TODAY -

The sky is the SIYOM (womb) of the stars

Ningombam Captain *

 Thawanmichak



Thawanmichak

Artist: SIYOM Ensemble
Genre: Alternative/Folk
Length: 5 mins 2 secs
Release date: April 6, 2019
Rating: 3 out of 5

Lyrics:
Thawanmichak se ngallare naitom
Ningthira ahing, malang epom
Chingsilli pukning se khalluda naphamda
Ingla nangi mitpham honda mityengna
Nungsira esheina chiklaba ahingi tantha hukhibagum

Ahing amagi tellaba matam
Sanglaba eigi punshigi khongchat
Ngalhalle mitkup se nahaki mitki manina
Yeirare mangal machet ama eigi thamoida
Nungsira leinamna leeri humba malangbada lupkhibagum


SIYOM Ensemble is not a typical rock band. It is an inspirational space with ties to a myriad of art forms. Experimental dance, for instance, is one of the many expressions that the Ensemble indulges in. We haven't seen the reality enough, so let's stick to the cliché of metaphors found in everyday life. Let's put the existence and working of the SIYOM Ensemble in the form of milk; their music is just the cheese, you see. They've got a lot to offer, like curd, butter, and yogurt. And we haven't seen them all yet.

SIYOM (translates to "womb") happens to be the brainchild of Chaoba Thiyam, singer-songwriter of the Ensemble who made a mark in the Manipuri indie music scene with the brilliant single, "Kayada Ningthijaba Lambino". If you don't know this "Swiss Army Man", I'd like to introduce him as a professional pena player (I don't like the correctness of this term. We need to coin a derivative for this unique instrument, how about, a "Penaist"?), contemporary dancer, meditator, and a filmmaker.

He also prefers the ukulele over the guitar as his weapon of choice in the studio. He frequently teams up with musicians from other bands and makes this Ensemble function like an occasional supergroup. The guitarist Ton Arambam is from Noong-Pan, the keyboardist Jimbo Ningombam is from the Jimbo Trio, and Karnajit Laishram is from The Imphal Talkies and the Howlers. It is unclear whether the members involved in a project perform together just out of mere happenstance or will stick around for further ventures. But from the name "Ensemble", let's settle it for the latter.

When it comes to the song "Thawanmichak" (translates to "stars"), I prefer the old recording more. It was uploaded as a 2:05 mins long track on Chaoba Thiyam's SoundCloud account, supposed to be a demo version, more than one year before this new release. Despite being lengthen to double its original length, the early version is not premature at all. It was more raw and authentic.

The instrumentation of this new release still manages to showcase the authenticity in the ability to strike similar notes again. However, the in-depth listener loses the sense of a natural touch of minimalism like, the accidental beauty of slightly buzzed strings and the vocal ambience of a reverberating room. Let us not call this new recording overproduced, because I believe, the spirit still sticks to a minimalist ideal nevertheless. The song is recorded and mastered by Sunil Loitongbam at the HAYUM LAB.

The song, classified as alternative folk, still features instruments similar to that of "Kayada Ningthijaba Lambino". But this time, the prominent thump of the Wapung (an indigenous percussion) and a stalking bassline heighten the intensity of the song. A collective sound of nocturnal insects, like crickets and locusts, opens the song, and is laden throughout.

This outdoor ambience, heard during the nighttime in a typical Manipuri suburban environment, is interwoven perfectly with the stream of instruments. Even without the lyrics, one can't be mistaken on assuming that the song is about stargazing, or at least, something about the night, not darkness, but the night. The duet of the ukulele and the nylon guitar is enchanting. The former provides the superficial melody and latter, a resonating profundity. Moreover, the tempo is slow and relaxing to the ear.

The song shows us that art is nothing but the imitation of nature. Humans incorporate nature in every aspects of making art: be it dancing, like a flower swaying in the sun; painting, with the hues capturing the natural likeness of things; playing instruments, with imitated sounds heard from the forest; writing, while describing everything seen in nature through words. Here, the relatively higher pitch of the ukulele represents the tangerine leaves, that once were green, floating on a stream; the nylon guitar and the bass, the stream itself.

The song paints a picturesque landscape with the background ambience as the nightfall, the ukulele-guitar duet as the stream, the thumping Wapung as the rhythmic breathing of the soulful stargazer, the flute as the night breeze carrying the silent stories of woes, happiness, and solitude in human perspiration entering through the ear of the stargazer, and lastly, to his mind. Every work of art that SIYOM creates can be translated on a spiritual level. And no, I didn't listen to Alan Watts recently. This is just what the song makes me feel within.

The lyrics is only two stanzas, devoid of a particular chorus. The syllable scheme is maintained like the structure of a heroic couplet used in English poems. The first lines of each two stanzas have 10 syllables each:

Tha-wan-mi-chak-se-ngal-la-re-nai-tom
A-hing-a-ma-gi-tel-la-ba-ma-tam


You see, there is a satirical poem called "An Epistle from Mr Pope, to Dr Arbuthnot" written by the English poet Alexander Pope, way back in 1735. Similar to SIYOM's song here, the lines of this poem also has 10 syllables each:

Yet-let-me-flap-this-Bug-with-gilded-wings
and so on...

I'm not trying to make any profound point by comparing the syllabification of these entirely different works. Also, I don't know if Chaoba Thiyam wrote "Thawanmichak" as a poem or simply as song lyrics with structured syllable to ease during his composition. But I prefer to study this as a poem for the effect of more solemnity that it will give out. The vocal delivery of this song also makes it seem like an elaborate poetry recital.

Do listen to this song on Bandcamp and YouTube. If you still haven't listened to their previous song "Kayada Ningthijaba Lambino", just give it a go! Satisfaction, guaranteed. As far as I know, SIYOM does not disappoint. And there's a small belief of mine: a songwriter who appreciates the stars in the clear night cannot just get inside, wrap around his shawl, and pick up the ukulele and make a bad song.

Personnel:
Ton Arambam - Nylon Guitar
Michael Ngangom - Langdren/Percussion
Jimbo Ningombam - Flute/Key
Karnajit Laishram - Bass
Chaoba Thiyam - Vocal, Ukulele


* Ningombam Captain wrote this article for e-pao.net
Ningombam Captain is the creator of Blue Bannerman Reviews. The writer is currently pursuing English Hons. in MS University and can be contacted at ningombamcaptain(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on April 14, 2019.



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