Guwahati: The people of the hills have music in their blood. Notwithstanding the fact that it is part of their rich culture and tradition, people of the hilly Northeastern region are plain good singers. They can naturally follow a tune; spontaneously hum a line or two, while the more gifted ones are innate to composing both lyrics and music.
For instance, if one were to look at the scenario of music in a place like Nagaland, its origin traces back to culture — music that is so deeply enrooted in it. Just like their forefathers “hi-hoyed” while working in the fields, in groups or alone; when they sowed paddy on terrace fields; when they harvested them or carried them home in beautifully woven baskets; when they celebrated their numerous festivals or even mourned the death of a loved one. In as much as music is created in all their dwelling places, every folk tune in this land of music also carries a story, giving reason for all human expressions.
The roots that really took wings from here continue to grow, and over the years, one can clearly see that music has walked the lanes and has definitely become a celebrating theme as much as its talent pool has to offer. It is safe to assume that almost every Naga home keeps a piece of musical instrument and this, certainly is not in the form of a decorative item but because a member of the family or more, or in some cases, all of them are involved in either playing the guitar, the piano, the violin, the drums, etc, or are simply driven to sing.
It is also truly noteworthy that Nagaland is the first state in India to have introduced music as an industry. An initiative of the state government to tap the potential of the talented young people in this aspect, the industry, which was set up during 2006 functioned under the banner, ‘Music Task Force’ and recently rebranded as ‘Task Force for Music & Arts’ (TaFMA) to broaden its reach.
The recent appointment of Theja Meru as advisor to TaFMA is also a huge boost, especially to the musician community. A recipient of governor’s award for excellence in music in 2006, he is a man who decided at the age of 17 that music is his vocation and has persisted on, regardless of what came in the way. He is among the pioneering musicians, who believed in the hopes, dreams and aspirations of young musicians and has personally mentored many of them. And ever since he took over, there has been a lot more going for musicians across Nagaland, which, I think is a promising sign that better things are in store for those in the industry whether they are just discovering their affinity for music or have been in the field for a while now.
Music, by all means, is an important area, and the way things are, I think it is headed in the right direction. I would say that the re-branding of ‘Music Task Force’ to ‘Task Force for Music & Arts’ is also a welcome step towards recognising and promoting different forms of art other than music. While music essentially seems to form the essence of the task force, it is reassuring to note that the government has also taken into its fold, other art forms such as dance, theater, film, painting, literature, etc.
As a literature lover, I was thrilled when a few editions of Hornbill Literature Festival were held in the past, which I thought was a beginning of more literature events. But for some reason, it discontinued to the disappointment of my kind. However, with the re-branding now, there is some kind of hope resurfacing for the community of writers in Nagaland.
Hopefully, TaFMA will take literature from the state to greater heights. There is so much that needs to be done, and can be done. There are many untold stories that need to be documented and heard. This is especially because we come from the tradition of oral literature where stories — whether our history or our culture has been orally passed down from generations to generations. And it is only when we have a written document of these precious stories that we also have accurate information that future generations can have access to.
If our forefathers sang songs for every occasion, then there is a story behind it. While literature can be in many forms nowadays, one thing that is common in all of them is the expressions that are real and direly need to be preserved. We all need art in our lives and it is only through common effort that we can let it thrive irrespective of what art form it is.
There was a time when all of these art forms were considered rather insignificant and apart from indulging in it as a hobby, most Naga parents would discourage their children to pursue it as a career. Today, that mindset has evolved into something more beautiful. Many young people have defied odds; made a start somewhere for the sake of art, slowly enabling an environment for these fine pursuits to grow.
We must continue to let children follow their hearts, give them wings to fly and pursue their dreams. Let them flourish in their chosen paths. Because passion for something is greater than anything else; it is only when we passionately give our hearts to something, relentlessly pursue it, that we can also live passionately.
There are many people today who spend the best days and years of their lives sitting inside an office cubicle, doing what their job requires of them – uninspired but doing it all the same- perhaps because they didn’t have a choice to pick the career of their dreams. At the end of the day, we all do it for money, so we can survive. But imagine when you can make a living out of your dreams. How priceless is that, not to mention absolutely fulfilling! And I believe that’s what art does.
(Vishü Rita Krocha is a poet, author and a journalist by profession with experience in the field for over 10 years. She also runs a home-based publication house called PenThrill Publication House. Views expressed are her own)