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The Imphal music project

Akhu Chingangbam

Updated: January 4, 2013, 5:46 PM IST
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The Imphal Music Project is conceived by an Imphal-based band Imphal Talkies which was earlier based in New Delhi. The project is not for art for art's sake or music for music's sake, this project strives to provide a platform to artists in the Indian sub-continent to come together and share certain of their views on life and politics in their region through music. The project's sole aim is to make collaborations happen between Imphal-based musicians and musicians from outside the violence-driven town.

The first session of the project will feature Rahul Ram of Indian Ocean, Guru Rewben Mashangva, Hem Gurumayum, Sunil Loitongbam and Imphal Talkies.

Photo credit: Deepak Shijagurumayum. From left to right: Hem, Sachin, Saka, Sunil, Rewben

I met Rahul Ram in April, 2011, at a protest event in Delhi University where he inaugurated the event. He performed the Indian Ocean track 'Hilele', an adaptation of Gowrakh Pandey's poem. However, Rahul came without a guitar for the said event and he asked me if he could borrow my guitar. I gave him my guitar. After a few speakers at the event I performed my usual protest songs India, I see blood in your hands and Lai Haraoba. After my performance we met and Rahul asked me if I had recorded the tracks I had just performed. I told him I hadn't. Then he invited me to the Indian Ocean jamming studio and one fine summer day we recorded the track India I see blood in ur hands and a couple of months later we sat down together and translated the song Eche. It was a song my band Imphal Talkies recorded in the month of November in 2010 as a tribute to commemorate Irom Sharmila's ten year old protest against the draconian AFSPA (1958). We recorded the track Eche with Rahul singing half of the lyrics in English in New Delhi.

Rahul has been very supportive about my music since the beginning. And I have always wanted to collaborate and make music in Imphal with him and I felt this was the right time to start things by initiating the music project. As one of the musicians I respect in this country, it is my pleasure to have him for this project. There are other sides to him which many probably don't know. Before he joined Indian Ocean, he was part of the Narmada Bachao Andolan and spent nights at police lock-up with other fellow protesters. It was in those days that he picked the folk song 'Ma Rewa' which was featured in the third Indian Ocean's album Kandisa (2000) which also became an anti-establishment anthem of sorts.

I always wanted to have a project where I can work with musicians I really admire. Guru Rewben Mashangva is one of these artists I have been longing to work with. I bought his debut album Tantivy (1999) way back in 2000. since then I have been humming his song Evening Grandpa's Song. I introduced Rewben's music to Oinam Doren who went on to make the film Songs of Mashangva (2010) which eventually won the National award. My association with Rewben deepened when later in 2005 Rewben sang one of my first compositions Lamboiba as part of the OST for Doren's film Koken which was unfortunately never released. There is so much one can learn from Rewben. I would suggest all to watch the film Songs of Mashangva (2010) and you will realise who he actually is, as someone not just about digging about Tangkhul folk music and bringing it back to the younger generation in his own way but as a peace- and truth-seeker. I would also add that if you havent had his pork curry you are missing something in life. I am fortunate enough to share many meals with him in Delhi. He loves cooking. No matter where he is as a guest or host, he wont let any one cook. He comes with his own chilli powder from his hometown that gives the curry an awesome flavour. Having him in this project just completes everything in this times of ethnic conflicts. And just imagine Rahul and Rewben singing in a song?

Sunil Loitongbam is not new to Imphal Talkies at all. Since the beginning, he has been the sound engineer of the band and also featured as session guitarist in the debut album Tiddim Road (2010). He has been like our mentor and is also a rare artist who is always ready to experiment. He currently teaches drums at the Imphal School of music. He also plays drums for the Imphal-based blues band Fringes.

Hem Gurumayum is a multi-intrumentalist. He can play the tabla, dhulok,metei pung, keyboard, guitars, bass and what not. Give him a bamboo and he will make it sound like percussion used in some Middle-Eastern folk music. He has done many film music and jingles. He owns a studio in his house where he can work anytime he wants. The Imphal Music project will be done in the same studio. Hem co founded Imphal School of Music with Sunil Loitongbam, Sachidananda(Imphal Talkies) and Binod Ahanthem. And He teaches western classical guitar in the school. He has also played a concert in Imphal with the Grammy award winner Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt.

The Imphal music project's next session will happen after spring. The session will feature Mumbai based singer/guitar player Sumit Bhattacharya, also known as his music project Summit Attempt. He has played with Kolkata bands and acts like Monjit Datta and the Orient Express and he is also a lifelong and devoted shishya of Amyt Datta. The session will also have the Dhaka-based singer/songwriter/poet Rushaf Wadud who also sings in the band Blunderware. Rushnaf Wadud was also part of the New Delhi based band Stitch.

It is hard to do things without money particularly when you have no intention to earn it while sticking to what you believe in. But it is fun when you can make it happen with so many supportive friends and loving ones around. Thanks to you all, Imphal will be musical from 2013!
First Published: January 4, 2013, 5:46 PM IST

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