgent.
Eroz Laishram, the vocalist of Sandrembee, an Imphal based band, added, “Due to the almost perpetual power crisis, people out here in Imphal don’t have access to the internet like people in other parts of the country do. The production quality of our songs has also been often criticised. This kind of compilations will help us stop and introspect and revaluate ourselves.”
While no marketing strategy has been chalked out as of yet, RMM plans for an immediate distribution of the compilation to various Yaoshang sports venues in different leikais (localities) in Manipur. “While copies of the compilation cd will be sent to different clubs in all the districts of Manipur, the CDs will also be made available for sale at various musical and related events. Money raised from the sales of the record will be evenly shared among all the participating bands and artists,” Ithoiba informed.
The release ceremony for the compilation album, which was held at the Young Pioneer Organization (YPO), saw some of the biggest congregation of musicians of the State. Some of the veteran musicians who participated in the ceremony included Ingocha Thingom, Paras Nongmaithem, Boycha Konjengbam, Bobby Nameirakpam, amongst others. Members of bands like Kradle O’ Beats, Scribble Link Purgatory, Chem Weed FM, Cleave, Deeparaj Oinam, Uttam Haobam, Fringes, Dead Mobster, Wild Flower, White Fire, Yuthak Wah, Sandrembee, too were present in the ceremony.
Sunita’s raagas-meet-folk concept album on violin strikes a chord
And if you thought that Bihu was all about dancing and merry-making, you better think once again. The melodious Bihugeet, which has long been overshadowed by the associated dance moves of Bihu songs, has finally been brought to the forefront in Assamese fiddler Sunita Bhuyan’s unique concept album, Bihu Strings by Times Music, which was launched in the city by Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi last week.
It would not be wrong to call Bihu Strings a first-of-its-kind music presentation in the national and international circuit. For Sunita has used original Bihu melodies, with its thoughtful and socially relevant lyrics, and blended the same with the inherent raga patterns of the classical music world to create an exciting medley of sounds. What makes it even more special is the fact that the songs in the album have been performed entirely on the violin, making Sunita the first ever violinist in the country to do a complete folk and fusion album on the fiddle!
The violin which has had the image of being a western instrument adapted to Indian styles have so far been played in the classical forms i.e. the Hindustani and Karnatic forms in India. This stereotype has finally been broken with Bihu strings as Sunita plays an entirely range of tunes, ranging from classical ragas, Assamese folk tunes, Scottish tunes, jazz elements, et al. “My attempt is to demonstrate the prevalence of the universal seven notes in all kinds of music, be it classical, folk, rock, western jazz etc. The age old Bihugeet, blended with classical ragas and a bit of western folk and jazz – that is Bihu strings for you,” says Sunita, who is the daughter of Minoti Khaund, senior disciple of Pt VG Jog.
The songs in the album too have been thoughtfully penned and each number reflects an inherent facet of Assamese life during the Bohaag Bihu season. The album begins with ‘Bholuka Baahore’, which talks about the sensuous tresses of a girl which are adorned with beautiful flowers. The piece is based in raag dhani – the all pervading raag of most bihu melodies. The next track, “Luitor Baalite” talks about the fun and frolic of two youngsters on the banks of the Brahmaputra, which is a fusion of Bihugeet with Irish folk and rock percussions.
Then there is Ganga Siloni, which is based on Raag Bhupali. The song talks about the heralding of the spring season through the first chirping of the migratory birds. From the expression of teenage love as portrayed in ‘Xosakoi Bor Dhuniya’ to the more subtle ‘Ranga Nadi’, the lyrics in the album touches on an entire gamut of socially relevant issues. ‘Ranga Nadi’, in fact, dwells on the recurring problem of floods, which brings normal life to complete disarray every year in the State but which cannot dampen the spirit of Bihu among the people.
While the lyrics have been written by Gupta Borthakur, a number of talented musicians have collaborated with Sunita in his album. While Rupam Bhuyan and Prasanta Kaur have joined sunita with the vocals, the percussion instruments have been handled by Pranjal Barua, Dibya Jyoti Changmai (tabla) and Diganta Saikia and Lachit Gogoi on the “Dhol”. Noted guitarist Shantanu Baruah has added the western flavor in Luitore Baalite, while the keyboard and sound mixing is by Rupam Talukdar.
The album has been released on the Times Music label and the songs will also be available for download to mobiles and other handheld devices after the album’s digital release in Mumbai next week.