Dance and folk songs of the natives of North East with special reference to Zeliangrongs
- Part 2 -

Dr Budha Kamei *

Festival dance:

The festivals dances are also known as Chapa Laam . They are Khangbon Kadi Laam , farewell dance to Khangbon (leader of the Khangchiu ), Thei Kadi Laam , dance in honor of the dead, Tamchan Laam , Tuna Kadimei Laam (farewell dance to a bride) etc.

Nanu Laam is not a festival dance; it is more fertility dance. Dances like Laophun , Laoreo , Laotai , Laodi Laam etc demonstrate the movement of hand depicting the seed sowing, weeding, cutting of paddy plants and harvest are included in the Chapa Laam . Man learnt from nature the form of dancing based on the movements of birds, animals and insects.

Dances of imitation of animals and insects are Gaa Laam , crab dance, Khoiguna Laam , bee mating dance, Kit Laam , cricket dance, Raengdai Laam , dance of hornbill, Goichei Bang Laam , the dance of movement of the horn of the bull, Apang Laam , huluk (monkey) dance of plucking fruits, Tareng Laam , spinning dance etc. All the festival and ritual dances are accompanied by relevant songs and musicals instruments like drum, cymbals, gong etc.

Dance techniques: There are four dance techniques developed by the people. They are Makhom Laam which is originated from Makhom village (Marangjing ), Dinglen, standing in rows, Phaicheng Laam , dance movement from left to right feet and Pheigoumei Laam , waving dance of cloths by standing. In Makhom Laam , the male dancer stands straight and jump with right step. The right hand will rise with the Baang Chakhiu with the rhythm of the drumbeat.

Folk songs:

The love of music by the Zeliangrong people is evidenced from the types of songs sung at different occasions. They sing their folk songs in time of festival, ceremony and other socio-cultural functions with or without instruments. In the distant past, boys and girls learnt songs from their parents as well as from the senior members of their respective dormitories namely Khangchu , bachelor's dormitory and Luchu , girl's dormitory.

They learnt different types of folk songs added with how to play various musical instruments as well. It was their system to communicate with each other through songs on many important matters either in group or in individual. They also used to argue and interact through songs.

Thus, the traditional songs of Zeliangrong are very philosophic. It is believed that song is divine origin. Men adopted the songs sung by gods. There is a myth. One day, a farmer slaughtered a cow and left the flesh at the paddy field for evil gods.

The evil gods came and ate the flesh of the animal. After that they tried to kill the man who slept in the hut; the farmer did hide inside a heap of straws. The evil gods surrounded the heap of straws and started to take away the straw to kill the man. Then, Lao Rah (paddy field deity) appeared and said: "Oh! If you want to kill the man, first you sing all the songs of Thongramnang and you should take away a straw after singing a song." Accordingly, the evil gods followed the advice of Lao Rah .

Fortunately, the farmer was saved as the dawn broke and the evil gods left the place. In this way, men learnt all the songs sung by gods. Their songs express their love, their hardship, hope, frustration, victory etc.

Some of the important folk songs are as follows:

Work songs: Laophun Lu is a seed sowing song. The songs are sung to make the work more progress and goddess of paddy happy. It is believed that the goddess of paddy feels happy and blesses a bountiful harvest if the cultivators work in a happy mood. Lao Ruaih Lu , a song of weeding is sung to please goddess of paddy and to forget the trouble and pain during cultivation.

The songs may be sung responsive-manner or lead and follow by two groups. No instrument is used as accompaniment of the songs, however an imaginary rhythm is always followed uniformity.

Ritual songs: Maku Luh is a song sung on the occasion of great ritual sacrifices like Banru, Taraang Kai etc. They are not sung at the common functions and festivals. Matui Lu is a song of the Thian, dormitories.

These songs are sung to stimulate a sense of positive competitions among themselves for the wellbe- ing of the village. Kuan Lu is a song sung on different religious occasions and ceremonies. No one should commit mistake in singing the song. Hymns are recited by an elder of Pei as prayer song to Tingkao Ragwang , the Supreme God for wellbeing and prosperity.

Agricultural Ritual song: Katu Lu is an agricultural ritual song sung by the members of Khangchiu on the festive occasion of Gudui or Maleg ngai by marching from one end of the village to another for plentiful harvest.

War song: In the distant past, Rih Lu , the war song was sung on the occasion of Kavoumei ritual when a warrior brought enemy's head or killed wild animals like tiger, bear or python. It is usually performed at the house of Ritu Kaibang .

Harvest songs: Maja Lu is a song of the paddy. These songs are sung on the occasions related to the harvest. It is a song sung praising of goddess of paddy for abundant harvest. Generally, the song is sung by a person inside the house; when the song is just ended, everyone who is present will shout Laogai, Laogai. Gong is accompanied as musical instrument.

Maja Kaileng Pat Lu , a song of pre-harvest is sung to please goddess of paddy for good harvest. Kailaam Lu is also a pre-harvest song sung to please rice goddess for bountiful harvest.

Village guarding songs: Kairong Ron Lu is a song sung by the youth and warriors to give a sense of security to the villagers during night time. In short, it is a kind of guard song.

Romantic songs: Ramruan Lu is a song of lamentation, love, anguish and melancholy. The songs are divided into Magian Lu and Nrah Lu. Magian Lu is a song to lament a death. Nrah Luis the same, but the song to lament a death is sung with Nrah, harp.

Magian Lu is sub-categories of Tuna-Gaan Magian Lu. It is sung to express profound sorrow over the separation of lovers, intimate friends etc. Children and young people are advised not to sing in the belief that it may invite bad omen, but learning is permissible for any one any time. The song is sung in solo either by male or female very slowly with full expression of the meaning at the same speed and same vocal till its conclusion.

Song accompanied with a harp: Nrah Lu is a song sung with a harp. It is said that Gairemnang , a semi folk hero, once sitting on the top of Kimbut Hill and sang Nrah Lu describing the beauty of girls of the Kourang village.

Conclusion :

To conclude, dance has brought a great name to the Zeliangrong people. They perform different types of dances in different occasions with relevant songs with the rhythm of drumbeat and cymbal. Folk songs of different types are also sung by them on diverse events with or without musical instrument.

Dance and music and the festivals are the basic foundation of the Zeliangrong cultural heritage. In the past the youth learnt the dance and folk song including playing of musical instruments from their senior members while sleeping in their respective dormitories.

Unfortunately, nowadays, the younger generation is neglecting such traditional songs including the use of musical instruments. It is high time to preserve and promote the folk songs of the people.


*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 11, 2019.

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