Politics from the fret board of Guitar

Ronid Chingangbam *

When people talk about music there is only one band that comes often to my mind, its none other than Rage Against The Machine. This band is worth remembering not just for their energetic and dynamic sound but also for the politics they play as a progressive rap rock band.

Their lyrics speak of the harsh realities of modern and contemporary life, which surprisingly is conspicuously absent even in contemporary American literature. They talked against the hypocritical nature of CIA, the US government and how they ruin innocent lives in Mexico.

They started a relentless campaign to free Mumia Abu Jamal. They use music as their tools to fight for justice. They create music for a cause and not just for the sake of music, for entertainment or for aesthetic pleasure.

But here in India, our rockers have a tendency to copy the west simply, leaving the important issues that are printed in the newspapers everyday lying on their breakfast table. A friend of mine once told me that being political in music is a personal choice of the artiste, but I say it is a personal choice of being uselessness.

Why would our rockers not sing a song to condemn the recent serial blasts in Assam? Why have they never said anything when Pebam Chitaranjan immolated himself as a protest against AfSPA 1958, and the rape and murder of Thangjam Manorama Devi? Why would somebody forget Machang Lulang who spent 54 years in prison without a trial when he was arrested at his home village of Silsang, Assam in 1951 under section 326 of the Indian Penal Code for "causing grievous harm"?

Such is our society where our lives are threatened every moment by the numerous political outfits or by the Indian Para-military forces. And we still live our dream, walking on the blood-filled roads to reach our destiny. But, when it comes to rock music we have lost its real essence and power by simply sounding dumb and uselessly loud. It is said that art reflects the spirit of the age and it is mirror of the society. In our case, I guess our mirror has broken into a thousand pieces. Our music certainly does not reflect even an iota of our lives and realities.

Canadian singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn, in his interview in Rock and Reel magazine, London said, "Ignoring politics doesn't save you from its effect." And he believes "there is a tendency among musicians to be so wrapped up in what they are doing that they don't really notice what else is going on." And yes that seems exactly to be happening with our musicians.

Very few artistes in Northeast India reflect the social turmoil that the people face in day-to-day life. One exception is, of course, Tapta. If you travel the roads of Imphal you will hear music blasting out of loud speakers, and 9 times out of 10, it will be the music of Tapta, singing about everything odd and wrong in our society which the society accepts with nonchalance as normal.

Whether it is about corrupt politicians or the futility of the so-called on going revolution, the Indian Para-military forces, etc. Tapta's songs voice his discontent. The people of Manipur love his songs as he fuses Rock, Folk and Hindustani sounds with his highly ironic lyrics laced with sarcasm. The only problem, if there are any, is that Tapta is too localized musically to reach out to the other parts of the country and the world.

Now with many new record labels mushrooming up in every corner, music bands have a better chance to show the world where they belong to and what they sound like when the people next door are killed with bombs and bullets. One such new record label is Counter Culture Records, which give new artistes a good chance to be heard. Phat Phish records too have earned the reputation for cutting albums for new and promising artistes.

A band, which was produced recently by Phat Phish Records, was a Malayali band Avial who sings only in Malayalam. Avial is one of the best bands in the country that performs only original music. Apart from record labels, music fests also offer a good platform for band.

The Roots Festival, an annual music festival that is held in several states of Northeast India with international bands is an example of such a platform. The Springboard Surprises, founded by Keith Wallang, is behind this awesome festival. Hats off to Keith Wallang who is an ex-band member of Great Society and Mojo. Finally, the real rock scene of 60s in America has arrived to Northeast India.

However, all this are recent trends, the story was something else when Lou Majaw was sailing in the Sea of Sorrow of his life. There were no promoters. He struggled through out his early life slinging a guitar on his back going from place to place to sing and get a couple of meals. "Sea Of Sorrow" performed by Great Society in their debut album 'Breakthrough' way back in 1987, tells the story of Lou Majaw's early life and his struggle for a 'break' in music.

Very few Indians would know about the band Abiogenesis from Nagaland, in fact it might be less than a handful of music lovers. It is sad because, I would not be wrong in saying that they have made history by making to Grammy nominations twice.

The band has invented a musical form "Naga Howey" as the band named it. They have invented a bamboo-flute kind of an instrument which has made their music haunting, trust me its spine chilling, check out the song 'Saramati Tears' on their website. And yes! Soulmate too has made their way to Memphis Blues Festival and all over the country they have earned fame and name.

But what is evidently missing in them is politics, the politics that we belong to an alienated place, which is so cornered, and ignored, and left as it is because it serves as a picket fence between Myanmar and India. We have, no doubt, proved time and again that we do have a good sense/taste of music and also produce great sounds.

However, just producing good music is not enough anymore. Mao Zedong said that political power derives from the barrel of gun but here as a believer in music I must say, "Political power can also be derived from the fret board of guitar."

PS: This article was written originally for the magzaine "The North East Voice." I thank the editor of the magazine for allowing me to republish it in The article has many points similar to my earlier article entitled "Rock Music in Manipur: Part- I" which was published last year in
Also Read the following from the same Writer:

* Ronid Chingangbam contributes regularly for . He can be reached at ronidchi(at)gmail(dott)com
This article was webcasted on 23rd Jan 2008.

* 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.

  • Mix Media Festival #3:: Gallery
  • Khurumjei eethou eekan :: Radio e-pao
  • Shaheed Manoranjan football :: Gallery
  • Birth Anniversary of Maharani Dhanamnjuri
  • Buddha advised to follow the moderate way
  • A hope of second meeting with dear mum
  • Sadar Hills Demand 2011-2017 : Timeline
  • Killing Culture in Manipur
  • Lingering allure of lotus after polls
  • 30 mn trafficking victims worldwide: CJ
  • Tough for some to be out of news
  • Manipur Sangai Festival 2016 #3 : Ooba
  • Yaoshang Sports #3 (Mar 16) :: Gallery
  • Eyek Tamba :: Learn Manipuri script
  • Glimpses of Puppets in India
  • NE important part of 2nd World War
  • Strategic place branding of Manipur
  • Non-biodegradable solid wastes mgmt
  • Skill oriented vocational training
  • Indo-Naga Talks 2017 :: News Timeline
  • No pact on integration of Naga areas
  • Nobody is a fool, introduce Lok Ayukta
  • Khoupum Valley Expedition #5:: Gallery
  • 36th World TB day Rally :: Gallery
  • Veteran Cricket Tournament :: Gallery
  • And thus she became a fast learner
  • Coalition Government & its periphery
  • Know your test: Uric acid
  • Inner Line Permit (ILP) Demand :: Timeline
  • No compromise on territorial integrity
  • Ten meritorious students sponsored
  • Anti Corruption Cell to be set up
  • Centre, State: Put RIMS back on track
  • Minister promise on Imphal Jiribam road
  • Students for HSLC Exam :: Gallery
  • Governor Cup Polo tournament #1:: Gallery
  • Blast of Md Kora & his shadows
  • A Drunken Dream :: Poem
  • Downfall of Congress party in Manipur
  • Corruption a part and parcel in our society
  • Hangkhanlian, Radheshyam, Nemcha ...
  • Lecture on TS. Eliot's contribution
  • Naga integration via FA: Game of word play
  • Almost perfect team...missing "Lok Ayukta"
  • Miss Manipur Queen 2017 #2 : Gallery
  • Yangkholet, Somatai, Mangaleima :: eMing
  • N Biren sworn-in CM #3 :: Gallery
  • Lanmei Thanbi Re-imagining the Light Spirit
  • Did we glorify the UNC highway blockade?
  • Career penchant in Anthropology
  • The formation of new BJP-led Government
  • The Killing Fields :: News Timeline
  • Nagas safe under Framework : NSCN-IM
  • New fish species discovered in Assam
  • Making Manipur bandh & blockade free: Guv
  • Politicking the politics
  • Photo : Governor with all Elected MLAs
  • Day 3: @ Bamon Leikai #3 : Gallery
  • Yaoshang Day 3 activities #2 : Gallery
  • Kanchan Soibam in Femina Miss India 2017
  • RIST talk 28-Transition in amorphous solid
  • Formation of Gender Champions @RGU
  • Free spectacle distribution at Loktak Station
  • Naga history of transition stands unique
  • Delhi warn NE against shady land deals
  • Screen kids' films in NE languages
  • Looking at the pre-poll promises of BJP
  • State govt- perceptions & premonitions
  • MLAs took oath of office : Gallery
  • SundarGopal Condolence @Ghy : Gallery
  • Yaoshang Thabal at Pune #2 :: Gallery
  • Yaoshang: Journalist Sports #2 :: Gallery
  • What Term of Negotiation btn GoM & UNC?
  • Class 12 marks may decide your college..
  • N. Biren led Govt won the floor test
  • Job @ VK NRL Hospital at Numaligarh
  • Cycling from Jessami to Mantripukhri
  • Lifting the longest ever blockade
  • Hope amid the hesitations
  • Tenwa Chandrasakhi :: Funga wari
  • Yaoshang Day 5: Sports #2: Gallery
  • Day 3: Yaoshang activities #1 : Gallery
  • Day 3: @ Bamon Leikai #2 : Gallery
  • Drinking bottled mineral water culture
  • Condolence meeting for friend of Assam
  • Food Outlet at DM Community College
  • APFEJ urges Delhi to be respectful to media
  • TSA Ceremonial Rite to its Former SG
  • Statistics not telling the whole story
  • Kangleipak Kang Trophy #1 : Gallery
  • Day 5: Yaoshang Activities #4: Gallery
  • N Biren sworn-in CM #2 :: Gallery
  • Insurgency as reflected in Chagi Khuji
  • Yaoshang Meithaba @Uripok: Gallery
  • Women Empowerment
  • Construction as career choice
  • Condolence meeting for Sundar Gopal
  • Manipuri group to stall trains
  • Manipur State Archery Championship
  • Miss Manipur Queen 2017 #1 : Gallery
  • Yaoshang Halankar celebration : Gallery
  • 2nd phase Polling @Nungba #2 :: Gallery
  • Art of Lamangdong's stone bowls & Toupokpi
  • Yaoshang Day 1: Mei Loukhatpa #2: Gallery
  • Pabung Sunder Gopal funeral at Mandalay
  • Emotional integration of all communities
  • Training on Traditional Snacks
  • How to take along disparate parties
  • Yaoshang Day 5: Sports #1: Gallery
  • Meetei Pokpi :: Radio e-pao
  • Day 3: @ Bamon Leikai #1 : Gallery
  • Yaoshang Day 1: Mei Thaba #4: Gallery
  • Letter: Manipur Public Service Commission
  • Career as Chef
  • HQ IGAR celebrates 14th Raising Day [upd]
  • N Biren sworn-in CM #1 :: Gallery
  • Yaoshang Thabal at Pune #1 :: Gallery
  • Mix Media Art exhibition #2 :: Gallery
  • Yaoshang: Journalist Sports #1 :: Gallery
  • Nongthombam Biren sworn-in CM, Mar 15
  • Glaucoma Week : March 12 - 18, 2017
  • Annual Yaoshang Thabal 2017 at Pune
  • Course in Butterfly Studies at BNHS
  • Yaoshang- with DJ @Sekmai :: Gallery
  • Kangleipak Football Trophy 2017 :: Gallery
  • Thabal chongbagi Peisa khaiba #2:: Gallery
  • Yaoshang Day 1: Mei Thaba #3: Gallery
  • Cue card for the new Chief Minister
  • International Rivers Day at Tamenglong
  • What kind of Nagaland are we moving..
  • Yaoshang Day 1: Mei Loukhatpa #1: Gallery
  • Yaoshang Day 1: Mei Thaba #2: Gallery
  • Election: Counting & Winnners #2:: Gallery
  • Ending TB is going to be hard...
  • Holi Pala performance at Raj Bhavan
  • Archery Championship at Keithalmanbi
  • NPF to support non-Congress coalition
  • Workshop on filmmaking at MSFDS
  • Yaoshang Day 1: Mei Thaba #1: Gallery
  • Yaoshang Day 1: AMWJU Sports : Gallery
  • 2nd phase Polling @Chandel :: Gallery
  • Testing patience of Manipuris, Cong-UNC
  • Bangladesh Meetei leisabi at Sylhet
  • A Hindi tract with feminist ideals
  • Condemns decision on Sajibu Nongma
  • Churchill Brothers vs Shillong Lajong
  • Election: Counting & Winnners #1:: Gallery
  • Mamliba maikeise :: Radio e-pao
  • Saroi Khangba #3 : Gallery
  • Yaoshang :: A flash presntation
  • UNC in Manipur Electoral Politics #3
  • The Election Trap :: Poem
  • Mix Media Art exhibition #1 :: Gallery
  • Mountain Division Polo #2 : Gallery
  • MCA T20 Luwangpokpa Trophy :: Gallery
  • Possibility of hung House
  • BJP will form government in Manipur
  • Trade connection with Southeast Asia #2
  • Breast Cancer Conference :: Gallery
  • Saroi Khangba #2 : Gallery
  • 2nd phase Polling @Sora :: Gallery
  • Judgement regarding MCSCCE - 2016
  • 2nd phase Polling @Nungba #1 :: Gallery
  • Thabal chongbagi Peisa khaiba #1:: Gallery
  • Featured Photo for 2017 #1 :: Gallery
  • Exam Centers for HSE 2017 : Download
  • 'Thammoi Tahoure' : Muslims' musical
  • International Women's Day at Delhi
  • International Women's day
  • Thoubal Keithel #1 : Gallery
  • Gita-Govinda- Dance Drama #2: Gallery
  • Women's Day: Women Safety in Train
  • All eyes on 2nd phase polls
  • Not so hard verdict, but perhaps..
  • Kabui Keioiba & Lai Khutsangbi ...
  • Rahul Gandhi @Imphal #2: Gallery
  • Mountain Division Polo #1 : Gallery
  • People's Convention on FA : Gallery
  • Manipur hills as tourist destination
  • Armed Violence & Nationalism : Report
  • Saroi Khangba #1 : Gallery
  • Polling for Assembly election #2 : Gallery
  • PM Narendra Modi #3: Gallery
  • Maphou Dam :: 360 View Panorama
  • Laisram Birendra Kumar: PadmaShri Award
  • Trekking to Dzukou Valley #2: Gallery
  • Biju Ningombam (Photos) #3 :: eRang
  • Laihui @Tanglei Music Festival :: Gallery
  • Landscape of Manipur #5: Wallpaper
  • Wareppa Naba :: Profile of Theatre Actor
  • Meiteilon Folk & Tangkhul duet : Ooba
  • Khunung Eeshei/ Ema Emoinu #3 : Radio