Waltzing to Tunes of Desire
The unifying spirit of music, with distinguished pitches and rhythmic tones paves the way for local Mozarts, writes Esha Chaudhuri
By Esha Chaudhuri
Music is for everyone. It is creative and a soul soothing endeavour irrespective of the genre or music typology. ‘Fete de la Musique’ or World Music Day celebrated all over the world encapsulates diversity of cultures fostering a prejudice-free perspective towards fellow humans. It weaves these differences with its distinctive character only to put forward ideas of equality in unison. Celebrating the art of imagination, creativity and its fine execution, Sunday Shillong brings to its readers the story of three musical bands that stand out for its immense talent but also its human side. Namely, Ka Sur Na Nongkyndong (NKD), Light After Dark (LAD) and Ahowee are three non-identical entities comprising a group of farming community, visually impaired and those from the interiors of Garo Hills, respectively, however, bound by versatility of expression and imagination.
From the peripheries
Music as a medium is long reputed as one that uplifts moods, enhances emotional wellbeing and is often regarded as a soul stirrer. However, not all rhythms sing songs borne out of fairytales. The backdrop of some bear badges of modest backgrounds, nonetheless, making it to platforms of recognition. Straight from the agricultural fields of Mawkynrew, the musical band, NKD consisting of farmers native to the area have been revered for their enormous musical talents. In the recent past, their performances had surfaced on social media, creating rapids with its viral impact after their live performance was shared by the Chief Minister on his social media pages.
The second band in order, LAD is a group of visually impaired musicians, who have time and again showcased that being differently abled is no deterrent to pursuing their musical conviction. In 2018, they were named state icons for disability as they’ve drawn attention to the concept of ‘accessible elections’ especially for people with disabilities.
The last band to be introduced is the music troupe from the interiors of Garo Hills, Ahowee, the forerunners of the rich Garo culture exhibited through their musical instruments like the Dotrong, Dama, Chingring.
Speaking the language of music
The symphony of expressing through music can be articulated in numerous ways through lyrics, music beats, using instruments, as well as voices of vocalists. Such showcasing are often skills learned from professionals or a natural borne gift intrinsic to some. Commenting on the same, President of NKD, Raison Nongrum says, “Band members are all local talents, some received training from an old man from the village while many learned it at home singing along with their families. We can call it a natural gift of God that almost every household knows to play an instrument.”
Vocalist and Guitarist at Ahowee, Gabriel Momin speaking on behalf of the band says, “Lussac is the only member who has a Diploma as certified Garo percussionist among our band members while the rest of us didn’t receive any sort of formal training in music. Our love and passion for music began from our early stages in life.”
Mentor of LAD, Lalzawmliana Sailo shares, “Every single one of our members are visually impaired. Out of them all, the biggest challenge for me as their guide and teacher was to bring out the best in Chwaki because he was shy, subdued, lacking confidence and did not mingle much with others but he always liked listening to music, So I thought “why not give him a chance?” At the time, I was not specially trained for teaching persons with visual impairment. I thought to myself, how can I effectively teach these boys where they cannot even see the musical instruments. How will they even know where the snare is or the hi-hat or the bass drum or even the strings of the guitar? I was reminded of my own challenges with learning in school and how no matter how hard the teachers tried, I simply could not follow. I knew I had to get creative in my teaching methods if the boys were to successfully learn music. I put myself in their shoes, basically blindfolding myself and learning how to play an instrument. It was a whole new world, where the things we take for granted like postures and how you move were very important.”
Sharing their thoughts on World Music Day, Nongrum says, “Music is a gift of God that can heal a broken heart which can serve as a medicine almost.”
Concurring with Nongrum, Momin adds, “Music is something that brings people together in one way or the other; as it spreads love, sees no colour or hate and World Music Day is one such day that commemorates this love and appreciation and feels its essence to the fullest.”
Building on the aforementioned points, Sailo explicates, ““Music is a great vehicle to spread awareness among a wide range of people. It is a melodious and powerful tool that connects people and particularly, those with disabilities. It is only when the differently abled connect with their aspirations that they can hope for a life which is meaningful and realise that they too have a valuable contribution to make to the society, and a lot of good to offer to this world.”
Elaborating on their spiritual connection with music, Nongrum says, “Music and the lyrics are the sacred language as it has the power to end suffering and stir minds for positive change in the world.” Adding further, Momin says, “Music is one medium through which we try to express ourselves to the fullest and being in a folk fusion band, we try to relate the stories of our forefathers that were handed down to us for generations with the present generation in the form of storytelling, keeping in mind our rich cultural music that is dying out with modernization.”
Music today and tomorrow
Musical intelligence is au naturale to the natives of our land, showcased across genres through singing, playing instruments and orchestrating different melodies through harmonious tunes. Sharing his thoughts on the same, Nongrum says, “We perform on invitation in events such as weddings and sometimes at shows organised by schools, universities and government offices and one of the most memorable performances for us was when we had performed in Shillong hosted by the Meghalaya ministry of arts and culture in the presence of high dignitaries and the other one was our performance in the Indian Army Red horns division.”
Communicating with Sunday Shillong on LAD’s iconic performances, Sailo says, “Some of our memorable performances in prestigious platforms were the Riders meet Boro Land, Hyderabad Tedx, Tedx IIT Guwahati, and have even played for Shree Ram at Indian Idol 5.”
Finding his inspiration from a number of artists and groups, Momin says, “Coming from different musical backgrounds, our tastes differ but are influenced by Bollywood numbers, especially AR Rahman to different forms of Western music such as Bob Marley, Marty Friedman, Riprap, Beethoven, Gary Moore and the list goes on.”
Sharing details on Ahowee’s memorable performances, Momin narrates, “We have performed on many occasions, be it VIP parties, wedding receptions and other musical events but we (Ahowee band) had an amusing memory in the 18 Degrees Festival, wherein right after our performance the host of the programme had asked us about our parking slot, which cracked us up since we had hired a local black and yellow taxi for our instruments while the rest walked on foot till our residence. Like every other band he expected us to have a vehicle but none of us owned one at that time. While the most memorable performance would be the Winter Tales where our frontman was hospitalised on the day of performance yet we were able to pull it off and the connection we made with the audience was mesmerizing.”
On asking about their inspiration from the field – artist or band, Nongrum says, “Among the modern day artists, I would go with Summer Salt. I love their lyrics and style and they can bring a big change to our society. I heard they performed in Rapleng village and their lyrics always touch my soul.”
Going inwards for inspiration, Sailo says, “My music teacher (Master degree in jazz) who is now the owner of Aizawl jazz academy is my biggest inspiration in my musical journey.”
Elaborating his thoughts on modern-day artists with a bright future, Momin says, “Considering the content and uniqueness of an artist, we would say that Nokpante, a Tura based band, will go a long way. Another would be Rida and the musical folks as they too promote the Khasi culture through their music as well as their holistic approach to bring the different aspects of cultures, music, craftsman, food of our state to greater heights. While there are many other bands that are doing a great job as well such as Summersalt (Meghalaya band) and Blue Temptation to name a few.”
In concluding words, on behalf of their groups, the representatives deliberate on music and its future. Nongrum summarises, “Music is a beautiful gift from God, take it, use it, heal yourself, it can push you forward.”
Collecting his thoughts along similar lines, Momin pieces it together, “Music is something that is felt and expressed in melodies so one should strive to be a real musician with genuine effort and not only rely on modern technologies. that we have at present
Overcoming the many challenges with and for his group, Sailo concludes, “Music is a powerful tool for uplifting individual spirit and breaking barriers. Disability should not be a disincentive for anyone to learn and pursue their life’s calling.”
As the name of the festival suggests, it signifies a heralding of all; and Ahowee, Ka Sur Na Nongkyndong and Lights after Dark exemplify all the benevolent qualities of music along with its power to bring people together as one.