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Originals, other factors will set you apart; no favouritism, says MGMP

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By Our Reporter

SHILLONG, June 20: The Meghalaya Grassroots Music Project (MGMP), in its second edition, is making waves by championing local talent and fostering and promoting artists who create original music and rely solely on music for their livelihood. This season has already seen over 600 new artists, including drummers, guitarists, bassists, and individual performers, showcasing their skills across multiple venues in Shillong, Jowai, Ri-Bhoi, and Sohra.
Elton Phankon, Project Head, MGMP, responded to allegations of repetition of artists in multiple shows during a conversation with The Shillong Times.
Phankon clarified that they consider several factors when selecting artists for shows, including whether they perform original songs and depend on music as their primary source of income.
“It is not possible to please everyone, but we are trying. We do consider certain criteria when it comes to giving shows to specific artists, such as whether they are coming up with original compositions. It is only fair to promote them and provide them with a platform,” he said.
Additionally, he mentioned, “There are artists who do not have another job and rely solely on music for their livelihood. Therefore, it is not favoritism but a combination of factors that come into play.”
Emphasising the project’s inclusivity and support for repeated performances by versatile artists, he stated, “There is no issue in featuring an artist across bands if they are getting repetitive, if the bands are comfortable with the concerned artists playing alongside them, and if the artist is agreeable, then why should we have a problem?”
The aim is to maintain a flexible approach that ensures talented musicians receive ample opportunities to perform and earn.
Artist performances are evaluated through surveys conducted by artist managers, focusing on crowd reactions, stage presence, and engagement. These assessments influence future show bookings. “It is more than just music; it is how they are on stage, how they present themselves, how their body language is, and how they engage with the crowd,” Phankon elaborated.
Recognizing the financial constraints of many artists, MGMP this time is also offering professional training and equipment sponsorship, albeit not free. Instead, artists who are in need of extra equipment receive extra shows to generate the necessary funds independently. “We are also trying to sponsor equipment for the artists, but not by giving it to them free of cost. We are giving them extra shows so that they can get the necessary funds and buy it on their own in a bid to ensure self-sufficiency and growth,” Phankon explained.
A highlight of this season is the inclusion of gospel artists, who often donate their earnings to their institutions. “The new addition this season is gospel shows, featuring numerous gospel artists who are getting an opportunity, and they tend to donate the money they earn from the shows to institutions,” he added.
Since its inception, MGMP has hosted around 1,600 shows, promoting transparency by directly paying artists through Meghalayan Age, eliminating middlemen. Solo artists earn approximately 10,000 INR monthly, while bands, depending on their performance and reputation, earn between 30,000 to 50,000 INR.
Government departments have also begun collaborating with MGMP, inviting their bands to perform at various official events. This partnership not only elevates the project’s profile but also integrates local music into broader public domains.
To attract tourists, MGMP encourages artists to perform a mix of Hindi, Bollywood, and traditional songs.
“To attract tourists, we encourage the singers to perform Hindi and Bollywood songs, along with traditional bands simultaneously, especially in locations where tourists are expected, so they get what they want and also learn about our rich musical culture,” said Phankon.
Artists are graded based on technical skill, creativity, originality, performance, and impact, surveyed by the artists’ managers and organisers present during the shows.
This structured evaluation helps nurture talent and ensures high standards.

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