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.
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.