TODAY -

Dance and folk songs of the natives of North East with special reference to Zeliangrongs
- Part 1 -

Dr Budha Kamei *



Introduction:

Culture is the unique quality of man which does separate him from the lower animals. The maxim that "man is a social being" may be redefined as "man is a cultural being." According to Edward B. Tylor defines culture as: "That complex whole, which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of a society."

Culture means refined and has both material and non-material expressions. The non-material culture does cover thought pattern, institutions, the behavior and love of beauty expressed in dress, costume and ornaments, system of religious belief and moral law, the love of life as expressed through the festivals, and dance, song and music.

In a very broad term, culture includes in itself all walks of life, total mode of behavior, philosophies and ethics, manners, customs and traditions, religious, political, economic and the aesthetic expressions and visual arts. It includes all that man has acquired in his individual and social life. Dance and folk songs form the essence of the Zeliangrong culture. The paper is a humble attempt to look into the dance and folk songs of the Zelaingrong and its significance.

Methods and Materials : The necessary data have been collected from available primary and secondary sources and also from selected well informed informants of the Zeliangrong community. Every society has a culture of its own. So, also the Zeliangrongs have their own culture which is transmitted orally from one generation to another and a cumulative of continuous process of the social heritage of the tribe.

The Zeliangrongs are conservative and culture conscious people. They are proud of their rich cultural heritage. They are deeply religious and have a great respect for their traditions handed through the ages. With their well-knit social organization, they developed and practiced a well institutionalized cultural pattern.

The Zeliangrong culture has greatly been enriched by their religious ceremonies, great annual festivals, beautiful dances and their diversely classified songs. Their conservatism does come out of their sense of pride in the superiority of their culture in relation to others. They love life, beauty, color and a fantasy to escape from the don-key-work of the realities of life.

The Zeliangrong people live in the villages and their world view was confined in the village. The cultural life of the people does operate around the village community, through the village council (Pei), the dormitories (Thien) and the family households.

In the remote past, village was impressive and extraordinary with big houses, the imposing dormitory, the Khangchiu and the ritual ornamental houses of the Taraangkai . Now, these houses have disappeared and a small number of Taraangkai exist here and there.

Dance:

Dancing is not an invention of man, since birds and monkeys dance. It is perhaps the earliest form of expression of joy of man. When society did become more organized, various forms of dances were set aside for various occasions. In all community festivals, they enjoy the festivals with merry-making, feasting, dancing, and singing.

Usually, the unmarried boys and girls of the dormitories take active part in dancing and singing. There is a myth which attributes to the origin of their dance and drum beating to the times of Amang Jourumei . It is believed that man learnt dancing and singing from the gods and all the creatures which attended the Jourumei ceremony of Amang.

In other words, the Zeliangrong people believe that dances are of divine origin as men learned them from gods. The steps in most folk dances are simple, such as walking, hopping, skipping, and whirling; others have intricate patterns. Though women are included in most form of dancing, there are some dances in which women cannot take part. These are the religious and war dances. These dances also cannot be performed in all time and places except on the relevant occasion of the community.

The Zeliangrong people have different kinds of dance with different meaning and purposes. In short, there are different dances in different occasions. The Zeliangrong dances are categorized as follows: (a) The ritual dance, (b) The festival dance.

Ritual Dance: Ritual dances are antique dances that express the ideas or emotions of an entire community such as a village or tribe. According to Lucile Armstrong, "Ritual dances were evolved for a purpose. That is, to accomplish a special wish, or strives to bring to man a vital necessity. These necessities were: food, safety, averting evils such as natural disasters— drought, diseases, etc.—and for the continuity of the species."

Dances performed in Taraangkai, Maku Banru and Matui are ritual dances. Dances performed during Maku Banru are Hoi Laam, Hoi dance, Joumon Kasukmei , girls dance carrying wine bowls, Goipi Thenglam, dance of cutting the mithun head etc.

The Hoi Laam is an intricate dance form performed by the males both married and unmarried invoking Tingkao Ragwang , the Supreme God by shouting different refrains of Ho-hoing . There should be no stoppage of the Ho-hoing . The other forms of Hoi Laam are Gaan Hoi Laam, Kaiku Laam, Bang phen Laam, and Ponsa Laam . Dances performed only by the females in the ritual ceremony are Joumon Kasukmei, Chani Phanmei Laam, Zoulian Thanmei Laam, a sort of solo dance etc.

Joumon Kasukmei Laam is the beginning of the female dance form in the Banru ritual dance. Dances performed both by boys and girls together are Kaibon Sangmei Laam, Kaibon Duimei Laam, Banzai Laam , Mui Lu, Rih Lu , Khongphung Laam etc. accompanied by a song of the same name.

Baanzai Laam is performed by boys and girls by joining hands together similar to Thabal Chongba of Meitei dance. These group ritual dances are performed throughout the night under the supervision of the song master locally called Lupou . The female dancers wear a special head dress called Sanadong in addition to their dancing costume.

The forms of dances performed during the Matui ceremony are Hoi Laam, Haan Sengmei Laam, Pajeimei or Pheigoumei Laam , waving dance cloths by standing etc. In Haan Sengmei Laam, a circle is formed by boys and girls, who move round, singing at the same time, the boys heading the circle, the women bearing bamboo tubes which they rap on the ground in a hop, using alternate feet.

The movement is slow at first, gradually increasing. At the closes by two girls dancing together in the centre of the circle; the step is the same, but they change about as in a quadrille, and great use is made of movements with the hands.

This and all the dances end by the men meeting in a close circle, holding up their daos and giving vent, simultaneously, to a long drawn hoey, once repeated. Gaan Laam is a young men's dance. In this dance only the married and unmarried men engage two and two abreast in a circle, which moves round at first all together; the step is a single step forward, followed by pause in the stooping position, a sort of goose step, every one shout ho , ho , ho.

In the latter part of the dance the circle divides into two, and go round one within the other in opposite directions; the circle again forms as before, and they meet in the centre and indulge in hoi in quick time, finishing up with howls.

To be continued....


*Dr Budha Kamei wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer can be reached at budhakamei(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on May 07, 2019.



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