From Amamba Lambi to Phijigee Mani - the Journey of an Artist

‘Meikhet Maru Ama-tangdi Khetlamba Paami Hougatlakliba Artist Ma-yam Asida Mangaal Macha Amatang Oirasu Piramba Ngamnaba’ – this has become one of my favourite contemporary quotes in Manipuri. Well, this quote is copyrighted and no one shall have the legitimacy to claim it his or hers. My story on the journey of an artist has a justifiable connection with this quote. I am equally glad and proud to share this story with everyone and to acknowledge the identity of this special artist in question.

The story goes this way:

Once upon a time in Imphal, there was a kid who used to loiter around the streets of the town, desperately seeking for a means of livelihood to support his parents and siblings. For a child, who was supposed to play with his friends at the leikai lampaak, he spent his time fighting a fierce battle of survival. Life was a daring challenge for him and his struggling family who cannot afford two meals a day. He spent his childhood worrying about the needs and demands of his family rather than his own.

Hingnabagi laanfamda chilhao thiba yaade — he had proved it many a time during his struggling days as a child and as an adolescent. He started earning a livelihood, working as a labourer (from hajira suba) at a very tender age. Later he started going from one leikai to another selling journals and at one time during his teenage days, he worked as a news hawker. Quite a tough journey for a child with so many ‘erei-turei’ at each and every turn of his life, but he never gave up.

Perhaps, the general knowledge book on Manipur would fail to identify the pioneers of second-hand shopkeepers in Imphal town (among which he is also one). Guess what? He still cherishes the memory of those days when he had to yell ‘yaangkhei yaangkhei’ at the second-hand shop with his friends. He admits, ‘What I am today is just because of what I was then’.

Against all the odds, today, he has won the heart of thousands of his fans in Manipur. He has become the latest craze among the Manipuris. Everyone loves him for his originality and sincerity. A gem of an actor in Manipur film industry and a natural artist, his journey is quite commendable in more than one way. He is a living example of a true artist, who has paved his own way standing firm on his conviction and an invincible spirit. His chingjaoguum lengdraba lingjel and an overwhelming inspiration that he has been continuously seeking from many bitter experiences in his past have so far moulded him to become the true artist he is today.

In the entertainment world, he started in the theatre, and shifted to shumaang leela and later made a stylish entry to the Manipur film industry. A newbie in shumang leela, his first play Amamba Lambi was a super flop (so did he say). From Amamba Lambi to Aruba Echel, which marked a turning point in his career in shumang leela and then to Yaiskul Pakhang Angaoba, one of the most popular Manipuri digital movies in recent time, he has solely defined and proved himself as an inborn artist. Today, it would not be an exaggeration to call him one of the rare ‘Pheejigi Mani’ of the Manipur film industry. Call him Yaiskul Pakhang Angaoba, Yo Sanatombi, Ronald or Thonba, he is one of the favourite stars in Manipur. Kudos to this artist, actor, singer and most importantly, a wonderful person!

He seeks his inspiration from real-life experiences. Sometimes his nephew and sometimes the leipung-famba leikai kids, there are many sources of his inspiration. But most significantly he gives the credit to his Oja-Guru, parents and those hard lessons in the past that have enabled him to become the person he is today.

He feels that there are many struggling artists in our society who need our support and encouragement to culture their artistic skills. He wants to convey a strong message that their inspiration should not wither away simply because they have been born and brought up in families that cannot afford to let them go their way. ‘Meikhet maru amatangdi khetlamba paami hougatlakliba artist mayam asida mangaal macha amatang oirasu piramba ngamnaba’, this is exactly what Gurumayum Bonny Sharma wants to convey to all the budding artists in our state.

We may win many laurels and achieve many things in life. But what counts is how we accomplish those goals. And as they say ‘sanagi magundi meida itlaba matungdadang khang ee’, we should never get discouraged at any walk of our life and move on no matter what, why or how. Interestingly I learned all these from just one single rendezvous with Da Bonny.

PS: Follow the river and you will find the sea: this is Da Bonny’s favourite quote by his father (late) Gurumayum Robindro Sharma, and now one of my favourites too.

The Yaoshang Diary 2012

By the dusk of Lamtagi purnima, kids at every Leikai of Manipur, especially in the valley, eagerly wait for the Yaoshang hut to be burnt down. For no other reason but that instantly they can start visiting each and every house in their Leikai for nakadeng. The festive spirit of Yaoshang kick starts right on the purnima day of Lamta and the fest extends over five days.

A festival of colours, a perfect time to reunite with friends, families and relatives to indulge only in merrymaking, Yaoshang is one such festival that is celebrated with great pomp and show in our state. A much anticipated vacation for me, I enjoyed one of the best Yaoshang celebrations at my hometown with friends, family and relatives in high spirit. The norm of celebrating Yaoshang hasn’t changed much in all these years and it has gladdened my heart for many a reason.

The nakadeng culture, going on unabated, ensures the spirit of Yaoshang is alive and kicking. Children have been enjoying full-fledged liberty to ask money from anyone they come across at the street, anyone at the leikai lampak or anyone at the locality. This is a tradition that has been kept alive for all these years. I was quite elated to see so many kids loitering in the streets dressed in colourful joipur and fanek with sengaos in their hands (especially the girls).

Another top menu of Yaoshang especially among elders is a sumptuous feast. The very time of the year when one gets a continuous five days break from work, the laid-back feeling is too blatant. The festival is also one great excuse for an annual reunion and catching up with friends. And how delightful these treats are—when these are added with a delectable meal and a hard day’s laugh over funny narration of our lives, backwards and forward.

A cheerful festival, it is indeed fun to be with long lost friends and it is a great way to socialise during Yaoshang, forget Facebook. The best part is that one doesn’t need to bother about any hectic professional chore. One can simply relax, chill out and have as much fun without bothering a bit about a team meeting or worrying about any deadline.

From relishing singju, bora and keli chana with friends to enjoying late-night movies that are screened at the leikai lampak and from loitering all across Imphal, wearing colourful moirang feejin chanba fanek to watching the interesting Yaoshang events, we are spoilt for choice during this festival.

Yaoshang is a festival for all and sundry. So it has something to offer for everyone irrespective of ages or genders. In some localities, we can see men in their 70s actively taking part in football matches while in some others, it is fun to watch kids, grouped age-wise under 13, under 12 and under 10 enthusiastically taking part in a football match with a team from other leikai. Their excitement is commendable. Soccer fans would better understand what I am trying to imply here.

Borakhao lamjel, spoon and marble race, blind hit, pafor chabi, chaak thonglaga chaaba haanbi taanabi, King/ Queen Desire, Fashion show, cassette dance, fancy dress competition etc. are some fun filled sports and events especially held by the local clubs during the festival.

For kids, it is needless to mention that their happiness knows no bound during this very festival as they are licensed to be notorious for five days. They play with colours, run after one another with pichkaris in their hands and have as much fun that they can afford.

From age-olds to kids, everyone seems free spirited during this festival. People take a leisurely break and indulge only in those events that make them happy. Young and old, men and women took an ideal break and come together to indulge in various Yaoshang centric events held at their respective leikai lampak.

The festival also marks the annual come back of some eateries. Eateries such as gulla macha, pafor, boiled eggs etc. have been particularised as the very achapot for Yaoshang. With due regard to those cabbage farmers in Manipur, I must not forget to mention kobi saag which is a special dish cooked in every Manipuri home during Yaoshang. I still cannot define the connection between Yaoshang and kobi saag. Every Yaoshang, every Manipuri home finds it a norm to cook kobi saag. Maybe it is the seasonal availability of the vegetable and that is how it is closely associated and in fact considered a small piece of Yaoshang celebration. Hawai mubi (ariba), Yongchaak overcoat litpa, hayai, chorfon, heirit etc. are some more vegetables and fruits that are in during this festival.

If it is all about enjoying a fabulous time with friends over a plate of bora or kaanghou, Yaoshang is one such jovial festival during which one can have a good time. Yaoshang festival 2012 bid adieu with colourful memories imprinted in our hearts. We should have more of this festival. Till next Yaoshang, let us cherish the vivid memories of this fiesta.

This article was published on 18 March 2012

The Show Must Go On

A concert is a concert is a concert is a concert. An album is an album is an album is an album. Musically, both have nothing in common.
Klaus Schule
For us, music is a shelter from the storm of brutal realities. It entertains us, and more interestingly, lifts us up on a different plane of connection. Music is a lingua franca of humanity; and we need neither Google translator nor some How-To books to understand it.

The taste of music varies from one individual to another. However, it is open to question why, as there are as many forms and styles of music, there is a wide difference between our taste and their choice. Some prefer classical music to kitsch; while some are die-hard fans of romantic songs and some are born aficionados of rock ‘n’ roll.

But can anyone prove me wrong — when it comes to us, the Manipuris — that we love music as much as we love ngari, hawaijaar, yongchaak singju or chagempomba? Music is like a soul-buster for every generation. This is best exemplified by the so-called pop music of each generation. We know the show must go on; ultimately, even our taste varies as we move ahead with time.

Notes from the Underground
Let’s check the rock setting in the state. Since the demented Seventies, many bands have been holding our undivided attention through their endearing performances. It is amazing how we can copy an alien cultural concept so nicely, so artistically. Jokes apart, we love listening to most of the performances by Manipur-based rock bands as much as we love listening to any other rock outfits elsewhere.

‘Have you listened to all the songs from the bands?’ This is perhaps no more the question. But ‘How much we appreciate or encourage the Manipur-based rock bands?’ In a state where social unrest is as common as ‘chaakluk mapaangi morok metpa’, our youth need an escapade from the brouhaha.

Music is a rescuer for many amongst us. Phungga, Kanglasha, ReCycle, The Dirty Strikes, Imphal Talkies N the Howlers, Eastern Dark, Dead Mobster and so many others. Many of them would have been on the cover of the ‘Rolling Stones’, well, if the magazine could dare to cover the present rock scene and if we dare to dream.

Recently, there has been some kind of maturation in the scenario of rock music in Manipur, with several bands performing regularly and also with new bands coming up, ready to climb the stage and rock. Teaming up with the ‘established’ rock bands, the new ‘kids on the block’, are gearing up to redefine the culture of rock in the state. My knowledge on the origin and milestones covered by the various rock bands in Manipur might be bantam but personally, each one of them has my heartiest wishes.

Peace Blast Concert
News, views and snaps on various rock concerts in Imphal are going social. I have even been tagged on some photos of some bands (typed last sentence in vaunting mode). I have even visualized myself cheering up the performers amid a huge crowd of rock fans in Imphal.

Perhaps, my visualization was pretty enforcing that I have now a new fun menu, enlisted on my spring itinerary. The very moment I came to know about the Peace Blast Concert that’s scheduled on 12th March, I could not help counting the number of days I have to spend in Delhi. It is also the perfect getaway for a day, possibly on Yaoshang’s last day. You heard it right; it’s going to be a day affair under the bright spring sky.

Yaoshang is a much anticipated festival for me for many reasons more than one. What has garnered the excitement is that some of my favourite rock bands will be performing at Sagolband Moirang Leirak Parking.

Just back from the North East Carnival in New Delhi, the alternative rocker ReCycle is well prepared for the Twelfth. The co-founders of the band had a quest to bring a change in the then rock scenario in Imphal, which inspired them to come up with the present name-ReCycle. Their Facebook page claims that the band “came into existence in November 2006 with a common urge to bring the musical landscapes of 90’s grunge, Alternative and funk flavor to the Imphal music scene for the very first time.”

The world of ReCycle revolves around gigs, rehearsals and studio recordings. Inspired by Nirvana, RHCP, Incubus and others, the band has metamorphosed since its formation and the current line up includes the versatile Lawrence Chandam on vocals; Deepak Ningthoujam, a practising lawyer by profession, plays bass; Bode Paonam is on guitar; and Somen Soram takes care of cymbals and snares.

A few other bands have also been booked for the show. Dead Mobster, a budding heavy metal core outfit, will take the reincarnation of, possibly, Sepultura. The Dirty Strikes, the post punk indie band has already washed the All-Stars; all is set for them. And Angellica, the fourth performer, will continue their experiment in rock.

The concert, again, will be held during the day. Based on the festival of colours, the Peace Blast concert will rekindle our notion of music, colours, and friends and rejoice the spirit of Yaoshang. We can look forward to one of the most cheerful celebrations of the Yaoshang festival this year and YES a great way to wind up the five-day fiesta too. Be there at the Peace Blast on 12th March.

This article was published on 4 March 2012 
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