Music only antidote to Manipur mayhem, say Kuki, Meitei artistes

Kolkata: State’s music community stages peaceful demonstration at Keishampat in Imphal West appealing for swift return of peace

BY and | Wednesday, 16 August, 2023

By Echoing Michael Jackson’s famous words “I love great music, it has no colour, it has no boundaries,” musicians from both the warring communities of Manipur want to use the magic of music to heal divides and give peace a chance to get back to “the good old days”.

The music fraternity, a vibrant and integral part of the state’s cultural fabric, has been among the hardest-hit sectors because of the unrest.

Economic challenges triggered by the turmoil have deeply impacted these artistes with their creative pursuits and income stream severely curtailed.

Talking to PTI, several musicians from both the Kuki and Meitei communities said it was still not too late to resolve the differences and music could serve as the best ‘band-aid’.

“As a musician, we’ve all had a lot of good times with concerts happening round-the-clock. Meeting people from other communities, and listening to their amazing music styles made our connections. We used to meet and talk in the green rooms and catch up on what’s been happening in their lives as well as ours,” said Donny, a well-known singer from the Kuki community, over the phone.

He rued that though performers are trying to revive the music scene, each round of rioting has made such attempts more difficult.

“Before all of this started, we were approaching a high point in Manipur’s music scene where gigs were happening every weekend. I personally believed that it would have led towards music being considered a mainstream career option for aspiring musicians had the violence not erupted,” Donny said.

Momo Laishram, a renowned drummer and song composer from the Meitei community, also feels that music is the only antidote which can heal wounds.

“The current situation is volatile. But if there’s something that can restore peace in the state, it’s music,” he told PTI over the phone from Imphal.

“As musicians, we only know how to touch the hearts of people through sound. Currently, we are playing in charity concerts in some areas to raise funds to help displaced people which is the only thing we can do.

“I hope peace prevails and I can hear the sound of concerts echoing again,” Donny said.

Laishram said it has become extremely difficult for professional musicians to survive because of the turmoil.

“A lot of people in the state depended on music for survival. Now they have nothing. I hope the situation eases soon so that people can get back to their normal lives,” he said.

Though he too felt the need for musicians of both communities to join hands, Laishram said the present situation was “still too hot”.

Anggu Singsit, singer and songwriter from the Kuki community, also believes that peace is the key to keeping music alive in the picturesque northeastern state.

Singsit, who can be found on YouTube, Apple Music and Spotify, said, “If we come to a point where music is the only way to bring peace, I’m all in.”

Expressing concern about the current situation, he said several professional musicians from the state have left for other cities for survival.

“Just yesterday, a close friend of mine who is a professional drummer left for Delhi hoping to find a livelihood,” he said, adding if the situation doesn’t improve soon, more musicians from the state will have to leave their homeland for survival.

Singer Biswajit Tongbram, who is from the Meitei community, said the music scene in the state “is on hold for now.”

He said most of the Kuki musicians are currently staying in Mizoram because of the unrest in the state.

“I have a lot of Kuki musician friends. But I haven’t been in touch with them since violence broke out. I hope they are fine,” Tongbram said.

He too felt that music is the only way forward to bring peace in the trouble-torn state.

On Sunday, the state’s music community staged a peaceful demonstration at Keishampat in Imphal West appealing for the swift return of peace.

“We have nothing to convey to the government or other political entities. Our sole aspiration is to witness lasting peace in Manipur,” the musicians said.

They displayed an array of placards bearing messages of hope and unity which read, “Love is eternal, so let it grow”; “Break the cycle, end violence”; “Enough with the killings”; “Stop the war, start the peace” and “Give peace a chance” among others.

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