Friday, December 28, 2007

Rock Music in Manipur

Every art is an imitation. But every art imitates to fit the local notion of space and time. Rock music in Manipur is just an imitation. We imitate without creative innovation and consequently losing the essence and power of the form.

Yes! People say music has no language or music is the universal language. But rock music does have a distinctive language not as conveyed by the lyrics but through the power of its creative sound. It is not just the power of guitar riffs or amplification of the sound.

Rock music has also been a medium through which aspirations are projected representing contestations in politics, social issues, personal views etc. Many have used rock music as the medium to protest and contest dominant views in the past and in contemporary times.

The Sound of Music: Inheriting the Tradition

Blues artiste McKinley Morganfield (April 4, 1913 - April 30, 1983), better known as Muddy Waters, sang "Blues had a baby and they named it rock and roll." Here, the song had served two purposes; first, the song is telling you how Rock and Roll evolved from blues, second, it tells you how a song can be used to tell a story/history.

In America, rock music has even preserved real or fictitious characters that last for decades. Tom Joad is the protagonist of the classic novel called "The Grapes of Wrath (1939)" by the Nobel Laureate John Steinbeck which was later made into a movie.

Tom Joad came out of prison after serving four-year term for murder. When Tom arrived at his childhood home, he found his family members have deserted it. He subsequently joined them on their journey to future in search for greener pastures.

Unable to fulfil his dreams amidst capitalist mode of production, he committed murder again and became a fugitive. He, however, vowed that no matter where he hides, he will stand for the oppressed.

The American folk and protest singer Woody Guthrie was inspired by this story and composed a ballad called "Tom Joad". Bruce Springsteen too paid tribute to the protagonist of "The Grapes of Wrath (1939)" in his 1995 track "Ghost of Tom Joad". Lately, 'Rage Against The Machine (RATM)' covered the same version in their own unique style.

Yes! Guthrie was the original protest singer and the man's imagination of the power of the six stringed instrument could be gauged by those words written on his the guitar: This machine kills fascists. The symbolic conversion of wooden hollow guitar into a machine speaks volumes.

Yes! He indeed resisted fascists and exploiters with his words and music using the same machine. No wonder, he paved the way for the rise of other politically conscious icons like Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen.

We would not have heard that "knocking on heaven's door" if Guthrie did not inspire the young Dylan or the later version by Guns N Roses (GNR). All I want to say is: All these individuals and bands exactly knew the power of the medium called music.

Decaying Decades: Where are we?

Rock music came to Manipur over three decades back. And for a perpetual optimist like me, I thought three decade is good enough time for rock musicians to evolve and create at least the idea of the music that can be called our own. Have we made sense of our imitation of western rock music?

We love rock music that is why there is so much of talk of it. We are most often than not overwhelmed by the nostalgia of the past. It has become an inevitable habit for all of us to recall those days when our brave rock pioneers led from the front.

Those rockers were/are great and important. They have made us reach this stage and taught us to not only to enjoy the medium but spread the significance of the medium. If they were not around, I would never have known what Rock n Roll is all about and its current role in a troubled society like ours.

Many former rock musicians, die hard fans and well informed critics in and from Manipur whom I had the honour of speaking to often say or claim that rock music in Manipur cannot survive because of the lack of financial support or mass audience.

For me, this thesis has been proven wrong by real stories I had heard or read. Lou Majaw of Shillong's Great Society fame still does not own a home. He travelled from Kolkota to Kathmandu in the late 60s and early 70s in search for his dream, slinging an acoustic guitar on his back and just with one meal a day. He found the answer without a home.

Music gave him shelter and love. Finally, he discovered his deep rooted sense of belonging to Shillong, all too apparent in all his lyrics beginning with the Great Society's first album "Breakthrough". The foundation he laid was so strong, it helped sprout many young talents rooted in the reality that was/is Meghalaya.

And the multiplying effect is wonderful. Now, we see countless bands in the state. Of all these, two great bands from 'the Scotland of the East", Soulmate and Snow White stand out like two shinning stars.

The existence of fully matured bands playing well textured compositions in the Northeast is no longer a new phenomenon now. But there is a haphazard route in Manipur.

I have seen rock bands members with amazing talents setting the stage on fire with their magical fingers. Some have the gutsy inimitable voice while others are just happy performing covers. But there has not been many who impressed me, make my hair raise or tickle my brains. The craft most of them are into reminds me of a peculiar situation.

Their craft is like delicious Hyderabadi Biryani served in our famous OK hotel at Imphal. Why would OK hotel serve Biryani when they have mastered the art of their distinct item "Yen Angouba"( Yummy!)? We eat "Ooti" almost every week. We enjoy Yongchak Eromba every winter. We hit the streets to protest almost every odd that affects our lives.

We hear the same gunshots and read the same newspaper that the "Meira Paibis" read. And whenever we come for the ultimate performance on stage or are given a chance to scream against the vastness of the night sky, against the maddening crowd, we just sing of California or Detroit City.

We even sing of Zapatista. Call that well imagined!! We are just awful! How can we miss the chance to be our own SELF in this land where we can not roam free without being harassed by the armed security forces? Had we been so sensitive, would we not be singing something lyrically closer home. We still have time! The show is not over yet.

Amplify our own Sound and Souls!:

Let us amplify our feelings just like the electric guitars and oppose the cacophony of noise produced by scary gunshots that flow from the barrel of those who wield them. To this end, we already have "Eastern Dark", the band that has lit the flames of political consciousness. Their future is not "Dark" if they simply continue to rock!!

We need more bands like Eastern Dark. And there is Tapta too with his powerful lyrics and spontaneous poems. This guy, despite his 'confused forms' takes the best out of available resources and makes the 'weakness' his 'strength'.

Inspite of his disability to dabble into the American or the European experience of rock music, he is not scared of experimenting and creating his own sound to prove a point, be it social, political and cultural. It may take time.

And over the hills, we have Tangkhul folk and blues exponent Reuben Mashangva who had composed number of politically and socially sensitive songs like "My Land and People" and "Naga Folk Blues".

But there are troubles from other quarters as well. We are also known for not appreciating an innovator's contribution or one's sense of social, political and cultural intervention. If hurdles are overcome, someday, we will be able to shoot at the Sun (Numit Kappa).

I am looking forward to have an informed rock based music tradition. I wish my sound and soul are amplified too.

May be we are on the early stage of our journey just like Ernesto Guevara touring the Latin America in a motorcycle and maintaining a daily memoirs on an innocuous looking diary.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Mad man In Bazaar(incomplete/unedited)

Tomba said “Let’s elope, Asha”.

Asha: no I cant its not the time we must earn first I mean we get to be constructive and productive first, I don't want to dumb my kids in another gutter like folks do here

Lets be practical...and you know I will wait for you till you come up with a proper stand.

Tomba: what do you mean by “you will wait”....I been waiting for you so many mean I am too poor to feed you or bring my kids up? Okay fine...wait.

I wont come up with anything here I know, my dad is not rich as yours.

It is you that I have to come up with. All I have to show in this world, not world, in this town' is even if I am worthless for a single penny job, I can be a good lover and a great husband and father.

Yeah, Asha I get your point I should leave my dream like I have left those cities where I learn.......

Asha: hey my boy, don’t be sad…I am not going to leave you even if you leave me....

Inside of tomba glows little with seems all he needed was some good soft word which can lift him upwards a bit.

Asha: Ok if we elope now, where will we go? You have any friend out here nearby?

Tomba: Come on Asha I am not prepared mentally for all those running and all...

Asha: I hate can not keep your words. What happen to your dream of showing the town you are good lover and husband…forget the kids…I guess there is not a drop of blood of man inside your vein

I am going home…you keep sulking here or day dreaming. Wait for the sky to fall and drown yourself in the Loktak Lake and suffocate…

Tomba, “Do not you think you are being bit harsh on me”

Come on I am ready do not go...I will lead you…

Tomba sighed, “Oh god! Where is the key of my god damned scooter...check it inside your purse...Oh! I got it…”

He started the engine of his museum stuff sort of scooter. Asha keeps mum standing next to the scooter. The smoke from the silencer pipe is blowing her thin black pant…he grab her hand and pull her to sit for the ride towards a different life that they have never come across.

Asha asked, “Where are we heading? Imphal is that side…”

Tomba is busy with his thoughts of finding a friend, anyway I know a friend here

His name is Shamu. We will go to his place.

They reach the place. He calls out Shamu and murmured something. Shamu said I can’t believe you are in love; forget of being used to have a sort of attitude which is.....forget it.

I will call my mom and tell two go to my room is next to the drawing room where you will find the poster of Old comrade Pete Seeger. Old habit never dies.

He left

Asha: So we have eloped

Tomba: yeah we have, nothing is so exciting yet

Asha: ha-ha we have a long night ahead...You are going to love it

Tomba: I never thought you could talk that. Anyway I love being dirty

i raised myself up whole of my life next to sandy bank of Imphal river, which is very dirty and shitty.

And you know one thing i am a very good observer. I did observe the dried cow dung being blown up into real big when it rains...HAHAH.

Asha: very funny!! (Sarcastic tone).

Asha is asthmatic. She needs her medicine every now and then...she asked Tomba to get his medicine as she had forgotten to bring it. Tomba asked her to wait for Shamu to come back.

Shamu comes back and asked, “So my friend what do you like to have for dinner? I can get you fresh fish of Loktak Lake.”

Well anything will do as I don’t have money with me...

I am buying you bastard leave that habit of saying you are poor, don’t spoil your father's image with every time you breathe with your stinking god damned mouth.

Saying it Shamu heads for the small market which is half Kilometer away from his place where women sell fish from Loktak Lake and Ningthoukhong canal. Evening scene there is watch able. Anyone can leave message there. It will reach Imphal or anywhere automatically. But the news reach bit distorted when it reaches its destiny. So one has to filter the news Like Often scientists do when ever they received Photons from another galaxy or stars.

Tomba enters the room where Asha is changing. He takes some money giving a peck on her head, looking differently into her eyes as if he is going to be exiled.

He rides on his scooter and looking around for a chemist shop. He asks to a roadside roasted maize seller. The man tells him he has to go for another half kilometer. He goes on.

He can see Manipur Police and Indian armies being on the road. He sees a long queue of people, including Kids, women, and old men. He soon reaches the spot. H is stopped by an Indian army.

He is inquired about what all he is doing here and check his ids and driving license.

He is asked to join the queue.

He said,” I just eloped with my girlfriend today; I need to get her medicine and get back to her, Please, Sir.”

The Army said, “Fuck you, we are killed here on these roads of yours by your own people and you fucking your girlfriend, Listen to me now is the real time for us to fuck you.”

Deep inside him he becomes worried what all it may bring in the end. Soon he is thrown to a military colored truck with some other fellows. All his dreams seem to fade now. No one knows him there, he is stranger and that makes the situation worse for him.

Their eyes are folded blind. And who knows where are they being driven?

The clock strikes 9 'o clock. Asha becomes restless and helpless too.

Shamu soon learns the news that there has been an ambushed on Assam rifles near Leimatak.

Five AR Jawans, one lady and two men were killed on the spot.

Shamu informs Asha about the things. Asha soon breaks down as if she was cut into pieces by the night. Tears rolling down on her cheeks silently, she remains silent to digest what is happening.

The warmth of the tears she can feel. Slowly she asks Shamu, “What shall I do now?”

Shamu suggests she better go back home. Shamu requests his mother to drop Asha at her place with some other old folks of the locality. Soon Asha is transported like she was dead.

Morning comes with the sound of newspaper-boy throwing newspaper. It does not take much time for habitual protesters to come out on the streets and demand to release Tomba and the other fellows.

The streets are filled with smoke from burning effigies. The trees are cut down to block the roads.

The cops are shooting tear gas shells driving people crazy and wild. Things go on like this for a week. Schools are closed, markets are deserted, and news in the newspaper is so much to read. Every corner has a sit-in-protest in white clothes with big, big banners.

The politicians keep mum.

Days go on with the same old sun

Kids playing and having fun

Like summer vacation breaks out

On a side the cops are in hunt

Of the Land's real sons

Everybody gets a gun

Some shows it off

Some not and hide

An open secret to be told

The insurgents demanding money

To feed the brainless with the guns

Who knows no shit to talk

Who knows what the cost of sweat is

And finding the cost of freedom

Even an ocean of such people

Does not deserve

One drop of sweat of rickshaw pullers

Two years pass by. Asha is married to another man. She now has a one and half year old daughter.

She often remembers Tomba's word. But she does not speak it out to anyone. It is a closed chapter of her life. She teaches in a college. She was forced to work by her parents to keep her occupied with something as she sulked whole day and night.

“Silence was what haunted her sleepless nights

Sweating underneath, her own skin like, blanket,

Her eyes were closed, her soul was fried

Her hands grab the end of pillow

Which wiped the tears off.

Facing the walls of his different faces

She knew he was a poet inside

Who felt the depth of Imphal River.”

yet to put up more!!!!!!!


Friday, March 30, 2007

Streets Of Imphal

it is on the streets of Imphal
where blood streams out from the wall

it is on the streets of Imphal
where the smoking guns walk

it is on the streets of imphal
where the effigies of Ministers' being burnt

it is on the bank of Imphal river
where doped youngsters hide and giggles

it is on the streets of Imphal
where lovers are caught for the act of love

it is on the streets of Imphal
where you see the red stars hanging

it is on the streets of Imphal
where protester burn themselves alive

it is on the streets of Imphal
where civilians been killed for no reason

it is on the streets of Imphal
where you see the masked rickshaw pullers

it is on the streets of Imphal
where mothers are in flame at nights

ask me not a reason
for being a seasoned
Victim in this battle
of self determination

we talk of it
got caught
in this town of frauds
we swam across
to run away like a toad
but the tails got stuck
at where we belong

we sing a song
to forget the dawn
as it never brings
a new me and you

Oh! Imphal,
home to many homeless soldiers
cemetery for many mothers' son .
i wanna tailor a gown
for you for every chaotic nights
that you have suffered.

Give me a day
they do not threat me
Give me a night
i do not hear a bang

I will show you the dream
which never slips away
even if the dawn break

Friday, February 2, 2007

my vocabulary is weak

One winter morning.
She was dressing up
a black pant
and black coat
and me with my sleepy eyes
looked at her
when she asked, “do i look good?”
i nodded my head
but i could hardly see her

she left me with fifty bucks
and headed
to the road
to get the bus
to reach the institute
where she teaches
“Romeo and Juliet”
with her westernized accent.

but she doesn't know
there is too a living romeo for her
which was never written
in any of the Shakespeare's play

she gambles with my life
like she wears fragile bangles
every time she hits the table
me get broken
the scar in my forearms
remind how stupid of me
to react the way i did

She told me
what does jalopy
mean and said my vocabulary
is very weak
She corrected my poems
She has the license
given by the Professors

She cajole her eyes
make it blacker than charcoal
even before she sleeps
she made her sister straighten her hair
she seeks the split ends and chop it
like she often chops me with her reaction
she dances in front of the mirror
with her blunt boundary lips
smiling at the reflection
of herself in the mirror.

It was another morning
not so cold
not so late
not so early
she sighs and said:
“i cant be responsible
for everyone”
i overheard it

again she left me for the place,
where she teaches
contemporary literature,
classic stuff,
wearing her black coat
i was left alone
i cleaned the room
and took a bath
and headed for the place
where i do day dream
and hum my sleep
suddenly i got a message saying;
“ where are you my love,
i m going for the birthday party
see you later.”