E-Pao! Profile Feature - Khumanthem <I>Ningol</I> Nameirakpam <I>Ongbi</I> Ibemni

Khumanthem Ningol Nameirakpam Ongbi Ibemni Devi
— First lady Khongjom Parba singer of Manipur —

By: Thingnam Anjulika Samom *

For a woman to emerge as the first exponent in any field, especially in highly traditional and patriarchal society like ours, requires great courage. And more than courage, extreme dedication and steadfastness to be able to break all existing norms, if required. This is why such women continue to be extolled in the highest terms.

Khumanthem Ningol Nameirakpam Ongbi Ibemni Devi is one such woman whose extreme dedication and hard work have garnered her much recognition not only in the State, but in other parts of the country too.

Nameirakpam Ibemni was born in July 1926 in a highly illustrious family at Wangkhei Ningthempukhri Mapal. Her father was the renowned late Khumanthem Chaoba Singh, a pioneer of Khongjom Parba. Her mother, late Kshetrimayum ningol Keina Devi also used to participate in traditional singing before her marriage. Her maternal grandfather too was a famous wari leeba artiste.

Laihui performing "Loi-Okpa" at New York City

As such, the artistic blood running in Guru Ibemni’s veins wasn’t to go to waste even though she lost her father when she turned seven years. She was just six years old when she started learning Nata Sangeet from the late Guru Yumnam Natum Singh, the pioneer of contemporary Nata Sangeet.

She also went on to learn various forms of traditional singing such as Monoharshai, Bashok, Khunung Esei, Holi, etc, besides taking part in various traditional opera forms such as Gostha, Udukhan, Nouka, San Senba, Vilas, Moirang Parba and Maan Bhanjan.

“I was the first woman to join the Moirang Parba. I was about 13 years old when I played Thoibi, before that only men used to play female roles too. I attracted quite a lot of fan following due to the role.

On the roads, people would say, ‘There goes Thoibi Sabi.’ But there were also many who would ridicule me openly saying why she takes part in Moirang Parba among all the males. This hurt me and I left after about six months,” Ibemni recalls.

“The former king, His Royal Highness Maharaj Okendrajit’s mother Sangai and I were friends. One day some of us girls had gathered at her house and in jest I said I can sing Khongjom Praba. So we dragged out a big dholak from her house and I sang a composition by my maternal uncle.

In reality, I had never learnt Khongjom Praba and the song I sang wasn’t Khongjom Praba per se, but meant to be sung in accompaniment to Thabal Chongba. But we were young and my friends loved it.

Later His Royal Highness Maharaj Budhachandra called for me and asked me to sing the song again. It seemed Sangai had told him about my singing. I was terrified. How could I sing something that I do not know?

I tried to run away with my mother saying that Sangai must have lied. But His Excellency was very generous. He advised me that I should learn my father’s legacy and keep it alive.

He also blessed me that I should become a great Khongjom Praba singer. After that both my mother and maternal uncle also encouraged me. At that time I was trying to shake off the infamy of playing Thoibi in Moirang Praba. So after some persuasion I agreed and that was the start of my story,” she recalled.

“People loved my singing and I was invited everywhere, many times by His Royal Highness Maharaj Budhachandra too. In those days I was young and immature, and as they say, the fool do not fear a tiger, I didn’t realize what I should fear.

Sometimes I would stop singing midway saying that I had memorized until that part, and His Royal Highness would excuse me. Such was his generosity and patronage,” she reminisced nostalgically.

Guru Ibemni got married to late Nameirakpam Achou Singh at the age of sixteen years. “Both my in-laws loved my singing and encouraged me, but my husband had his reservations.

However I was adamant and would go to my Guru’s house with a child on my back early in the morning after finishing all my household work.

Ultimately after much tension, he came to understand my passion and started engaging teachers to come to our house to tutor me,” she said.

This dedication has helped her to become a well-known balladeer and also master many art forms of Manipur. She learnt the khol and became the first female Mridanga player of Manipur in Choir Singing. She learnt the dholak and also established the first female Holi pala group in which a female dholak player was introduced.

In her specialization field of Khongjom Parba, she learnt Govinda Nirupa, history of Manipur, Moirang legends, Jila Darbar of Maharaj Chandrakirti and other historical ballads and Ramayana epic.

In his distinctive way, she also gave much to the arena from where she gained recognition. She introduced in Khongjom Parba various styles and forms such as Mahabharata, Kurukshetra or Pravas Milan, Shrivatsa Chinta, besides composing more than 150 short ballads for All India radio, Doordarshan and other special events.

She also introduced ballads about Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Netaji Subash Chandra Bose, Hijam Irabot and the Twenty Point programme of Indira Gandhi.

She established a Khongjom Praba School in 1964 at her own house, besides establishing a holi choir group in 1964 and a woman choir group in 1972. She has produced more than 50 students in Manipur, Tripura, Assam and Sylhet.

For her work, Guru Ibemni has received many grants and awards including the Joy Patra for holi singing from the Manipur Royal Palace in 1964, the Manipur State Kala Akademi award in 1989, Certificate of Honour conferred by the state level committee of Republic Day celebration of Manipur in 1991, Sangeet Natak Akademi warad in 2004 and the Sangeet Ratna 2005 of the Manipur Sahitya Parishad. She also featured among the ten outstanding artistes of the All India Radio, Imphal in 1998.

Guru Ibemni lives in Kwakeithel Soibam Leikai. She has eight children – three daughters and five sons.

Thingnam Anjulika Samom wrote this article for The Sangai Express . You can contact the writer at thingnam(at)yahoo(dot)com . This article was webcasted on December 17th, 2007

* Comments posted by users in this discussion thread and other parts of this site are opinions of the individuals posting them (whose user ID is displayed alongside) and not the views of We strongly recommend that users exercise responsibility, sensitivity and caution over language while writing your opinions which will be seen and read by other users. Please read a complete Guideline on using comments on this website.

  • CAB Protest #1 [21 Jan] : Gallery
  • Words of caution for the expendable citizens
  • 11 in line for Congress ticket
  • Gaan-Ngai @Majorkhul #1 : Gallery
  • Eyek Tamba :: Learn Manipuri script
  • CAB, 2016: Ethnocide of Indigenous People
  • When 7th Pay & UGC regulations for college
  • Truthfully Yours :: Poem
  • Detox your hair
  • Job Openings at PR Enterprises, Imphal
  • Police action to protestors in Tripura
  • India in grave danger
  • Issues, issues everywhere, anytime
  • Match: 4th Women's Polo #1: Gallery
  • CAB Protest [17 Jan] : Gallery
  • Ranjit Ningthouja : Profile of a playwright
  • Poetry Of Manipuri Women Authors #3
  • Bird's Eye view at 'Go To School' Mission
  • 10 % reservation & ST demand ?
  • Poetic Justice - III :: Poem
  • Inner Line Permit (ILP) Demand :: Timeline
  • Legislative Assistant to MP- Fellowship
  • The changing face of Manipuri youths
  • Rolling up sleeves for ST tag
  • Symbolism in the Tribal Art #1
  • Chongdeinem, Abothem :: eMing
  • ST Demand - Poster Campaign : Gallery
  • Retrospective View On Driver's Day
  • Integrated farming & its importance
  • Nightingales in winter :: Poem
  • Tour to Delhi for border area students
  • Nagaland Cabinet Meeting on CAB
  • Gaan-Ngai @Chingmeirong : Gallery
  • Gaan-Ngai - festival of Kabui #1
  • Protest against CAB [Jan 15] #2: Gallery
  • Gaan-Ngai, Festival of Zeliangrong
  • Understanding Mao Tse-Tung
  • Of Vernacular & my Enlightenment..
  • Teacher wanted at Tekcham High School
  • Demanding release of Kishorechandra
  • BJP's Agenda : Curtain raised
  • Topping in enrolment in pvt schools
  • Imoinu Erat Thouni #1 : Gallery
  • Gaan Ngai :: Flash Presentation
  • CAB Protest [16 Jan] : Gallery
  • Dr Thokchom Asha: Teacher Award
  • Cry of a Dying River - 62 :: Poem
  • Occasion & festivity as career choice
  • Rejoinder to NDPP on CAB by NPF
  • Saving tomorrow for our children
  • Open invitation to Mission schools
  • Women's Intl Polo [Jan 17] : Gallery
  • A Hymn for Goddess Emoinu
  • Manipur tops enrolment in private schools
  • Variance of laboratory results
  • A Christian perspective on solidarity #2
  • Naga International Trade Fair at Dimapur
  • Has Loktak mortgaged to Company
  • CAB: Lining up public convention on Jan 20
  • Purnima Ngangom (Printmaker) :: Profile
  • CAB Protest [11 Jan] #3 : Gallery
  • Poetry Of Manipuri Women Authors #2
  • CAB & scoring 21 out of 25 ?
  • Complications :: Poem
  • North East Business Summit at Delhi
  • Almond oil is the ultimate skin care
  • The Bill that haunt the government
  • Over 50 police personnel chargesheeted
  • Insurgency related incidents in NE states
  • Myanmar border fence going nowhere
  • Protest against CAB [Jan 15] #1: Gallery
  • Crop diseases & organic way of managing
  • War and Poetry :: Poem
  • Landeng-Pena yakaiduna Poster Campaign
  • The Killing Fields 2013-18 : News Timeline
  • Condemns communal nature of CAB 2016
  • PCC, Arunachal Pradesh on CAB, 2016
  • CAB and other issues before LS polls
  • Sit-In against CAB [Jan 14] : Gallery
  • CAB : Our Identity & Culture is at stake
  • Re-Imagining the Naga Peace Process
  • Demand for ILP :: Articles/Photos...
  • Northeast Startup Summit 2019
  • Ponder them to live like human beings
  • No Shield for Manipur against CAB
  • Missing link: NE, CAB & obscure assurance
  • JCILPS Protest against CAB : Gallery
  • AMUCO Rally against CAB : Gallery
  • Poetic Justice - II :: Poem
  • Makar Sankranti Musing
  • Biren should release Kishorchandra
  • New archaeological site in Senapati
  • A Christian perspective on solidarity #1
  • New craft gallery to promote NE products
  • Rights body warns Nagas on Article 371 (A)
  • NE Black Day against CAB : Gallery
  • CAB Protest [11 Jan] #2 : Gallery
  • Narendra Modi @ Imphal #2: Gallery
  • Myanmar-India Business Summit, Sagaing
  • Cry of a Dying River - 61 :: Poem
  • Preventing the Dengue threat
  • NPF on Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2016
  • Nagaland Chief Minister On CAB 2016
  • Hijacking by pseudoscience
  • Mr. CM, you can't fool people on CAB
  • CAB 2016: Adoption of foreign citizens
  • CAB Protest [11 Jan] #1 : Gallery
  • CAB & question of India's North East
  • Poetry Of Manipuri Women Authors #1
  • Local actions for #GlobalGoals
  • Know your HIV status
  • Pope Francis - the last Pope!
  • CAB is unsecular discriminatory bill
  • When Govt. disregard Constitutions...
  • Citizenship Bill: An exceptional exception
  • The Walking Lady : A Short Story
  • 4th Convocation Ceremony of CAU
  • The Voice of Silence :: Poem
  • Against CAB 2016 : 6 Student Bodies
  • Need for a separate time zone
  • BOOM MMA : 'Manipur Top Team' members
  • Against Citizenship Bill Act 2016
  • Lt Gen Rajeev Sirohi at Spear Corps
  • Is the middle man responsible
  • Economically weak at Rs 8 lakh per annum ?
  • Umanglai Haraoba: Traditional Institution
  • Strike against CAB : Gallery
  • People - animal conflict
  • Fine on relieving in public
  • Flawed/divisive Citizenship Bill dangerous
  • Broken :: Poem
  • Meetei gi mayokta leiba Political party..
  • NE uniting under shutdown call : CAB
  • Trains in NE to get 'glass-top' coaches
  • Yubi Lakpi #2 : Gallery
  • Freedom's fault lines
  • Traditional Manipuri Curries
  • Governance in Multi-Ethnic States
  • Understanding animal welfare
  • Unite against corruption for development
  • Manipurgi Maraibk Kari Oihougani
  • On restoring of director of CBI
  • Citizenship Bill : scourge for NE
  • Feel good factor from UNC
  • New Year picnic at Sekmai #2: Gallery
  • A tale of two falcons
  • Artificial Insemination in livestock
  • The Naked Truth :: Poem
  • My itinerary visit to Veeranapalya
  • Test for Free Coaching for IIT/AIIMS
  • Critique of Transgender Persons Bill
  • Press Rejoinder from NPF [7 Jan]
  • Nagaland Cabinet on Citizenship Bill
  • Can we expect something from govt
  • Mova Cave, Ukhrul #2 :: Gallery
  • Sangai Fest: Sumo Wrestling #2 :: Gallery
  • Maipaksana RK: Entrepreneurship Award
  • Poetic Justice - I
  • IIT-G Technology Incubation Centre
  • Sana Chahi Ahum & 1857 revolt #2
  • Economics of climate change & growth
  • Singhat Students tour to Delhi & Agra
  • Congress against Modi on Rafale Deal
  • Press Club celebrates foundation day
  • NSF to impose 11-hr bandh on Jan 8
  • 518 drug traffickers arrested in 2018
  • Gangmumei Kamei Memorial lecture
  • Taking the Street Vendor seriously #1
  • WWII museums in Japan: Gallery
  • Schedule : HSLC Examination 2019
  • Schedule : Class XI Examination 2019
  • Schedule : HSE Examination 2019
  • Caste System in Contemporary India: Book
  • Save energy and save your skin
  • Benefits of henna for beauty
  • Coronary In-stent obstruction treated
  • A take on PM visit to Imphal
  • No over the top promises, assurances
  • Narendra Modi @ Imphal #1: Gallery
  • Management of commercial broiler farming
  • 61st CC Meet Football Tournament 2019
  • Noise Ruins & Blights Lives
  • Social media & freedom of speech
  • Cry of a Dying River - 60 :: Poem
  • Declare war against air pollution
  • Winter relief at Thanga
  • Of monologues and conveniences
  • Raising posers before PM's arrival: Cong
  • Irengbam Bedamani :: eRang Photos
  • Poireiton Chakhao at Loktak Lake
  • Hojang :: Poem
  • New Year: Challenges & opportunities
  • One Rank One Pension Paper (OROP)
  • Naga Peace Process :: News Timeline
  • New Year picnic at Sekmai #1: Gallery
  • May the Year 2019 bring integrity of Manipur
  • Sangai Fest: Evening Prog #2: Gallery
  • What I learned from Kishorchandra detention
  • Nupi Lal Ningsing Lamjel #4: Gallery
  • Village Authority in Hill Areas of Manipur #2
  • From nomenclature conflict of oral tradition
  • Bye Bye 2018 !!! : Gallery
  • Manipuri Calendar for 2019 : Download
  • Featured Front Page Photo 2018 #6: Gallery
  • Unforgettable Revolutionary NK Sanajaoba
  • Certificate distribution at Namsai, ArP
  • Top 5 Indie/Alternative Picks of 2018
  • Sangaithel Park @Sangai: Gallery
  • A view of Ukhrul Town #1: Gallery
  • January Calendar for Year 2019 :: Tools
  • National Mathematics Day & Ramanujan
  • Thougal Jagoi @Sangai: Gallery
  • Snowfall @Tamei, Tamenglong : Gallery
  • China spreads across Indochina Peninsula
  • Ningol Chakkouba Shopping #2: Gallery
  • Xmas: Churches @Lamphel : Gallery
  • 27th Imphal Book Fair #2 : Gallery
  • The Crying Call of Motherland :: Poem
  • Kwatha Festival #3 : Gallery
  • 12th Manipur Polo Intl #2 : Gallery
  • Harvard Leadership Program at Don Bosco
  • Christmas @Churachandpur : Gallery
  • UN Rapporteur briefed on Kishorechand
  • Nupi Lal Ningsing Lamjel #3: Gallery
  • Irengbam Bedamani - Actress :: eRang
  • List of Restricted Holidays for 2019
  • List of Public Holidays for 2019
  • List of General Holidays for 2019
  • Ningol - mapam lamdam : Gallery
  • Fabrics of Bangladeshi Manipuri: Download
  • Manglandasu Nang - OST :: e-pao Radio
  • Old Manipuri Movie #1 :: eRang Classic