World Music Day is observed throughout the world on June 21. Though the concept of observing this day is very new in Northeast India, it has picked up tremendously within just a few years and nowadays, a number of events are organized in the region to commemorate the day. The Rattle & Hum Society of Nagaland has been at the forefront of the celebrations as they have been touring different cities of the country in the form of the Handshake concert on June 21 every year. The concert, which kickstarted in Guwahati in 2008, touched international shores this year as 25 top notch artistes from India performed in front of a 10,000 crowd in Thailand.
The list of performing artistes who shared the space with Thai artistes in Bangkok were Pt Viswa Mohan Bhatt, Tetseo Sisters, OFF Band, Zowe Madrigal, Kenei Chale, Zeliang Dance Troupe, Avancer, etc. The handshake concert was jointly organized by the Ministry of Commerce, Government of Thailand and the Rattle and Hum Society with the support of the Government of Nagaland.
“The Handshake concert is a non-profit concert aimed towards promoting music, culture and goodwill among the people of the country through “a handshake at a time”. With the first edition of the Handshake concert being organized in Guwahati in 2008, the event has till now travelled to Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore,” says Theja Meru, president of the Rattle n Hum Music Society.
Besides the handshake concert, all the eight States of Northeast India observe World Music Day in their own ways, but this time around the major draw among them all would be the celebrations organized in Shillong by NEZCC. Held in the convocation hall of the North Eastern Hill University, the show featured artistes from all the States and was undoubtedly one of the best concerts to have been held in quite some while.
The NEZCC North East Music Festival, held as part of the Silver Jubilee celebrations, sought to celebrate the diversity of Northeast Indian culture for it brought together eight stellar performing troupes whose compositions have been inspired by the ethos of the land to a considerable extent. One of the major highlights was the performance by Shillong Chamber Choir, which had incidentally hardly ever performed in their hometown of Shillong before tasting international acclaim.
The other States of the region were represented by a wide spectrum of artists spanning various genres, which included the Omak Komut Collective of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam Bamboo Band, Guru Rewben Mashangva of Manipur, Voices Na Rympei of Shillong, Meghalaya, Riakmaw Musical Band of Mizoram, Nagagenous from Nagaland, Sosium of Sikkim and Chanu Miah & Group of Tripura.
All these performers were a treat to watch as they brought various parts of their life and traditions on stage. While Omak Kamut Collective is led by a pagan priest of Arunachal Pradesh who blended tribal chants with contemporary western beats, Assam Bamboo Band and Nagagenous used bamboo instruments to provide a wide medley of sounds. Voices Na Rympei, which is one of the very few acapella bands in the country, also performed.
Like previous years, Rajib Rana too organized his round of yearly celebrations in Guwahati to commemorate World Music Day. Held at Shradhanjali Kanan, the event saw a number of musicians and bands, including popular Blues rock band Soulmate, performing to a sizeable audience of music lovers.
Herein a brief mention of the history behind the celebrations would not be out of place. A musician himself, the World Music Day celebrations started as a home jam in Rajib’s house wherein musicians of different genres were invited to jam and interact with one another. Keeping with the essence of the day, the thrust of the celebrations is on World Music and a number of folk artistes and experimental bands perform on the occasion. Some groups which have performed in the celebrations in the past includes Jambili – an experimental Karbi folk-metal band that blends traditional Karbi music with western rock, Mushtaq Ahmed on the Dotora, The Lavender Group from Shillong, countless other traditional and folk artistes.
The event slowly expanded and was held in collaboration with NEZCC at their cultural amphitheatre Shilpgram for a few years. An interesting aspect of the entire celebrations is that it is an entirely self-funded effort and the show is held every year on the same, irrespective of whether there is a sponsor or not. “Initially we named the celebrations as Rhythms of the World but gradually, keeping with the changing times we have named it as World Music Day for the last few years. However, irrespective of the name of the event or the availability of sponsors, we will continue with the festival on June 21 every year,” says Rajib, popularly known as Rana.
33 Top Artist share stage in two days of inter-cultural exchange; Eastern Beats Excellence in Music Award handed to Guru Rewben Mashangva
Curtains came down on the 1st Guwahati International Music Festival (GIMF) on December 2 and 3, 2011 amidst scintillating performances by top artists from various parts of the globe. The two day festival, which was participated by 33 top artistes from different parts of the country as also abroad, had been a resounding success, with a number of musicians, students and music lovers attending the various events.
Organized by the Eastern Beats Music Society of Guwahati in collaboration with the North East Zone Cultural Centre (NEZCC), Dimapur, the landmark event GIMF 2011 was supported by North Eastern Council (NEC), Shillong, the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), under the Ministry of External Affairs; Directorate of Art and Culture of the Government of Goa; Numaligarh Refinery Limited, The Telegraph, Suzuki Musical Instruments Co Ltd, Thomas Music, Artist Aloud, Earth Sync, Muzickonnect, CEC, Assam Times, Academy of Broadcasting Media School, Creoveant Productions, Assam Down Town University, Sound Box, ISNP, Eclectic Vibes, Radio 92.7 BIG Fm, Hotel Gateway Grandeur, Hotel Landmark, Saanz Mobile, Hit & and a host of music trade professionals and institutes from all over the world.
GIMF 2011 had been conceptualised to fill the need for a premier music festival in the country which can showcase the best of regional, national and international talents in the music field to the people of the region. Besides serving as a platform for interaction among musicians, music professionals, music lovers, music trade firms and music institutes, the festival was also organized to initiate cross-cultural dialogue among people and artistes of the region with those from others parts of the country and the world. The event was conceptualised, planned and implemented by Aiyushman Dutta.
The festivities began on December 2 when Tangkhul Naga folk balladeer organized a unique music workshop-cum-lecture demonstration for music lovers and school students of Guwahati. Guru Rewben Mashangva, a wandering minstrel from the hills of Ukhrul in Manipur, has earned international acclaim for his pioneering work in preserving and promoting Tangkhul folk tunes amongst the youth. Having refashioned tribal music instruments to suit the western tonal scale, he has developed his own brand of Hao music.
Hundreds of students attended the seminar to see Guru Rewben display his traditional instruments and the need to preserve the old folk traditions. Talking about his interaction with the elders of his village and displaying his traditional instruments, he kept the audience spellbound. The event was inaugurated by Assam Chief Information Commissioner and chairman of the core committee of the festival Deepak Narayan Dutt.
A 13-member cultural troupe of Goa performed the Goanese Mando Mogi and the Portugese Coredinho, ensuring that the cultural quotient was kept running throughout. The performance of the Goanese troupe was facilitated by the Directorate of Art and Culture, Government of Goa.
The Guwahati International Music Festival was spread across three indoor pavilions, an open-air stage, an indoor auditorium and a food court dealing in ethnic food items of the region. While live music performances were held in the open-air venue, the auditoriums and pavilions were used for the lecture-demonstration sessions, film screening event, display kiosks for professionals and firms from the music trade industry.
Among the visiting music trade industry professionals, mention can be made of Abe Thomas. The Indian representative of Musicians Institute in Hollywood, he also represented Suzuki Music Instruments Co Ltd (Japan), music journalist Colin Savio Coelho, Sonia Mazumdar of Muzickonnect and Earth Sync, Deepika Bagaria of Artist Aloud, amongst others. Many musicians of the city were seen interacting with these veteran trade professionals and learning about the latest trends and developments in the global music industry.
The first evening, which was dedicated to classical music, was inaugurated by musicologists Somnath Bora Ojha, Dr Prassana Gogoi and Eastern Beats Music Society secretary Aiyushman Dutta. Mumbai-based vocalist Abhishruti Bezbaruah began the proceedings of the evening which was graced by virtuoso Sitarist Pt Manilal Nag. The mother-daughter duo of Minoti Khaund and Sunita Bhuyan, Tarun Kalita, Moitryee Goswami, Pawan Bordoloi were some of the other performers of the evening.
The second day began with an impromptu jamming session by UK based Rajarshi Siddhartha Chowdhury, Samyami Sangeeta Chowdhury with Guru Rewben Mashangva from Ukhrul, Edwin Fernandez from Delhi and Daniel Engti of Karbi Anglong. The brother and sister duo from UK mesmerised the audience with their performance of lokageet and borgeet. Rajarshi is a lawyer by profession and Samyami is a doctor but their passion for classical and Assamese folk songs brings them to their home State every year. Their jamming session was an interesting fusion of classical and Assamese folk with Blues and Jazz, Karbi folk music and Tangkhul folk music.
Later a number of films on music were screened at a film camp. The films that were screened included Songlines by Vasudha Joshi, Mystical Grass by Pritish Chakraborty and Puja Chakraborty and Songs of Mashangva by Oinam Doren, amongst others. Over hundred students, musicians and people from all walks of life attended the workshop and the film camp.
The evening performance of the second day began with a piano solo performance by Ronojit Chaliha. Playing some popular compositions by Bach and Neil Nongkynrih, young Ronojit aptly set the mood for the evening to come. As the crowd trickled in, the Kolkata-Guwahati-based fusion project Naad Brahma came on stage. This classical and Blues ensemble ensured that Guwahatians got a taste of some new innovations in the fiels of music.
But it was UK-based harmonica specialist Brendan Power who took the honours. Playing a different set of scales on different harmonicas, he aptly demonstrated the immense possibilities of the Blues harp and at the same time, took the audience to an altogether different world during his hour-long performance.
Popular contemporary Assamese singers Mayukh Hazarika and Laili Dutta Hazarika were up next. In their 45-minute long performance, the duo gave a fitting tribute to their uncle – the greant unparalleled balladeer late Dr Bhupen Hazarika. Their performance was marked by a formal address by late Dr. Hazarika’s long time companion and filmmaker Kalpana Lajmi. During the ceremony, Secretary to Assam Government, Cultural Affairs department also formally handed over the Eastern Beats Excellence in Music award to Guru Rewben Mashangva. Also present was Eastern Beats Music Society secretary Aiyushman Dutta and joint secretary Peter Alex Todd.
Nepal’s rock diva Abhaya Subba and the famed Steam Injuns followed up next, much to the delight of the hundred-member strong Gorkha community and rock lovers that had descended at Shilpgram. Though the slight drizzle threatened a premature end to the performance, the rockers lived up to the spirit and rocked all those present. Lucid Recess from Guwahati also performed on the occasion.