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E-Pao! Essay - THE ROCK BANDS OF MANIPUR

The Rock Bands Of Manipur
Izzy Pudaite *



The State of Manipur, a state that forms a part of the Seven Sisters or the Eight Sisters with the inclusion of Sikkim is a state which is a home to the Various communities who inhabits it Hills and Valleys. A State which gave the ‘Polo Game’ to the world, a game patronized on a large scale by the members of the British Royal Family’. The Enchanting Manipuri Dance, which continues to mesmerize and fascinate people the world over till date.

Manipur is a state that has earned the admiration of people far and wide, a state that has captured the fascination of Great men and Common Men alike. The then, Governor General of India Lord Irwin, impressed so much by the beauty of Manipur nick-named the state as ‘the Switzerland of India’. The first Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru refers to it as the ‘ Land of Jewels or Jewel of the East’. While, a certain Japanese soldier described Manipur as, ‘A flower on lofty heights’.

Manipur is a state, which is rich in flora and fauna, where nature in glory abound, the two most unique among them being ‘The Sangai – the Dancing Deer’, a type of Deer found only in Manipur and no where else in the world. And the famous flower ‘The Shiroy Lily - A Flower that blooms only in the state of Manipur, and also the floating land mass of ‘Keibul Lamjao’

Apart from all these, Manipur is also a ‘Home’ to many talented Rock Bands who went on to Rocked the Nation, with their fret-board wizardry, powerful and soaring vocals, and a proficiency that is still unmatched by other Rock Bands from the North East Region and the Country as a whole. For those who are of the belief that only the Guns Rules in Manipur are hugely and truly mistaken. ‘ Rock Music Rulz’ in this picturesque State – both in the Hills and the Valleys. And the rise of many talented Bands in the past with a cult like following of their own is a testimony enough to the fact that ‘ The Guitar is sometimes more powerful than the AK-47’.

If we were to go back in time, there were many talented Bands who emerged from the various districts of Manipur. In the late 1960’s and 1970’s, there were a few bands that began to rock in their own little way. There were to a name a few- The Blue Stars and The Magnetos (Fronted by Lienchungnung Gangte, who is now a Lecturer at the Churachandpur Govt College) from the Churachandpur District, who did made quite an impact. The ‘Rock Music Fever’ then began to spread to every nook and corners of the State. And soon Rock Bands started emerging from all over the state of ‘Ei-Gi Manipur’.

Of the numerous Rock Bands that descended on the Manipur Rock Scene. Special mention must be made of 3 extremely talented and professional to the Core Rock Bands, who showed the Nation and Rock Music Lovers across the Globe that ‘Manipur Rocks!’

These 3 Legendary Bands who heralded a Rock Music Revolution in the Hills and Valleys of Manipur at different phases of time were:-

(1) The Cannibals      2) The Dark Krusaders      3) Phynyx

# THE CANNIBALS
The Cannibals, were fronted by the versatile Paul Kamei the Singer and the Leader of the Band. It won’t be an exaggeration to say that ‘The Cannibals needs no introduction to any Self Respected Rocker in the Country. Because ‘ The Cannibals were The Cannibals – Legends in their own right!. Richie on the Lead Guitar, Matthew on the Bass and the Flamboyant and Phenomenal ‘ Momocha’ on the Drums completed the line up of the Legendary - Cannibals.

And thousands of Fans who flocked to their Concerts across the Country, and who were privileged enough to see them perform ‘Live’ were always awe-struck and blown away by the Band’s sheer professionalism, and high voltage stage performance. They were, no doubt a bunch of dedicated Musicians with a lot of feel, and proficiency that is rare and simply unmatched.

The Cannibal’s Singer Paul Kamei handled his vocal duties like a true professional – From Iron Maiden to Nazareth, Paul could sing it all with ease and proficiency. Richie played with a real feel and often played his heart out on his ‘Guitar Electrique’. Matthew as was as tight as vice, as he thumps the Bass Guitar note to note perfect, as if it was the very extension of his soul.

And last but never the least was ‘ The Hit-Man’ Momocha on the Drums. Momocha was without any shadow of a doubt the Best Drummer in the Country when He was at his peak. His good looks, his showmanship, and most of all his ‘Drumming Skills’ left Fans Screaming and Girls swooning over him. Momocha’s unbelievable drumming style still left a magical touch on the Rock Fans all over the Country who were lucky enough to see ‘Him’ do ‘His Thing’ on the drums. One needs to see Momocha in action to believe what sets him apart from the other ‘Skin-Bashers’.

Who could forget the Cannibals show down with the Best Band from Mizoram (way back then) The Otto Band at the Finals of the Delhi University Rock Competition way back in the late 80’s. The Otto Band was also a band that takes big pride in their professionalism. But when the Competition got underway, The Otto Guys were no match from the Band from Manipur – The Cannibals. The Cannibals attired in their traditional Leathers and tight Jeans Pants, and their long flowing hair rocked the Crowd right from the word ‘GO’. They swarmed all over the Stage – Rocking, Head-Banging, their long black hair swaying to the rhythm and the beat of their music as they play perfect renditions of Rock Classics from Iron Maiden to Nazareth, from Bon-Fire to Pink Floyd. Taking the crowds on a musical journey never experienced before. The Cannibals were truly a Classic Rhythmic Combination that Fans could never have enough of.

Needless to say the Crowds and the Judges loved The Cannibals, they all were completely mesmerized by Paul and his Gang. The Cannibals won the Delhi University Rock competition ‘Thumbs Up’ over the Mizoram’s Otto Band who had to be contented being second to the Cannibals. I must add here that being 2nd to The Cannibals is quite an achievement in itself. The Cannibals played a number of Concerts all over the country and their fame and popularity grew by leaps and bounds.

The Cannibals once played to a Capacity Stadium at Siri Fort, New Delhi. Richie the Lead Guitarist of the band, for a change took over the vocal duties from Paul for the Bon Fire’s Classic ‘ You Make Me Feel’. As the Band launched themselves into the song with Richie the Axe-man on the vocals, An over excited Fan – A Beautiful Delhite Girl ran up on to the stage, took Richie in a warm embrace and planted a deep kiss on Richie, right there on the stage with the thousands of fans going hysterical and screaming themselves hoarse!

The Cannibals could produce the Intended Effect. They were a Bunch of extremely talented Guys who were complete Masters of their Trade. Professionals who could have made the World their Arena, had they been blessed with better facilities and opportunities. The Cannibals influenced many budding Rock Fans to form a band of their own. The Cannibals were also one of the Bands who sowed the seed of the Rock Music Revolution in the Capital – New Delhi. They were ‘ An Inspiration’ for many Bands who tried hard to walk the Cannibal’s way. And many budding Drummers ‘ wanted to play the drums and be like the One and Only Momocha’

The Cannibals had fame, they had fans who would flocked to their concerts all over the length and breadth of this vast sea of Humanity called India. They were a Band who would always deliver, a Band whose professionalism was never once in a doubt. A Band who won the admiration of other Bands, respected and revered by other Musicians and their peers.

But due to reasons best known to the members of the Band’s themselves The Cannibals, unfortunately for their fans across the country, broke up and went their separate ways. And like many other bands before them, they became ‘History’ confined only to the memories of their Fans who were privileged enough to see them perform live. It is indeed a real pity that The Cannibals are no more :(!

Though after a long hiatus and years of non-existence, some of the member of the famed Cannibals regrouped and recorded a few original songs like 1) Sweet Reggae 2) Dirty Boy Blues 3) In the middle of the night. But they could never reclaimed their past glory and with the passage of time, Paul and His Gang faded away for good into the Oblivion. With the break up of The Cannibals – a Glorious era in Manipur’s Rock Music came to an end.

# THE DARK KRUSADERS
Once during a Rock Competition at the G.M. Hall way back in the 80’s. The Crowds who were beginning to get a bit unruly and wild. Because most of the Rock Bands had failed to deliver the goods, the Crowds who had gathered their to have a “Rocking Wild Time’ felt betrayed, feeling that they have not got back their money worth of Pure Rock Music. Disgusted, most of the Fans started walking out heading towards the Exit Door. When a little known Band from Churachandpur, by the name of The Dark Krusaders took the Stage. The Crowds did not pay much heed, thinking that they might be just like the other amateur bands before them. Some of the fans were armed and ready with tomatoes and eggs in their hands to throw at the Bands if they again fail to deliver.

It was only when their Singer Jessy walked up cooly to the Microphone and started to sing in his inimitable style the Ozzy’s classic ‘ Mr. Crowley’ that the section of the Crowds who were heading for the Exit Door turned back and got themselves into the Rocking and Head Banging Groove. And from there on it was complete Metal Mayhem, as The Dark Krusaders belted out one Metal Classic to another soaking the Rock/Metal thirsty fans with their pure metal onslaught, as the fans rocked to their heart’s satisfaction. The Dark Krusaders have announced their Arrival with a Bang and the Legend of Jessy Ralte was thus born!

The Dark Krusaders were :-
Jessy Ralte - Vocals
Eddie - Lead Guitars
T.K. – Drums
And One Very Talented Chap on the Bass Guitar, whose name I just cannot recall.

Eddie, the Krusader’s Guitar Player was a Guitarist par excellence, a very accomplished musician with real feel and dedication. He introduced to the Rock Fans of Manipur – the Neo Classical style of Guitar playing a la Randy Rhoads. He was a pioneer of Neo Classical, a guitar player way beyond his time.

The Krusader’s Stick Man Thangkima alias T.K, though He was not as showy and flamboyant as the Cannibal’s Momocha. He too was an exceptionally talented drummer who could keep his beat with any band, anywhere in the world. Considering the fact that He never had a drum-set. Some Genius are indeed born. Some even went to the extent of saying that ‘ T.K. was a far more better drummer than Momocha’. And many who have witnessed the Krusader’s concert would surely vouched for that.

It may be pertinent to mention here that The Dark Krusaders and The Cannibals were Contemporaries.

The good Looking Jessy Ralte fronted the Dark Krusaders. Whose high-pitched voice had drawn a comparison to the Nazareth vocalist Dan McCafferty and the legendary Ozzy Osbourne. Jessy Ralte, is a man who lived and breathe music and it is indeed always a treat to watch him perform ‘Live’ on the Stage.

Once The Dark Krusaders, played to a packed audience at the Chuarchandpur Community Hall, full of Hard Rock music and Krusaders fans. The Dark Krusaders were playing as tight as it could ever get, and the crowds were up on their feet, rocking away and lapping up every moment of it. When one over jealous fan took one good aim with and shot Jessy Ralte with his catapult. The Catapult ‘Bullet’ found its mark and it hit Jessy Ralte on his right eyes. Jessy writhed in pain, and the music came to an abrupt halt. The Fans got wild and decided to tear apart the person responsible for such a ghastly act. But fortunately for the ‘Catapult man’ the Police got him first and the ‘Men in Khakhis’ rocked the hell out of the ‘The Catapult Man’ with their Lathis.

Jessy Ralte was led off stage by his band mates. By this time, ‘ A pin drop silence’ had descended over the ‘Concerts Place’. While some waited in anticipation, keeping their fingers crossed, the Big question ‘ Will the Dark Krusaders get back on stage to get on with the Show? Looms over the place, some prayed a silent prayer, others waited with hope. Then after a few moments, the Dark Krusaders sans Jessy Ralte came back on stage and picked up their respective instruments. Everyone started looking around for Jessy Ralte, he was nowhere to be seen. The fans stretched their neck far and wide with just one question apparent in their minds ‘ Where is Jessy?’

The fans then heaved a heavy sigh of relief, when they saw Jessy Ralte coming back on stage, one could see the blood soaked bandage that covers his right eye. As he came forward to the microphone ‘ear shattering silence was all that one could hear’, and every living soul in the community hall was touched and some moved to tears, when Jessy Ralte Broke into a perfect rendition of the Nazareth classic ‘Moonlight Eyes’ with his Band. It is of such stuff that Legends are made of!

The Dark Krusaders fame spread far and wide, they rocked not only Manipur but also the whole North East region, before they broke up and faded away from the Rock Scene.

Jessy Ralte after a few years of hiatus, emerged from the ashes of ‘ The Dark Krusaders, and teaming up with Ex Sound-Factory Guitarist F.Loncy Suaka and former Krusader Drummer Thangkima alias T.K. formed a 3 piece Metal band named ‘ The Drixian Empire’. In this new venture, Jessy Ralte doubles up as the Bassist and the Vocalist.

The Drixian Empire were:-
Jessy Ralte (Ex – Dark Krusaders) - Vocals and Bass Guitars
F.Loncy Suaka ( Ex – Sound Factory) - All Guitars
T.K. ( Ex – Dark Krusaders) - Drums

The Band soon made their presence felt with their ‘no hold approach’ to their music. They not only play ‘ Heavy Metal but also Heavier Metal’. They wrote, composed and recorded their own music. Some of the outstanding compositions of the band are listed as follow:-

  1. May be I am a Fool
  2. No where to Run
  3. Broken Piece of Battery
  4. Dreams
  5. Flowers at your Doorsteps
  6. Net Work of Dreams

Drixian Empire Drummer Thangkima alias T.K. showed the stuff he is made of on the song ‘ Broken Piece of Battery’, where his drums sounded like the firing of an automatic guns, and laid to rest the speculation if he is a truly a drummer worth his salt.

F.Loncy Suaka’s unconventional approach to guitar playing gave the Band a sound which is solely their own. Loncy Suaka left his signature in all of the songs recorded by the band. Suaka deserve all the applaud for the haunting acoustic guitar intro to the Band’s powerful Rock ballad ‘ No where to Run’, a hauntingly beautiful Rock Love Song which went on to become a national anthem with the followers of the Band.

The Rock Street Journal, referred to Jessy Ralte as India’s answer to Ozzy Osbourne. Jessy also displayed his song writing ability in the song ‘No Where to run’ which dealt with a broken relationship. A line from the song goes ‘ As I looked into your eyes/ I could see the love/ That can’t hold me, but it made me strong’

The Band rocked around for a few years, before they shifted their base to New Delhi. The Band moved on to New Delhi and started playing at the Various 5 star Hotels in and around New Delhi as Contract Musicians. They were also regular faces at all the North East Programs and Events in the Capital City.

But the Drummer T.K., for personal reasons soon left the band. T.K’s departure left a hole, a vacuum in the Band, which a series of drummers tried so hard to fill only to fail miserably. And the Band’s new drummers, as mentioned were not even as half good as TK was, which really made it hard for the band musically. With the arrival of new amateur members ‘with I know it all attitude’ and the inevitable change in the Band’s musical direction. The Band renamed themselves as ‘ The Dirge Harkers’ and played on for sometime before finally hanging up their Rocking boots for Good.

# PHYNYX
A member of the Indian Rock Band Agni was once asked by a Journalist to name a band that influenced him to become a Rock Musician. The AGNI guy shot back ‘ Black Tooth Sabre’ (A Pune based band just like Agni)

A Guy from North East India’s Manipur with a voice that could scale the Mount Everest fronted ‘BLACK TOOTH SABRE’ A Pune Based Band that was extremely popular in Pune The Rock City of India. His name – Gangte, LIEN GANGTE!

After rocking around for a few years. Black Tooth Sabre disbanded and Pune’s loss was to become Manipur’s gain. As Lien Gangte came back home to Manipur just in time to take over the Vocal duties with a band that was just starting to make a name for themselves in the Manipur Rock Circuit – Phoenix

The Band then changed the spelling of their name from Phoenix to Phynyx, because there was another band with the name Phoenix. Lien Gangte did for Phynyx what Bruce Dickinson did for Iron Maiden. With the professional, versatile and Americanized Lien Gangte at the Helm of affairs, the Phynyx true to their name rose from the ashes of obscurity to instant stardom and nation wide popularity.

The Phynyx were:-
Lien Gangte - Vocals
Vivek Sharma - Lead Guitars
Ringo - Bass Guitar
Gouhau - Keyboard and Percussion
Bobby - Drums

The Band announced their arrival with a thunderous Bang, bagging all the prestigious and major Rock Competitions across the Country, winning fans and admirers through the length and breadth of ‘Hamara Bharat’

Fans who thronged to Phynyx concert never went back home disappointed. The Phynyx were a band of unique excellence and unsurpassable beauty. They make playing Rock and Metal music seems so easy, as they strut on stage doing their own thing. They were very accomplished musicians. The Rock Street Journal was to write of them as

‘Formerly known as Phoenix, Phynx are a band musically proficient to the nth degree. Neo-classical rock is this band's forte; blazing fretboard runs, tight rhythms and soaring vocals make up the bulk of their impressive set lists and having been around since 1990, the band has won both the IIT-Bombay and BITS-Pilani rock competitions. Their song on GIR II, 'Woman', is a power ballad.’

Lien Gangte Vocal Prowess needs no elaboration, and He fronted the Band with ease and flamboyance, which is rare in Indian Rock Bands struggling to make a name for themselves. He was as always backed ably by the Rhythm section of Bobby and Ringo, and Vivek Sharma’s blazing guitar Solos and Thunderous Riffs, and dazzling run on the fret-board (which was always something to look out for at a Phynyx Concert). And Guruji Gouhau on the Keys and the Percussions, the fans could never have enough of this deadly combination.

Bobby was outstanding on the drums, and even drew comparison to the Legendary Momocha of the Cannibals. And the Phynyx , arsenal unlike any other band had a formidable weapon in ‘Gouhau’ who is a multi-instrumentalist and could play all the instruments from Keyboards to Drums, and who was the backbone of Phynyx as far as writing one’s own music was concern.

With such abundant talent and proficiency, no doubt they started to headline all the major rock competitions with the country, inspire of racial discriminations by the Organizers who always want to downplay any Chinkis Band even though, they may be the best. Phynyx silenced their critics with their flawless music. Their original song the powerful Rock Ballad ‘ Woman’ was featured in RSJ Great Indian Rock Cassette Vol 2, became an instant hit with Rock fans across the country and any Rock Fan who could manage to get hold of the Tape. And Phynyx became a House Hold name for Rock Fans from Delhi to Calicut, Calcutta to Bombay.

Phynyx were also voted by the Readers of the Rock Street Journal in an Opinion Poll conducted by the Magazine as among the top 5 bands along side – Bangalore Thrashsers Millennium, Delhi’s Parikrama ( an Amateur in Comparison to Phyynyx), Indus Creed and Agni (Pune)

The Rock Street Journal went to the extent of writing that ‘ Robert Plant and Bruce Dickinson can safely retire now, future high pitched vocals lies in the hands of the able and capable Lien Gangte ( Italics mine)

Phynyx were also the only north east band to have been interviewed on the MTV Asia and featured on the music channel as “A Promising and Upcoming Band’. And mind you this is MTV Asia and not MTV India.

The Band also recorded a number of originals. One of their songs ‘ I need your loving tonight’ talks about living your life on the road and missing the one you love. A beautiful song where Lien sang his heart out and showed what makes him a class apart from the rest of wannabe Rock Singers. Phynyx also shot a few music videos, which continues to receive regular airplay on North East Doordarshan and Doordarshan Imphal Kendra.

Just as the going seems to be getting really good, Phynyx like many others bands before them, disbanded for reasons best known to the members of the band, and unknown to their fans across the nation.

After a year or so hiatus, Lien, Gouhau, Bobby and Ringo rose from the ashes of Phynyx and reformed as ‘White Dove’, with Guruji Gouhau on the Lead Guitar and all things essential. They played a few shows and are still believed to be around though not in a very active state.

Apart from the 3 legendary bands mentioned above with their various re-incarnations and Rock Musicians who made up this band. There were many Musicians from Manipur who excelled themselves in the various cities across the country in which they based themselves in for a period of time.

To name a few of the Rockers from Manipur who rocked the city where they live are:-
1) C. Varte - (Calcutta)
2) James Singson - (Hyderabad)
3) Lalpi Guite - (Madras)
4) Mang - (Delhi)

C. VARTE:- This Lanky Guitarist from Manipur won the best Guitarist Award many times at the Various Rock Festivals in Calcutta. He vibe well with the crowd, He could almost make his Guitar talk! Once at a Rock Competition in Calcutta, C. Varte and his band were playing the Mr. Big Classic ‘ Just Take My Heart’. C. Varte was in the middle of the song’s extensive lead solo, when one of his guitar strings broke. C. Varte then in a split of a second, without missing a beat and a note of the song, kept on playing the lead solo with the same flow, pitch and intensity with the remaining 5 strings, much to the applause of the crowd and the admiration of the Judges. Well! That is C.Varte for you the guitarist with an image. C.Varte the Guitar Man. (Chawnghmunlur Varte)

JAMES SINGSON:- In the early 90s when Rock Music was still Greek and Latin to many of the Hyderabadis. A lad from Churachandpur, Manipur who goes by the name of James Singson formed a Band ‘ Shangri La’ and introduced the Hyderabadis to the Heavier side of Life ‘ Iron Maiden, Metallica et al’. James Singson became a common name with every Rock Fans in Hyderabad. And the fans know what to expect at Shangri La concert ‘ One Rocking wild time’. And his on stage performance and antics had girls swooning and fans screaming themselves hoarse. James played the guitar and boy he did play one mean guitar, all the Hyderabadis Rock Fans would nod their head in approval to that.

MANG:- Mang was the Famous Guitarist for the Delhi based Band Haze. Most of the Students in Delhi University Knows Mang the Guitar, a versatile guitarist who is well at ease with any form of music from Rock to Reggae to Blues. Mang was indeed the backbone for Haze, and without Mang Haze could not have achieved the fame and the popularity they had. Hats off to Mang!

LALPI GUITE:- ‘The Master of Classical Guitar’ Lalpi Guite used to wield ‘The Very Bass Guitar’ for the then Madras based Gospel Rock Band Blood and Fire. Lalpi’s chords and progressions are ‘Not of this world’. A Classical trained Guitarist, who could also sing with equal ease and make his guitar gently and sweetly weep. He has also written a number of original songs, one of his songs ‘ No Pain No Gain’ is popular with the Blood and Fire Fans.

It is always an unbelievable experience to watch Lalpi play the Bass Guitar. One could almost see Billy Sheehan nodding his head in complete approval as Lalpi Guite plays ‘ Da Very Bass Guitar’ on the stage.

Lalpi Guite is now alive and rocking in the Nation of the Maple Leaf – Canada.

Cannibal’s Paul Kamei is Manipur answer to Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson.

Dark Krusaders/ Drixian Empire Jessy Ralte is like RSJ commented ‘ India’s very Own Ozzy Osbourne’

Lien Gangte is a combination of Ronnie James Dio, Joey Tempest, Rob Halford and David Coverdale all rolled into one.

Jessy Ralte, Paul Kamei, and Lien Gangte are the HOLY TRINITY of Manipur Rock Music. The Golden Sons of the Manipur Rock Music!

Kudos to Paul Kamei, Lien Gangte and Jessy Ralte for taking ‘Manipur’s Rock Music’ to a height never attained before by any other band from the whole North East region. As far as skills and talents is concern even other bands who have better connections in the Country are just ‘beginners, when compared to the 3 Manipur Golden Rock Bands:-Cannibals, Dark Krusaders /Drixian Empire and Phynyx

Talents such as the Cannibals, The Dark Krusaders/ Drixian Empire, and Phynyx are rare. And no other bands from the Country were even half of their equals when these Bands were in their prime. Only can only hope that they reform and let the Guitars and the Drums, booms louder than the Guns and the Rocket Launchers in the State of Manipur and the Nation as a whole.

So Paul Kamei, Lien Gangte and Jessy Ralte – If you are out there somewhere and somehow listening, we the Rock Fans of Manipur would really like you guys to come back on Stage and do the thing that you do best. Why don’t you Guys reform your respective bands for old time sake and ‘Let the Good times Roll Again’?

I know my fellow Rock Fans would agree with me when I say
‘ I KNOW IT’S ONLY ROCK AND ROLL AND I LIKE IT’ (I SAY I LIKE IT, WE SAY WE LIKE IT)

Let the Good Times Roll!

Long Live Rock and Roll

LONG LIVE JESSY, LIEN AND PAUL.


Izzy Pudaite is a dedicated hard rock diehard fans from Manipur. He can be reached at izzypudaite@yahoo.com

Here is some more messages from Izzy


I dream for a better world
Where communalism has no place
Where domestic narrow walls no longer stands
Where kids can run without fear of the automatic guns

A place where peace dwells unrestricted by fear
A place where love is the only word
A place where people can leisurely sit, heads held high without fear.
A place where there is no ' ours-ism or ' they-ism'
Into that Elysium, My heavenly father
Let me and my fellow Manipuris awake

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