Talk about starting at a young age.
This year’s Padma Shree awardee from Mizoram, KC Runremsangi, started singing when she was three: around the same time she started learning to speak. As the daughter of a brave warrior, hunter and protector or what Mizos called the pasaltha, it comes as no surprise that Runremsangi specialised in folk singing.
She would sing for her father and the community when they celebrated their latest hunting victories. When Mizoram became a Christian state with the introduction of missionaries, she went on to sing in churches and even now, at the age of 59, she continues to sing.
“My father used to make me sing even if I was crying. He was so proud of me. My father was a pasaltha. He used to hunt and when they would celebrate and be merry with drinking and dancing, I used to sing for them. So I was made familiar with folk songs from a young age and they have stayed with me till today,” she told EastMojo.
Runremsangi was born in Keitum, Serchhip district, around four hours from Mizoram’s capital city Aizawl. It was there that she started singing and went on to gain state-wide recognition for her soulful rendition of Mizo folk songs. While she was initially trained by the elders of her village, as she grew older, she was trained by professional folk singers.
Apart from various state awards, she was earlier conferred a national award, the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 2017. What makes her awards special is that Runremsangi is the only female to have won the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 2017 and the Padma Shree in 2023 in the folk music category from Mizoram.
It was around 9 pm on the night of January 25 when she came to know that her name was included in the list of Padma Shree awardees.
“It was a Sunday night and we had just returned from church. I changed my clothes and sat down in front of the TV. As I was scrolling through my phone, I came to know that I had been chosen to receive the Padma Shree award. I could not believe it, I asked them if it was real and they said yes, so my tears started falling and I prayed to God thanking Him for putting me in this position. Even my husband was in tears,” she told EastMojo.
She credits God’s mercy and her husband’s support for the award she has been conferred.
“Since I was young, till today, I have received God’s mercy. Everything is because of Him and I want to thank Him. I also received support from my family, especially my husband. He always encouraged me to take vocal exercises and supported me in every way.”
It is not only the soulful rendition of Runremsangi’s folk songs that speak of patriotism, she shows it through her actions too.
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If you meet her today, you will find her sitting cheerfully on the fourth floor of Mizoram’s Art and Culture department office. She sits behind the desk of a humble office she shares with three other colleagues. In this office, since 1992, she has trained thousands of youth in Mizo folk dance and folk singing. It is her heart’s desire to revive the art of folk songs and dances in the youth of today and help preserve the culture of the forefathers. And that is what she has been doing for three decades.
“I joined in 1992 as a dance instructor. I started teaching folk dance and singing. Over a thousand youths have been trained under us. I am really interested in my work. I am not good with words so I may not be able to express it but my job is my biggest passion,” she said.
Today, Runremsangi’s biggest worry is that the new generation would lose touch with the songs of the forefathers, “Our folk songs and dances are very important and the new generation is not aware of it enough. Sometimes I wonder if they are not appreciative of it. We have to protect our culture – our dances and our songs.”
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