Wahkhen’s musical legacy goes unnoticed

WAHKHEN: Wahkhen has been in news for some time now for the villagers’ engineering wonder, a 1.8-km-long bamboo bridge to Mawryngkhang rock. But there is more to this quaint village in Pynursla civil sub-division that can leave an outsider awestruck.
Located at a distance of 48km from the city, Wahkhen is known for its music. At a cultural meet at Wahkhen on Sunday, where several media persons were invited, the villagers demonstrated how they are protecting their identity from the onslaught of modernisation.
The village has some of the finest Khasi traditional musicians like National award-winner Komik Khongjirem and Rojet Buhphang. The children of the village learn to hold the Tangmuri and the Ksing even before they could hold a pen properly. The music school in the village grooms both boys and girls to become protectors of Khasi culture and tradition. The musical instruments are also made here.
Wahkhen is probably among a handful of villages in Khasi Hills which practice age-old indigenous customs and rituals.
The several episodes of the programme, organised under the supervision of Khongjirem, not only gave an insight into the villagers’ daily life but also showed how music is an intrinsic part of it.
While the traditional instruments grieved during Ka Nguh Mei Kha (thanksgiving to grandmother), they made the feet tap during kiew iing thymmai (house warming ritual) under the direction of the expert musicians. Buhphang’s young students were also among the stars of the programme.
Music forms a part of the villagers’ daily conversation too. Like Kongthong, Wahkhen practices the tradition of according a tune to a child’s name. So when two villagers, separated by fields and forest, converse, they take the help of music and call out the unique tunes for their names.
However, not many tourists coming to the village for the bamboo bridge trek know about the musical legacy of Wahkhen. The state government too has not been active enough to promote the talents here, complain many villagers.
“Neither there is any recognition for the musicians nor an attempt to promote traditional Khasi music in and outside the state. The village has been neglected for years,” said a villager on condition of anonymity.
Babu Kular Khongjirem, executive member of Sieng Riti Institute at Wahkhen, said the programme was aimed at preserving and promoting Khasi tradition and culture. “The youth are being taught about our culture so that they can protect it,” he added.
After losing their hope for state support, the prominent residents of Wahkhen have decided to approach the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, sources said.
Bridge repaired
The bamboo bridge that was damaged in several parts has been repaired. The villagers at Wahkhen said the bridge was repaired “by us without any help from the state government”.
Earlier, the Wahkhen Tourism Promoters Trekking Society had approached the government for fund to reconstruct the bridge. Heavy rainfall had washed away a part of the bridge over the Wah Umrew. “But now the bridge is again ready for trekkers,” said a villager.

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