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Pragjyoti International Dance Festival starts tomorrow

6th edition aspires to narrate Assamese history through classical dance


 The 6th edition of Pragjyoti International Dance Festival (PIDF), organized by Kalpa, starts tomorrow. Conceptualized to exhibit the wide range of India’s classical dance forms together on one platform to sing in unison and to celebrate the rich heritage of Assam, the six-day classical dance extravaganza will be held in Guwahati, Kaziranga and Sivasagar from 15th-20th February, 2014.

 The event is an annual feature by Kalpa society held in association with the Sivasagar District Administration, Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR), Ministry of External Affairs, Govt of India, Assam Tourism Development Corporation Limited (ATDC), Directorate of Cultural Affairs (Govt of Assam) and Sub-Divisional Office- Bokakhat. The festival is powered by ERD Foundation.

 The 6th edition of Pragjyoti International Dance Festival will offer a tribute to the contribution of the 600-year-old Ahom rule towards society and culture of Assam and will be hosted in the cultural site of Siva Dol, Sivasagar sculpted and spaced by the aesthetic vision of the Ahoms. Through the dance movements and unique expression of a dancer’s language of the mind perceiving the world and its cosmos, the PIDF will communicate the gloried past of the Assam and the Ahom dynasty and momentous contribution of the kingdom towards Indian History.

 With this, Kalpa also attempts to introduce PIDF as the “Dance Festival” exploring the heritage sites of Assam, inviting renowned young exponents from Poland, Russia, Italy and various parts of India representing various classical dance forms like Kuchipudi, Kathak, Mohiniattam, Manipuri, Bharatanatyam, Odissi and Sattriya.

 Also addressing to the need of the hour, the festival will speak up for the conservation of nature and preservation of rhinos, making the masses aware and rethink about the pertinent issues of the land and its natural resources by dedicating the evening of dance for the conservation of its pristine glory.

 Sattriya danseuse Anwesa Mahanta, Joint Secretary of Kalpa & Festival Director of PIDF says, “Since the past six years, PIDF has been striving towards building an interest for classical dance in the hearts of the youngsters of this region. This year, we want to address two issues that have been on the minds of many people of the region, and yet, were unable to express them for lack of a proper platform. PIDF is a festival of the people, carried forward over the years with their continued support and participation, and designed for highlighting the aspects of our vibrant culture and heritage. We want to use this platform as an opportunity to express our concern towards these issues”.

 Sankar Prasad Kakoti Bora, the Regional Director of Indian Council of Cultural Relations, Guwahati, said, “Kalpa, has been organizing the Pragjyoti International Dance Festival in association with the Indian Council of Cultural Relations of the Ministry of External Affairs, Govt of India, since 2009. Kalpa, under the leadership of Professor Pradip Jyoti Mahanta and Anwesa Mahanta, has been endeavouring to provide a platform for the promotion of young dance talent and also a space for social and cultural convergence.”  

 Besides the dance performances, Kalpa has also organized a series of interactive sessions, namely ‘Voices’, in three educational institutions in the city on the days of the festival. Through these sessions, the students will get an opportunity to learn and interact with the various classical dancers performing at the festival. These interactive sessions aim at creating awareness about the various classical dance forms of the country and to encourage more and more youngsters to take up these dance forms. The ‘Voices’ sessions will be held at Delhi Public School, Don Bosco Institute of Management and Regional Institute of Science and Technology on 15th, 16th, 17th February respectively.

 “Our dance festival is an attempt to promote the intangible heritage of classical arts among the younger generation.  Dance is an interdisciplinary area that requires a holistic appraisal of literature, philosophy, history, science, music, painting, sculpture, yoga, spirituality, religion, art and so on. Pragjyoti International Dance Festival, now in its sixth year, is one such attempt to showcase Indian classical dance with its holistic understanding of time, space and sound and the interpretations of human mind and body to the context of Assamese heritage, history and its nature”, says Anwesa. 

 While one of the greatest achievements of PIDF has been to develop interest about classical art traditions and its relevance in contemporary period amidst the young generations it has also maintained high standards by garnering the support and accolades of exponents of Indian dance at this annual dance fest.

 Appreciating the efforts of Kalpa, Anurag Singh (Managing Director – Assam Tourism Development Corporation Ltd.) comments, “Pragjyoti International Dance Festival is a vibrant festival with international renowned artists performing in Assam. It gives us an opportunity to promote our diverse culture and tourism. It’s a season’s gift of dance and tradition to the people”.


 (IN BOX) 

Festival Schedule

 The Pragjyoti International Dance Festival will be organized in Guwahati, Kaziranga and Sivsagar (in Assam) from 15th- 20th February, 2014. The festival has been divided into three stages:

 15th, 16th February, 2014 (Saturday and Sunday) at Rabindra Bhawan, Guwahati

18th February, 2014 (Tuesday) at Kaziranga National Park, Convention Hall

19th, 20th February, 2014 (Wednesday and Thursday) at Siva Dol, Sivasagar

 Performance Line-up

15th February 

         Gayan Bayan: Bhogpur Sattra, Majuli

         Odissi:  Sanatani Rombola (Italy) and Elena Knyazeva (Russia)

         Bharatanatyam: Renjith Babu and Vijna Vasudevan, Chennai

         Kathak: Disciples of Ms. Marami Medhi, Guwahati

 16th February

         Mohiniattam: Swapna Raju, Bangalore

         Kuchipudi: Sreelaksmy Govardhan, Kerala

         Sattriya: Lima Das, Guwahati

         Bharatanatyam: Aleksandra Michalska (Poland)

         Manipuri: Bibhul Kt. Sinha and his Group, Guwahati


19th February:

         Gayan Bayan: Bogiai Elengi Sattra, Titabor

         Odissi: Sanatani Rombola (Italy) and Elena Knyazeva (Russia)

         Bharatanatyam: Renjith Babu and Vijna Vasudevan, Chennai

         Kathak: Disciples of Ms. Marami Medhi


20th February:

         Mohiniattam: Swapna Raju

         Kuchipudi: Shreelaksmy Govardhan, Kerala

         Manipuri: Bibhul Sinha and his Group, Guwahati

         Bharatanatyam: Aleksandra Michalska (Poland)

         Sattriya: Dimpi Sonowal and Rimpi Sonowal, Guwahati

Published in The Sentinel on February 15, 2014




Open platform held as prelude to Guwahati International Dance Festival

The Pragjyoti International Dance Festival, which has been conceptualized to exhibit the major Indian Dance styles on a single platform and also to give an impetus to the talents of the region, kicked off in the Rabindra Bhavan on a grand note a couple of days back. The highlight of the inaugural function was a performance by noted danseuse Sonal Mansingh.

As a prelude to the International Dance Festival, Kalpa – the organizers – organized an open dance forum “Expressions” on 24th and 25th January, 2012 at Tirthanath Sarma Sabhaghar, Chandmari in order to reach out to more and more young minds.

Festival director Anwesa Mahanta said, “Indian Dance is a complete art that embraces not only the sculpturesque and stylized movements of body but also takes within its fold literature and philosophy along with music, painting, sculpture, histrionic art etc. The open dance forum was arranged to voice out the expressions and experiences of the young dance students and their approaches towards the discipline of dance and how the young minds perceive the philosophy of Indian Dance.”

Senior dance exponents Vijay Srivastav, Anu Basumatary, Anjanamoyee Saikia and Hari Saikia were the panellists in the open event. This workshop gave a scope to the students who have been seriously learning dance since their childhood to demonstrate and speak about their association and journey in the field of dance. Participants from various parts of the country belonging to the age group of 15-30 came and participated in this forum.

Elaborating on the concept of open forums, Anwesa Mahanta said, “It is a celebration of young energy representing various classical dance styles. While Trishneela Barkakati from Kalakshetra, Chennai, embraced dance as her life itself, Surajit Deb Burman from Santiniketan shared some of the hindrances which he had to face. It was nice to see how the artists went down the memory lane while illustrating their association of dance. There was also a lot of representation from Assam. Little star Kaushik Dutta from Nalbari amazed everyone with his clear movements and command over talas.”

The participants will be awarded with certificates at the conclusion of the festival today.

Guwahati wakes up to Sufi mysticism

Farida Parveen, Gazi Abdul Hakim enthrall city-goers

Two highly popular artistes of Bangladesh performed in Guwahati recently, much to the delight of the music lovers here. At the initiative of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) and the Directorate of Cultural Affairs, the city got to witness widely recognized Lalon singer Farida Parveen and noted instrumental flautist Gazi Abdul Hakim perform right in their backyard.

The 18th century mystic poet Lalon Shah was influenced by Sufism, a spiritual philosophy. For many years Lalon’s mystic songs have been rendered by singers in metros as well as by the fakhirs in aakhra (Lalon’s followers living in the den). But being a singer alone is not enough for rendering Lalon’s songs. One has to imbibe Lalon’s philosophy and Sufism. Though this does not mean that one has to live like fakhirs at the aakhra, one has to love human beings and other living beings and overcome all kinds of desire.

Maybe that is the reason why Farida Parveen’s name has today become synonymous with Lalon’s songs. While her style is different from that of the fakhirs in the dens, she lays more emphasis on adding a classical aspect to give it a polished form. Having rendered Lalon songs almost throughout the world, she has won many awards including the Fukuoka Asian Culture Prize for Best Music 2008 from Japan; Ekushey Padak in1987; and the National Film Award for Best Female Playback Singer in 1993. She is the founder of “Ochin Pakhi School” which is dedicated to accurate teachings of Lalon Sangeet to children. It is also dedicated to providing teaching in acoustic instrumental music with the traditional flute, saringee and sitar as she believes this to be vital for preserve traditional acoustic music.

She says, “I have respect for those who have made an immense contribution in preserving Lalon songs. However, some of them are not torchbearers of the spirit of Sufism. Some of them have addictions and some are responsible for blending the doctrine of Vaisnavism in Sufism. For instance, the practice of gerua attire and bearing a few musical instruments by the Bauls at the aakhra have come from Vaisnavism. But, a true devotee of Lalon is not supposed to do so. Like my guru Moksed Ali Shah, true Sufists at the aakhra do not use gerua attire. Instead, they wear white.”

Besides Farida Parveen, noted flautist Gazi abdul Hakim also performed on the occasion. An exponent of the bamboo flute, he is the only flutist to have performed at the House of Commons (in 1994). Before him, only Sarod player Ustad Amjad Ali Khan and Tabla player Ustad Zakir Hussain had got this rare opportunity. Hakim also played at the Commonwealth Summit in Canberra in 2001.

Gazi has developed a unique style of playing the wind instrument, which gives him a firm niche among the bansi players. He has made a proportionate synthesis of classical, western and traditional folk forms. Talking about his mission to promote the bansi (bamboo flute), he says, “Our bansi is a wonderful wind instrument. Its melody touches the soul of the listeners, which cannot be said of the silver flute. Moreover, only the bansi can play Meer Gamok. And it can be a suitable instrument for any orchestra.”

Having fought in the Bangladeshi liberation war of 1971, Gazi has been working as a staff artiste of Bangladesh Betar since 1974. He has released 12 solo albums till date and all of them have been very well received in Bangladesh as well as abroad.

International groups in Guwahati

Bae Han Sung Midam Korean Dance Troupe

Guwahatians have got some interesting times awaiting them. Two top-notch international music groups will be performing in the city shortly. This is besides the 1st Guwahati International Music Society that will be held at Shilpgram next Friday and Saturday,

About the groups, a 10 member Dance troupe ‘Bae Han Sung Midam Korean Dance Troupe’ from Korea will be performing at the International Convention Centre Auditorium of Srimanta Sankardev Kalakshetra on Tuesday.

The group has been invited by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, under Ministry of External Affairs, Govt. of India to participate in the Buddhist Art performing festival which is being organised by ICCR from November 27 to December 2. This group would perform in Puri Beach festival before coming to GUwahati on November 29 next.

The troupe perform Korean Buddhist performance like Bara (cymbal) Dance, Beopgo (Dharma drum) dance and Nabi (Butterfly) dance.

Meanwhile, Kingdom Hum – one of the top bands from Bhutan – will be performing at Shraddhanjali Kanan in the city on December 4 next. The group has also been invited by ICCR to participate in the South Asian Band festival. This performance is being organised by ICCR,Guwahati in collaboration with Guwahati Metropolitan Development Authority.

Music lovers, for the last few months, have been waiting with abated breath the arrival of world’s numero uno harmonica artist and Blues harp player Brendan Power.


Power, who will be arriving to the Northeast for the first time to perform in the 1st Guwahati International Music Festival, is really upbeat about his upcoming performance. He will be accompanied by wife Laura Jowers and music trade veteran Abe Thomas – MD of Thomas Music and the representative of Music International, Hollywood and Suzuki Asia Pacific in India.

Voted ‘Harmonica player of the year 2011’, UK-based New Zealander Brendan Power is acknowledged by many as one of the most creative, skilled & versatile harmonica players around today. Equally at ease on both the earthy Blues Harp as well as the sophisticated Chromatic Harmonica, he tunes them to his own scales to create a highly original style. He has recorded fifteen solo CDs to date, in a wide variety of musical genres. He has also receives the prestigious Bernie Bray Award from SPAH.

Besides Brendan, a host of other top ranking musicians are supposed to perform in the city. The list of participating artistes includes the likes of Nepal’s finest rock diva Abhaya Subba and her famed group, The Steam Injuns, Edwin Fernandes, Pt Manilal Nag, Guru Rewben Mashangva, Sunita Bhuyan and Minoti Khaund, Tarun Kalita, Abhishruti Bezbaruah, and the like.

Arguable one of the best bands to have come out from Nepal in the history of the hill kingdom, Abhaya and the Steam Injuns — through her mellifluous voice and her band’s fantastic musical synergy – has established themselves as the top ranking band in not only Nepal, but entire South East Asia. Their high energy performances in front of packed houses in their country and also Korea, India regularly, has ensured that their fan base is on a continuous upward surge. The Gorkha community of the Northeast is eagerly awaiting the arrival and performance of this band which has redefined folk fusion and rock in Nepal.

Entry to the Guwahati International Music Festival is free. The event is being organized in collaboration with NEZCC, Dimapur and is supported by the North Eastern Council, Ministry of DONER, ICCR, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of Goa, Numaligarh Refinery Limited, CEC, Assam Down Town University, Artist Aloud, Earth Synch and others.

Published in The Sentinel on November 26, 2011

This puja, Guwahati gears up for ROCKTOBER

Internationally-acclaimed MENWHOPAUSE & OFF to perform for ROCK OF THE AGES concert

If you thought that puja pandals were all you had look forward to in the coming festive season, you better think again. Indian psychedelic rock sensation Menwhopause is all set to carry the puja fever to a different pitch altogether in ROCKTOBER RIFFS –rock of the ages. Scheduled to be held on October 8 next, this hardcore rock festival has already created a wave among rock circles of the State.

Rocktober Riffs, which will provide a rollercoaster ride through the good old days of rock, will also feature Nagaland’s top rock outfit Original Fire Factor (OFF). The four member alternative rock outfit, known for their originals, had won the Hornbill National Rock Contest in 2009. Guwahati-based classic rock bands PROJECT PATKAI and STAGS will also be performing on the occasion.

Rocktober Riffs is being organized by Eastern Beats Music Society in association with the North East Zone Cultural Centre, Dimapur. The event is being supported by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, under Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, The Northeast Today, Hit7 Television, Saanz Mobile and other partners.

Eastern Beats Music Society founder secretary and creative director Aiyushman Dutta said the concert has already created a lot of enthusiasm among the city’s mature rock circles. “Whether it is the alternative-meet-psychedelia sound of Menwhopause, or the protest brand of retro-rock as espoused by OFF, Rocktober Riffs is going to rock as it is meant to be,” he said.

For those who happen to be still uninitiated, Menwhopause, whose journey started a decade back in 2001, is one of the very few rock success stories in the Indian subcontinent. Labelled as “India’s top rock band” by a jury of veteran and eminent musicians in the Jack Daniel Polls 2008 held at Nashville, USA, their first EP titled ‘The Story Begins’ was launched in 2003 under the band’s own label “the middle earth company.” The songs found international airplay, including BBC London, and climbed on to top 10 ranks on international mp3 sites. Ever since then, the band has been slowly but steadily setting benchmarks in India’s music scene, most importantly as being one of the first bands to have stuck to playing only original music and concentrating on the art of songwriting.


Their debut concept album ‘Home’ saw an international release by the middle earth company in August 2006. Their fixation towards creating and retaining their own identity had worked for them, as they were the first Indian band found to be commercially viable to perform at the world’s biggest independent music festival, the prestigious South by Southwest [SXSW] in Austin, Texas, in March 2007. This was followed by a month-long tour with other bands from Iran, Germany, Britain, Mexico, Scandinavia, etc. in the early part of 2008.

The band’s performance at ROCKTOBER RIFFS in Guwahati marks the promotional drive of their new album ‘Easy’. “With soothing rhythms, emphasis on a simplistic approach to rock, lyrics that describe everyday life, and tons of humour – Menwhopause has ensured that with easy, their fan base remains on a continuous upward surge,” says Dutta. The band is made up of Sarabjit Singh, guitarist Anup Kutty, guitarist Inder Pal Singh, singer-songwriter Sarabjit Chadha, bassist Randeep Singh and Paul Schneiter on drums.

Confluence of maestros

Guwahatians, who are generally fed on a heavy staple of rock and metal, recently got the chance to enjoy some serious music. I am talking about Confluence 2011 – a much hyped musical event which had four legends assembling together on the same stage. Organized by India club, the concert featured legendary tablist Talvin Singh, percussionist Gino Banks, Sitarist Purabyan Chatterjee and Raghab Chatterjee.


Live performances are held literally throughout the year in the Northeast, though the density of prevalence is more during the winter months. While the venues of live performances were earlier limited to a few specific areas in the region, the major cities like Guwahati and Shillong, it has now spread across the region with more and more smaller towns trying to host live performances at regular intervals. But while Shillong is currently witnessing a downwards trend, Guwahati has emerged as a major destination for live music performances. The main centres for live music performances in the Northeast are Assam, Meghalaya and Nagaland (State-wise break-up given).

Besides the occasional music concert, traditional festivals where music is invariably a part have become major revenue-generating occasions. Nagaland has the annual Hornbill festival and the much-hyped Hornbill national rock competition, Meghalaya has the Autumn festival, Manipur has the Sangai festival, while a number of festivals are held in Assam also.

While a lot of new venues has come up for live events in all these States, clubs still continue to be the major hub of live music performances in the Northeast, especially Assam. The major clubs spread across major cities and towns of Assam play host to a number of prolific musicians and artistes at frequent intervals. Specific festive occasions like Diwali, etc continue to be major revenue-generating occasions for these clubs, while the year-end celebrations are huge affairs. In Guwahati, the major clubs are India Club, Guwahati Gymkhana, Guwahati club, Guwhati Town Club, Guwahati Raquets and Billiards, etc.

Seasoned event organizer, musician and founder of Springboard Surprises Keith Wallang feels that the live music scene has really not picked up in the Northeast. “There is nothing special about the live music scene here in Northeast India. A lot of people are trying to change things but it’s not yielding any results. Till now, we have not been able to develop a circuit for even our local musicians to play.”

The States of Northeast Indian have an abundant pool of talented and creative musicians though the respective governments do not have any clear cut policy for music till now. Given the abundant talent, it is surprising that no steps have been taken by the governments of the respective States to develop this pool of musicians and give it the shape of an industry. As Keith says, “The situation is really bad because we might have just tried to take the pool of talent and creativity that the Northeast has for granted.”


The main centre for live performances in Assam is Guwahati, whiles shows are also held occasionally in a few small towns like Nagaon and Diphu.

Gateway to the Northeast and the biggest city of the region, Guwahati – the capital of Assam – is presently the hub with most live performances being organized here. The scene is doing much better than earlier with the emergence of a lot of new event managers and the coming of a host of new corporate houses ready to sponsor such initiatives.

Main challenges: Lack of venues in the city and lack of sponsors for big events.

Changing audience tastes: While live performances in the earlier days in Assam were limited to Bihu songs and performances of popular music, performances by Hindustani classical, Indi-pop and Bollywood musicians have also become popular in recent times. There is an audience for matured music in Guwahati though that again is very small and most often than not, these events go unnoticed. Though there is a huge audience of rock lovers, this particular genre has not been exploited to its fullest here.

Venues: The lack of proper venues in Guwahati is a major problem in the organization of open air live concerts. While the existing venues are indeed being used, more facilities need to be extended by the administration towards the hosting of live performances.

The most popular Assam Engineering Institute playground has now been closed by the administration citing security problems. The other venues are Shilpgram, Indira Gandhi stadium at Sarusajai, College of Veterinary Science ground (Khanapara), which are located a bit on the external arteries of the city. Rabindra Bhavan and Pragjyoti ITA Centre for Performing Arts are the two other centres for live performances.

The government’s role on live performances is questionable as security measures often prove to be a major hurdle for organizers. This apart, the State government has no clear cut policy for live performances.


At present, the State of Nagaland is one of the most vibrant among the Northeastern States as far as live performances are concerned. A lot of concerts are being held here on a regular basis with a lot of support from the government. The main centre for live performances in Nagaland is Dimapur although the capital city of Kohima hosts the much hyped annual Hornbill National Rock contest – which is a big draw for rock musicians from all over the country.

Live music scene

Nagaland is a State that has witnessed the oldest insurgency movement – the Naga separatist movement – of the country. With all the factions of the underground outfit at loggerheads with each other, the situation had not been exactly conducive for hosting events. But over the last four-five years, the ground situation here has stabilised to a huge extent and a lot of events are now taking place here.

The State has a highly vibrant live music culture with gigs and performances being held in the place on an almost regular basis. In many ways, there also make up for the lack of big scale music events. There are many restaurants and cafes in the two main cities of Dimapur and Kohima that are dedicated to live music performances. Some of the prominent music cafes of Dimapur are Jumping Bean Cafe, Cafe Destination, Cafe Hiyo, etc, while Dream Cafe is a popular music destination in Kohima. As such, music has been a high source of revenue for the local entrepreneurs of the State. The setting up of the North East Zone Cultural Centre (NEZCC) of the Ministry of Culture in Dimapur has also helped this State. A lot of events take place at the behest of this funding agency.

Such a vibrant culture has helped a lot of experimentation and innovation, which has led to maturity in the tastes of the audience. The vibrancy of this State’s music culture can be gauged from the fact that Dimapur witnessed the highest ever audience turn-put for a rock concert in this part of the world when a 35,000 + audience (moderate estimate) stormed into the Mr. Big Reunion Concert last year.

The main challenges facing the music scenario here is improvement of the law and order situation and more corporate and financial support. This is because despite the vibrancy, it is still difficult for musicians and event organizers here, and in other parts of the Northeast, to survive on the basis of live music performances alone.

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.

Music is an art form that comes naturally to the Nagas. The huge potential of the music industry in the State is something which the government wants to exploit. Accordingly, Nagaland is possibly the only Indian State which has formed a separate government department called the Music Task Force (MTF) to exploit the huge talented pool of musicians here and also to support and promote the local musicians. The Hornbill National Rock contest has, within a very short time, become a most loved festival in the country and has plans to go international in the next few years. The Hornbill National rock, with a total prize money of Rs. 10,00,000 (Rs Ten lakhs) is possibly the only Indian rock show with the highest prize money for local talents.

At its current pace and if the support of the administration continues, the live music scene in Nagaland is only bound to improve in the days to come. A lot, however, depends on the law and order situation on the ground.


    Whenever we talk about music and the Northeast, Shillong – the capital of Meghalaya – is the first thing that comes to one’s mind. Not surprising because the genesis of rock or pop music in Northeast India is regarded to have taken here itself. It is said that every kid who has born and who grew up here knows how to play the guitar! Sounds like a tall claim but not too off the mark also.

    Gigs and performances are regular occurrences here in Shillong though the frequency has indeed come down in recent times. Yet, despite performances by a few mega international artistes and sporadic rock concerts, the live music scene here is not as developed as is expected from this place. Keith Wallang, who is based in Shillong, says, “The scene here is not satisfactory at all. In fact, it has come down over the last few years. During the insurgency days, the live music scene here was really thriving but after the onset of peace, it has not really been able to pick up.” Meghalaya, like the other States of the Northeast, also witnessed a long spell of insurgency-related violence.

    Keith feels that globalisation and the inroads made by mobile and telecom companies is also another factor for the deteriorating live music scene in Shillong. “Bands here now have to compete with what television channels are offering. Many a times, the quality of shows have not been up to the mark so people are slowly losing interest in live shows.”

    It is not possible to pinpoint only one factor for the present state of live music in Shillong. One of the main reason for this is the lack of venues in the city. There are only one or two venues in Shillong which really cannot sustain the live music scene of a region. For indoor performances, Meghalaya presently has the State Central Library auditorium. For outdoor musical events, there are two venues in the form of 5th Ground, Polo ground and Laban Sports Ground. In the words of Keith, “This is a far cry from the earlier days when each and every locality had a ground for the hosting of live performances.”

    Shillong now witnesses a lot of pub events which are hosted in two local lounge bars called Tango and Cloud 9. But even these places are found lacking. As local RJ AJ, “These events are termed as being pub fests but the space of these lounges are too small for musical performances.”

    Like the other States of the Northeast, the State of Meghalaya does not have any clear-cut and definite policy for live music. Though the government has always endorsed musical events here, many feel that a lot remains to be done by the government. “It is sad but just like all the other States of the Northeast, Meghalaya does not have any policy for live music. There is so much the governments can do for the music scene. For instance, in Meghalaya, the government can help by developing the infrastructure for hosting concerts. I am sure private entrepreneurs will take care of the rest.”

Raj Dweep’s debut collection

City-based journalist Raj Dweep released his debut collection of short satires in the ongoing 12th Northeast Book Fair on Thursday. The book, Guwahati.Com, which is a collection of Assamese satires, was released in an unique manner. No distinguished guest or celebrity was present to release the book but the honours were done by a group of readers and young and upcoming journalists of the state

Guwahati to pay tribute to the ‘Iron Man of Metal’

‘If Michael Jackson brought to the world his famous “moonwalk”, Dio will be remembered for popularizing the famous “devil’s horn” hand gesture’

The Devil's Own Hands!

He was a man who sported some of the wildest hairdos ever conceived. A man whose fearsome presence enthralled people the world over. And he was the man behind some of the heaviest music ever made in the world. But despite all this seemingly “negative” traits, he still remained a hero nonetheless. Or so it was till a few days back. Around ten days back, May 16 to be precise, heavy metal lost a bit of its heaviness when it lost its biggest hero ever. Ronnie James Dio, fondly referred to as the ‘Iron Man of Metal’, died of cancer.

A pall of gloom seems to have got cast over the entire rock fraternity worldwide ever since news about Dio’s demise passed around. For Ronnie can very well be said to be the man who shaped the growth of the metal genre. If Michael Jackson brought to the world his famous “moonwalk”, Rio will be remembered for popularizing the famous “devil’s horn” hand gesture, which went on to become an inseparable component of metal culture. A thorough gentleman to the core, the rich tenor of his baritone still continues to haunt his countless fans spread throughout the world. Ronnie James Dio was a man who, throughout his life, strove to keep aloft the metal banner, which he did with powerful and consistently excellent music marked by deep lyrical thoughts. As such, it was not surprising to see rockers of all hues in remote corners of the world, even in our seemingly far flung Northeast India, line up to pay tributes to a musician who is now being referred to as the “Michael Jackson of Metal”.

For those unacquainted with the man and his music till now, Ronnie James Dio was an American heavy metal vocalist. In a career spanning over half a century, he performed with groups, like Elf, Rainbow, Black Sabbath, Heaven & Hell, and his own band Dio. It would not be wrong to say that Dio, as he is fondly known, shaped the growth of the heavy metal genre. As a critic noted: “He developed his near-classical style of vocal production in an era when amplification was yet to be developed. Along with Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden and Rob Halford of Judas Priest, Dio pioneered the semi-operatic style of vocal production in metal, one instance among many of the genre’s classical roots.”

Ronnie James Dio

For once, musicians in the Northeast have left aside their differences and come together to hail the contributions of one of the finest musicians to have ever walked on the face of the earth. One of the first among them was Maharaja Pradyot Manikya Debburman, the King of Tripura, who remarked on his Facebook profile: ‘Rest in Peace Ronnie James Dio. We will miss you’. I think Maharaja Pradyot Manikya Debburman is the only King in our country, and probably the entire world, who has been going all out to promote our rockers, especially those in the Northeastern corner of the world. I salute his dedication and commitment towards the growth of rock in Northeast India.

Meanwhile, musicians in Guwahati will be jamming in city-based cafe ‘Blues’ next Friday on June 11 in a tribute function organized by the Eastern Beats Music Society. The pub rock fest will see performances by Dhruva Sarma – front man of Friends and one of the pioneering rockers of the State, rock sensation Lucid Recess and a host of other musicians and bands from Guwahati and Shillong.

The tribute celebrations in Guwahati have caught the notice of music lovers all over the world. Mumba-based musician Harish Ramakrishnan tells me, “The initiative to hold a pub-rock fest in the memory of Ronnie James Dio is simply brilliant. I can hardly think of anybody paying a tribute to this legend, even though he’s been such an inspiration to other vocalists. His end seems so much like the song he sang… Die Young… If only I could be there.”

It is unlikely that the music community, especially followers of the metal genre, will easily forget Ronnie James Dio. And if I were to quote a musician friend of mine, the volume of work and reputation Dio leaves behind ensure that he will always be a ‘Rainbow in the Dark’.

A visual extravaganza

Of late, thanks to the efforts of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, Guwahatians have got the chance to get acquainted with a number of excellent musicians from different parts of the globe. Besides bringing performers of diverse and hitherto obscure musical traditions to our very own backyard, it has also enlivened the cultural scene in the city to a commendable extent. I still remember listening in awe to the ‘Chorinho’ (lament or little cry in Portugese) musical style when Yamandu Costa and his seven-member guitar ensemble enthralled music lovers of the city and introduced to them the Brazilian forms of music. I would like to thank ICCR for their initiatives and urge them to continue with their noble endeavours.

Continuing with their quest, the ICCR recently presented Spellbound – a repertoire of Odissi dance presented by the Sutra Dance Theatre of Malaysia under the artistic direction of Ramli Ibrahim. If we were to talk about the presentation, Spellbound is a tryst with the timeless beauty of an ancient temple dance that transforms a theatre experience into an emotional bond and spiritual one. It offers a repertoire of Odissi, commissioned from Guru Durga Charan Ranbir of the late Guru Deba Prasad parampara and rearranged into a stunning group composition by Ramli Ibrahim. Consisting of a multi-racial cast symbolic of the universality of the Odissi dance form, Spellbound has delighted audiences wherever it has performed – be it in Malaysia, India or Europe.

The evening began with Mangala Caranan, which is an invocatory homage to the mother goddess and female principle in her form as Saraswati, the goddess of eloquence, wisdom and learning, and also the patron of arts and music. The lovely costumes of the dancers and the beautiful light effect managed to fill the hearts of the audience with awe and expectation of the things to follow. This was followed by Mukhari Pallavi – a pure dance exposition in which the three bends of the head, torso and hip, together with the solid, symmetrical chowka or the square position, create a firm but fluid contrast. Watching the dance, a critic commented: The unhurried quickness with which the dancers created formations and kept changing them was admirable. For the line ‘Yaa Brahma Achyuta Shankara’, they created Brahma loka with Brahma and Saraswathi; Vaikunta with Vishnu on Adisesha, attended by Lakshmi; and Kailash with Siva and Parvathi. The same seven dancers (two male and five female) changed their roles convincingly with their eloquent gestures and facial expressions.

Throughout the entire performance, it was interesting to note that the stage was not empty for even a single moment. One powerful performance followed the other, after brief but relevant introductions. Added with the beautiful costumes and light display, Spellbound was truly a treat for the senses. Though Spellbound is technically a fusion of traditional Odissi dance with contemporary dance forms, for us laymen it was a thing of beauty.

Moving on to the creative director of the presentation, Ramli Ibrahim is a dynamic force in Malaysian theatre and possesses open-mindedness for both the Old and the New. Trained in classical ballet, modern dance and Indian classical dance, Ramli is a creator and a visionary in the arts who sees unity within the diversity of all of Sutra’s artistic endeavors. In Malaysia, Ramli is acclaimed as a pioneer dancer and choreographer of international standing in the major fields of dance that he has mastered – Bharatanatyam, Odissi as well as Contemporary Dance. As a teacher of Bharata Natyam and Odissi, he has groomed some of the finest dancers to have emerged from Malaysia and at the same time placed Indian classical dance in the context of the Malaysian experience. A disciple of Guru Deba Prasad Das, he was at his best in Guwahati that day –a raw personification of energy, grace, force and speed. The Sutra Dance Theatre, on the other hand, is based in Kuala Lampur and was established in 1983 to promote awareness in theatre and the Arts in the both the traditional and the contemporary. It has established a strong and dynamic school of dance by imparting training in traditional, classical and contemporary techniques. Sutra’s multiracial dancers of Malay, Indian, Chinese and mixed races speak well of dance transcending racial and cultural barriers.