In the early 90's the music scene was going through a lot of upheavals and changes; the new breed of young people were getting sick and overdosed with the long hair glam rock-bands of the 1980's. A man who goes by the name of Kurt Donald Cobain was breaking new grounds in the history of world music with his unconventional approach to song writing; his band 'Nirvana' had single handedly engineered a movement (a reaction against the glam rock scene of the 1980's)
A movement which later came to be known as 'The Seattle Revolution' in the terminology of world music. As for Kurt Cobain and his band Nirvana which comprised of Kurt – The Man (the Legend himself), a 6 foot over displaced Croat Krist Novoselic, Dave Grohl; the rest as they often say is 'pure history'.
Music is truly a universal language sans frontiers; the Seattle Revolution must have rubbed off its influences on me and my inner circle of friends – the distance between Seattle and Lamka (Churachandpur) notwithstanding. We were teenagers then, adolescent the most turbulent phase of life.
Our rag-tag music band would practice hard with all the best musical instruments at our disposal which was usually a pair of two old acoustic guitars (one which was already coming apart at the seams - nothing grand, no Ibanez or a fender Stratocaster here), an Yamaha PRS -150 Keyboard. For the drum-set, we would haphazardly arrange murrahs (a kind of a stool with a dried leather skin stretched around its circumference) in a row of semi circle, complete with 2-3 steel plates on side tables for our own brand of 'Zidijian cymbals'
Our little band had two singers – A Male vocalist, who would sometimes also double up as the bassist, and a sweet young teenage girl who was showing a lot of potential. We were young and free, we had dreams in our eyes and songs in our heart. We just love meeting up together and playing music; trying to explore the unfathomable depth of music (I believe we managed to scratch the tip of this immeasurable depth).
Unlike most of the other amateur bands of Ccpur of that period, we –our band wanted to play music sober, pure and clean and not under the intoxicating influence of alcohol or any pharmaceuticals. If we were to be intoxicated with any intoxicants; we would prefer to be intoxicated with the wine of music. Fame was the last thing on our mind; what matter most was playing and creating music together. For music is so elevating; the best tonic for a joyful as well as a weary heart.
All of us were just students then; even when we all pool in all our monthly allowances – recording our songs in a recording studio was still a far-fetched dream. Hence what ever little compositions we had we recorded raw 'live' using a tape recorder.
In the year 1996 the pioneer NGO of the town in the field of community health SHALOM (The Society for Hiv/ Aids and lifeline operations in Manipur) decided to produce an aids awareness music album in memory of one (L) Mr. B. Lawmsanga. When SHALOM invited aspiring solo artists/ bands from the entire sister ethnic communities of the town to come up with an original composition for the Aids Awareness Album.
We decided to try our luck. Since there were many singers/bands/ groups who wanted to make it to the record; the competition was not actually easy. But luck must have been on our side for two of our songs were selected for the 'the said Shalom Aids Awareness Album'
1) Hringna Tluonglam featuring our male vocalist
2) Nun Suktawitu – recorded by our female singer
That was way back in the year 1995-96; time passes by and the band kind of fell apart; though we never officially disbanded the band. Other priorities cropped up in live, our dreams of being musicians with a touch of finesse took a back seat to the reality that music was not a viable option as a career. Maybe our desire to be musicians had a lot to do with the usual teenage rock and roll dreams which eventually wears thin as one grows older in age and wisdom; for not everybody is born to be a Jimi Hendrix, a Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley or a Ritchie Blackmoore.
Our little band and our inner circle of friends was kind of broken with some members pursusing academic excellence in cities of our great land India; two tied the nuptial knot and migrated elsewhere, another joined the Indian Army, one left to study the Bible.
Holidays come and go and with life's growing responsibilities we could no longer meet up as we used to do before. But the friendship and the camaraderie amongst us remain the same warm and cordial; if there was one thing which time or circumstances could not really erase or efface – 'Our bond of friendship', for our friendship was firmly rooted in the principle ' A Lifetime's not too long to live as friends'.
A decade later in the month of February 2006, I happened to be in Aizawl. My nature of visit of the hill-capital of Mizoram was both business and pleasure. The visit also gave me the chance to meet up with old acquaintances and relatives; some which I have not met for years. Aizawl was also a good get-away from Manipur - the land of anarchy, bandhs, parallel governments and constant strife.
Aizawl provided me the chance and the privilege to sit back relax 'with my heads held high and my mind without fear and worry; a perfect respite from our 'Sana-Leibak'. In Aizawl, the people are friendly, warm, helpful and polite; they have more civic sense and social awareness then we do.
The Aizawl 'Nulas' ( the Aizawl Babes) are beautiful; one constantly have to craned and strained one's neck to have a close up view of them 'Aizawl Lanus' walking down the long and winding Aizawl roads. A friend of mine termed 'Aizawl' as the city of cheers and I believe that says so much about Ai- Ai -Aizawl – 'Mizoram Khawpui hi!'
The roads are awfully narrow, and coil up and down the hill capital; like a thread it knits the various localities of the Aizawl town into one. Though the roads may be small and narrow the pedestrians and vehicle passed by each other without the least of friction very much unlike the traffic in Manipur. The drivers in Aizawl are an understanding lot, even if you find yourself stranded awkwardly in the middle of the road, they will let you cross the road first without the least of fuss.
While our drivers here in Manipur are an unruly lot especially the bus drivers who think that the road is their personal property; the bus drivers here in Manipur are such a nuisance for the general public, they think they are the 'kings of the roads', and would take extreme delight in unnecessarily pressing aloud their gas-horns (raising the decibel level) much to the annoyance of the pedestrians and the general public around.
Mizoram is a home to many professional singers who are idolized, adored, and who command their fans' devotion & complete adulation – Legends and icons in their own right. Aizawl – the capital of Mizoram, apart from being the political capital of the state is also the music capital of the Mizo Music industry.
Singing and music comes naturally to the Mizos, it is as if the rudiments and the modulator of Music is imbedded into the very fabric of their being; the same can be said for the other 'Zo-Clans' – the Chin-Kuki-Mizo clans of southern Manipur. The Mizos based in Mizoram are an arrogant lot when it comes to music; like mentioned earlier they have their own idols and super-stars.
With so many 'wanna-be' the Mizo Music Industry is never really short of singers and musicians. The influence of the Mizo Music extends beyond the borders and the parameters of the state of Mizoram. Mizo music is a big hit and much in demand even in Churachandpur District of Manipur and where ever the 'Zo-Communities' reside.
This says so much about the oneness of the sister zo-communities & the undeniable fact that they are all one and the same, though circumstances – political and social may have compelled them to append to different monikers or nomenclatures. From this, one can also learn how close linguistically, culturally, socially, the 'Zo-communities' are; they all are like 'ice, water, & steam' though clan-communalism based on linguistic chauvinism may have sometimes kind of placed them in water tight-compartments, their commonness, common heritage, shared culture, ancestry, origin and most of all 'oneness' could never be denied.
Music comes naturally to the Mizos, just like the French have a fine taste for wine, and the Germans with a penchant for details, the Mizos have a fine taste for music. Even those Mizos who are not professional singers will never sing a song out of tune or out of beat, for all have at one point of time in their life exercised and stretched their vocal cords in a Choir or a quartet.
Hence the standard knowledge of music is comparatively very high among the Mizos; and they are really hard to please when it comes to music. One has to be really talented to be able to make it big in Aizawl – 'the Mecca of the Mizo Music Industry. The immense popularity of music as a way of life, and also as an art form can be known from the fact that the 'Numero Uno' Cable-Network in Aizawl 'LPS VISION' runs a 2 ( twenty four hours) on demand music channels in their cable-network.
The Mizos love their singers and musicians; though the sports-persons are slowly having their fair share of the lime light. The Singers & Musicians are still the 'Number one' when it comes to fame and adulation. The Singers and musicians who have managed to reap the bitter-sweet fruit of success are instantly recognized and adore wherever the 'Zo-Communities' reside; and their pictures would soon adorn the covers and center folds of every magazine.
One can earn a decent standard of living by being successful singer – performer in the Mizo Music Industry. Like I have stated earlier the Mizos based in Mizoram are a choosy lot when it comes to Music. So it is not really a wonder that hitherto almost all the singers idolized and ga-ga over are by the Mizoram Music fans are usually the 'home-grown Mizoram based singers'. Hence other Mizo Singers from outside the political parameters of the State finds it really hard to hold their own against the Mizoram born and bred 'Crooners'.
But time and history always sets precedents, breaking conventions, setting new trends. This February when I stayed in Aizawl for almost a week, the whole state of Mizoram – young and old alike, sobers and drunks, were all totally obsessed, infatuated with one female singer. One might ask 'What so new about Mizos in Mizoram being obsessed with a Singer that is nothing new?'
For those who are familiar with the music scene in Mizoram will only know too well the admiration, the appreciation, the adoration and the craze that the Mizo Music Fans have for Garetha ….sorry… Vanlalsailova of 'Hmeltha Fame' and also Miss. Liandingpuii of 'Beram Zawngin' fame, the craze generated by Pu Vanlalsailova and Pi Liandingpuii were pretty normal as both of them hailed from within the political ambit of the Mizoram State.
Recently in an unprecedented and ground breaking development, a female singer – An outsider is taking the Mizo Music Industry by storm, completely holding sway over the Mizo Music Industry (the once strong hold of only the Mizoram based singers). The Singer who has musically conquered the state of Mizoram, the minds and hearts of the Mizos and who holds the whole state of Mizoram in rapt attention, the singer who is captivating the young and enchanting the old with her endearing simplicity, sweet natural smile – whose voice and songs invoke vivid images 'of that beautiful shore', leaving them spell bound and gasping for more is none other than a singer from our own 'EI-GI' Manipur the diva divine – Miss Lalruotmawi.
It is indeed a remarkable feat that an outsider is for the moment, the most sought after and the undisputed 'Melody Queen' of the Mizo Music Industry, this is arguably the first time that the Mizos in Mizoram are totally obsessed with a product of Manipur; otherwise Manipur has never really been that appealing to the other states of the North East Region and the county, for Manipur have become synonymous with all the evils and its related ugly vices of life.
The fame of this young singer from Manipur Miss. Lalruotmawi could be felt everywhere in Mizoram. Newspapers after newspapers carried articles, pictures and stories about her. The word out on the street was all about her; she is the topic of discussion and animated conversation from government offices to palatial homes to vegetable market to the street corner shops. Everywhere you go the talk was all about Lalruotmawi & Lalruotmawi.
A person – A middle aged Woman I happened to meet asked me where I was from, I told her I am from Manipur Churachandpur. On hearing the word Churachandpur, her initial reaction was “Churachandpur!? that is where Lalruotmawi is from right?” Miss Lalruotmawi is right now the most popular person in Mizoram. Her fame is all pervading and transcending; the Mizos in Mizoram could never have enough of her.
Lalruotmawi fan clubs have sprung up all over the state of Mizoram. News men and people from the Electronic Media air-dashed to Manipur Churachandpur – Rengkai, in a desperate bid to be the first to interview the down to earth singer; for every little bit of information about her was priceless. The people in Mizoram were hungry and starving for any information about the Singer who with her simplicity & grace has captured their hearts, mind and soul alike.
Lalruotmawi songs received lot of air-play both in the medium of radio and the television. Her songs and music videos top the list on the 24 hours on demand music video channel run by Aizawl top cable-network LPS VISION. Fans dialed in constantly to request her gospel music video; Lalruotmawi fan base is very strong among the elders of Mizoram.
Unlike the other stars whose fans usually are drawn from the cocktailed confused generation 'X'; Lalruotmawi also commands great respect & love among the 'Daddies and Mommies' of Mizoram. Right now there is not even one singer both in the secular and gospel category, who could compete with her or even come close to her. Miss. Lalruotmawi is right now 'the undisputed queen' of the Mizo Music Industry.
The adoration, and adulation that the fans of Lalruotmawi have for her is overwhelming, awesome and unbelievable. When ZO-NET cable network outsmarted the number one cable-operator LPS VISION and managed to air an exclusive interview with Miss Lalrtuormawi; many subscribers of LPS VISION cancelled their subscription with the latter and shifted to ZO-NET. Many other aspiring singer tried to ape her style of singing only to find themselves flat on the floor; for the fans would not tolerate any 'copy-version' they would have only Lalruotmawi – the one and only, Le Original!.
When the village council's elections were held in Mizoram in the last week of February, there were voters who cast their vote for Miss Lalruotmawi, though she had nothing to do with the village council elections; this speaks so much about her popularity. There are fans who said they would fall down at her feet; some octogenarians who wouldn't mind dying after seeing her in person. Some hysterical fans who strongly feel that their happiness would be whole and complete only when they come face to face with her.
Some fans who wanted to give her half of their lands; some who would do anything for her. Some fans who regretted the fact that their deceased relatives never had the chance to hear Lalruotmawi sing. There are fans who want her to be the Chief Minister of Mizoram; and some other fans who are willing to pay for her expenses if she wishes to stay in Aizawl no matter how long.
No wonder the Chief Minister and the Cabinet Ministers of Mizoram keeps calling her up, for she has captured the hearts of the masses and have struck a chord in the hearts of the people in Mizoram. Such is the adoration, such is the fame, such is the admiration; it is more than a craze it is a mania – the Lalruotmawi Mania. It is also said that this is the first time in history of Mizo Music, that a Singer that too an outsider has commanded the attention, the interest, adulation, exaltation of the fans for the longest period. For now, her fame and popularity never seems to wane and only seems to be growing stronger day by day.
So who is this singer who has conquered the hearts of Mizoram with her songs and simplicity, who have enchanted one whole state? For the uninitiated and those who came in late, The Lady in demand – Miss Lalruotmawi hails from Churachandpur district of southern Manipur. She is a gospel singer and serves with 'New Life Ministry', working with orphans and other less privileged children.
She is a professional singer whose talents had taken her across the globe; she was in the USA for a year, 'touring the home of the brave and the land of the free' singing and ministering for her Lord. She has also shared the stage with well known gospel singer like Steven Curtis Chapman, taking her music and message to a bigger and larger audience. Lalruoutmawi though her fame & popularity encompasses the state of Mizoram (she is fast becoming a household name in Mizoram) and around the globe wherever the Zo–communities live; Success and fame has never gone to her head, in her own words 'This is all the Lord's doing'.
The Manipur Government has been silent on this young singer, this young achiever who has enthralled, charmed and mesmerized the whole state of Mizoram.
The State of Mizoram is abuzz with excitement; for Miss Lalruotmawi is expected to touch down at Aizawl Lengpui Airport on the 22 of March for her maiden tour of Mizoram as a singer. The Lalruotmawi Tour Organizing committee has been working overtime to ensure that the tour is a success. Lalroutmawi will be singing her gospel songs, and will be sharing her personal testimony with her fans - the people of Mizoram at selected venues in Aizawl.
For the older generation of Mizoram who were over-dosed with slick and glossy Mizo music videos, and Mizo songs with ripped-off westernized tunes, where the singers are more concern about their looks, their designer dress, and their color-box cosmetic laden face complete with the artificial mechanical smile. Lalruotmawi is an antithesis to the prevailing popular culture in Mizoram; she is not anybody clone, she is her natural self; her simplicity & endearing grace is her greatest asset. In the words of one gentleman in Aizawl 'She comes as a breath of fresh air'.
Lalruotmawi fans in Mizoram are counting the days when her feet will stand on Mizoram's own soil. Hundreds of fans are expected to turn up at Lengpui Airport to catch a glimpse of the singer who has captured their imaginations. Security is expected to be tight and vigilant….the Lalruotmawi Mania is comparable to the Beatles mania of the swinging 60's.
Many fans will wait with bated breath when Lalruotmawi will take up the microphone on stage to belt out her repertoire of gospel songs, and share her personal testimonies. For the people of Mizoram, at this present juncture there can be no sweeter sound than the voice of Lalruotmawi and no sweeter name than Lalruotmawi. For us, the members of the group ALEXIA – Mizoram Obsession Lalruotmawi is no stranger; she is the same girl; our very dear friend 'the sweet teenage girl who was showing real potential'
We, her old friends as members of our teenage years music group ALEXIA will be cheering her (Lalruotmawi) on she takes center-stage, the stage lights and eyes all focused on her; we know for sure that she will be the cynosure of all eyes as she undertakes her maiden tour of Mizoram. We are confident that she will more than live up to the expectation of her fans and will have the crowds shouting for an encore, screaming for more and calling out her name.
We as a members of our teenage years music band 'ALEXIA' cannot help but be proud of the fact that our female singer – 'Miss Lalruotmawi' have come this far; that our 'teenage female singer' is now a super-star. We will always be cheering her on from wherever we are. For we believe that her success as a professional singer, is also our success; and we consider it a real privilege to have been associated with her. The band may have disbanded but the 'bond of friendship' lives on; for we all sincerely believe that 'A Life time's not too long to live as friends'.
We take off our hats to her in salutation of the fact that she is still the same old warm lively girl who has not changed; who still find time for her 'old' friends. She is a real celebrity now, but the welcome for us – her old buddies has not end, still warm and cordial, very much still the same; and we regard her even more deeply for this.
To quote a few chosen lines from the 'groups' favorite song 'Friends' the one penned by the renown gospel singer and musician Michael W. Smith
"And Friend are friends are friends forever / if the Lord is the Lord of them
And a Friend will not say never cause the welcome will not end
For a lifetimes not too long to live as friends"
We 'The ALEXIANS' raised a toast to her achievement and wish her all the best for the years to come
True to her name 'Lalruotmawi' – The Lord has planned, shaped, and designed her & her life beautifully.
* Abel Hmar, a resident of CCpur (Lamka), contributes to e-pao.net regularly.
The writer can be contacted at email@example.com
This article was webcasted on March 22nd 2006.