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Specially-abled artists cross barriers with MGMP

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SHILLONG, June 23: Celebrated as the music capital of India, Shillong is a city where the passion for music transcends all obstacles. Exemplifying this spirit are Waiki Snaitang and Hilarious Malniang, two talented musicians who, despite being visually impaired, have mastered their craft and now perform with the Meghalaya Grassroots Music Project (MGMP). This initiative not only provides them with a platform to showcase their talents but also helps them secure gigs and earn a livelihood through music.
Waiki Snaitang’s musical journey began in school, where he joined the choir and was also selected for the Shillong Chamber Choir and the Arwah choir.
However, personal reasons prevented him from continuing with these groups. A graduate in English from St. Edmund’s College, Snaitang has always had a passion for music.
A versatile musician, he plays the drums, bass guitar, and guitar, and is also a skilled vocalist. Snaitang often performs with his band, Eastern Brook, which consists of four visually impaired members: Waikibor Bashemphang Snaitang on drums, Wanlamphrang Nongkhlaw on vocals, Hamjngai Naga Sungoh on bass guitar, and Nangkiew Artet Rina on guitar.
Like the great musician, Ludwig van Beethoven, once said, “To play without passion is inexcusable!”
Reflecting on his passion for music, Snaitang said, “I have never felt that I have lost out on anything. Instead, I have always been appreciated. Playing the drums is my forte, but that doesn’t mean I am bad with the others.” He added confidently, “I play the bass guitar and guitar and sing too.”
When asked about the three songs he loves performing the most, he chuckled and said, “For a musician, it is always about the mood, but for me, currently, I love performing ‘Your Man’ by Josh Turner, ‘Empty Space’ by James Arthur, and ‘Always’ by Bon Jovi.”
The band has already performed two shows through MGMP and won “Meghalaya’s Got Specially Abled Talent” Season 2. They are in the process of registering with MGMP as both a band and solo performers. Snaitang added that MGMP is helping them secure gigs that were previously difficult to obtain because people doubted their competence. With MGMP’s support, they are now recognized as professional musicians, and their abilities are no longer questioned.
Similarly inspiring is the story of Hilarious Malniang, a 34-year-old visually impaired musician who has been performing for over a decade. A self-taught artist, Malniang plays the keyboard, guitar, and accordion, and is also a singer. He performs solo, with a band, and as part of a church choir. Despite having only performed one show with MGMP, he continues to make a significant impact.
Malniang has composed several songs and invested in his instruments independently. His music spans pop and traditional Khasi songs, with his favorite compositions including his own song “Dignity.”
Thanking MGMP, Malniang added that he hopes to get more shows and prove that he is just as good of a musician, emphasising that music is for the heart and the ears, and he plays from his heart.
Elton Phankon, Project Head of MGMP, mentioned that they are in the process of identifying other specially-abled individuals and are willing to train them, both vocally and in performance skills, so they can get opportunities to perform and make a living from it. Currently, there are approximately 10 artists that MGMP is supporting, with plans to help more.
Phankon also highlighted the case of Bandwina Khymdeit, a girl who is 100 percent visually impaired and sells socks and goes to the market to make a living. MGMP is now training her, and once she is prepared, they will help her get gigs and performances.
In the music capital of India, the stories of Waiki Snaitang and Hilarious Malniang serve as stark reminders that true passion indeed knows no barriers.

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