TODAY -

Imphal Talkies in my town

Jyaneswar Laishram *

Life on Highway 39
Imphal Talkies N The Howlers at in June 2014



For those who come late, Imphal Talkies N The Howlers, also called 'Imphal Talkies' in short, is an alternative rock band whose music is laden with some Manipuri folk sound. For the first time the band from Imphal came to my town, Bishenpur, on Meitei Cheiraoba around a couple of weeks ago. They gigged at the old shrine of Konung Lairembi located on a knoll near CI College, around 500m from the town's bazaar. It was a good and historic gig, but failed to build a crescendo due to two mere reasonsófirst, bad sound system; and secondly, a wrong audience.

Imphal Talkies N The Howlers sing no pop or the so-called matam ishei that common nupi-angaang (womenfolk & children) normally love and enjoy in regional digital movies. They are protest singers. They sing protests against all oddsóbe it social unrest, mucky politics, disarrayed law & order, bad romance.

Though they don't do conventional blues, their music contains the genre blending into regional folk sound. This is how they create their protest music; a phenomenal sound, ever heard in the region's music scene. Rolling Stone magazine calls them 'the voice of North-East India'.

Led by Akhu Chingangbam, lead vocal and harp, Imphal Talkies N The Howlers is a two-album-old band with some popular singles. Since its inception, the band's original lineup keeps changing, shuffling with some good old off-and-on session musicians from time to time. Among the permanent, here's lead guitarist Sachidananda Angom, or simply Sachin, who has fixed a place in the band right from the beginning.

His guitar sounds simple and tender, taking into reverberation of rock in regional tune. He seldom plays conventional shredding or the so-called speed lead guitar solo. And the rest of the members in the current lineup of the band include Sarkar on bass guitar with drummer/percussionist Irom Sinthoi and pena player Chaoba Thiyam.

Sometimes Akhu goes solo. Ever since the release of their debut album Tiddim Road in 2009, he has been touring around the country, at times to overseas, participating in some of the landmark concerts like Bacardi NH7 Weekender. Before their second album When The Home Is Burning, a handful of critically-acclaimed singles had been released in between. Of them, Lullaby is worth mentioning. The song was selected for its inclusion in an international album titled 33RPM-Voices of the Revolution produced by UK-based Un-convention, a global music network and development agency.

Lullaby is a sheer lamentation over deprived living condition of children in the region's conflict zones. On the sidelines of all, Akhu has been engaging in a number of philanthropic projects, such as A Native Tongue Called Peace, which was supported by the Guwahati-based Foundation for Social Transformation, an NGO. The project enrolled underprivileged children from diverse ethnic backgrounds who are then sheltered happily under a common thatch where they learn and sing. As an outcome of the project, they released their first song All We Need Is Love featuring Ruddy Wallang of Soulmate on bass guitar, which was recorded at multiple locations including the children's home.

Further mention of some popular singles by Imphal Talkies N The Howlers may include Iche, Hey Juliet, AFSPA Why Don't You Go Fuck Yourself? Qutub Minar, Ho Ya Ya and others, which are regular in their live performances in and outside Manipur. Iche is iconic. It's iconic for being a finest ever dedication to Irom Sharmila in form of a song by a rock band, encouraging the activist's struggle to remove the draconian AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958) from the region.

The band's front-man Akhu writes songs exposing sensitive social and political issues, ranging from human rights, unemployment upto rape by army and all forms of oppressions committed by the men in uniform. Written satirically, lyrics of his songs, sung either in Meiteilon or English, pull attention of educated youth and provide intellectuals a new thinking space. These audiences were what it was missing at the Konung Lairembi gig.

Imphal Talkies N The Howlers is one of the many bands that had been formed and rose to fame in front of my eyes. I was closely mingled with Akhu when he started gearing up for his band. In those early days I wrote some songs (of love, nostalgia, frustration) for him; out of the bunch he picked one called Eise Eini Kaaorure to include in their second album When The Home Is Burning. The song is about my teenage days in Bishenpur; but the narrator is not me; he is just a young lad, younger than me, who is pleading me to take him along down the streets at sundown time to join the nasty things we senior teens do around the town. And Akhu sang it live in the town where it belonged!


* Jyaneswar Laishram wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer can be contacted at ozzyjane(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was posted on April 17, 2017.


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