A moment with a song "Thangol adu maya thangu thouna hey lao-uba"

Sanasam Yaiphaba Singh *

 123rd Birth Celebration of Lamyanba Hijam Irabot at Iboyaima Shanglen :: 30 September 2019
123rd Birth Celebration of Lamyanba Hijam Irabot at Iboyaima Shanglen on 30 September 2019 :: pix - Shankar Khangembam

Thangol adu maya thangu thouna hey lao-uba . .(Sharpen the blade of the sickle) was a very popular song known to all the sections of people in Manipur. But, it was less known that the dance composition of the song was performed by Hijam Irabot with his troupe at the All India Kishan Sabha Session in May, 1945 at Netra Kona, Mymensing (now in Bangladesh) attracting a gathering of around 2 lakh people.

The song depicts the plight of the farmers from his crude experience and suggested its solution with a new vision. The song is appeared as his expression of inner crying voice of the love for his fellow beings and mother land.

During our college and university days the contribution and sacrifice of Irabot was widely discussed. He was a leader who did not care of his high position as a member of the Sadar Panchayat Court for the sake of the peasant and common people who were deprived of their rights and positions under feudalism and British rule.

During our childhood we heard a number of Manipuri songs from Gramophone sung by the male and female artists, and some of female singers were Smt. Langpok Pishak Devi, Smt. Pishakmacha Devi, Smt.Ibempishak Devi, Smt Chandrakala Devi, Miss Chandrajini Devi, and Smt. Amusana Devi whose songs were mostly romantic and devotional, and these disc records were seen in the brand names of His Master's Voice, Hindustan Record, Megaphone ENOLA, Hindustan Record etc.

These songs were recorded in a thick disc which was 25 centimetre in diameter and 215 grams in weight. Among the songs, Thangol adu maya thangu thouna was heard when my grandfather and father used to play the disc record of the song in the His Master's Voice gramophone from time to time thought that time the use of even latest versions of the gramophone and disc recording was already replaced by so called Tape and Tape Recorder with cassettes, and later on by CD and so on. During that time it was thought that the song was typical and different from other songs.

The song Thangol adu maya thangu thouna was also very popular in Cachar. The name of the Hemango Biswas, a Bengali and H. Irabot were associated with the song. Normally, the lyric and composer of the song were mentioned in the disc record of any kind of song.

However, in the disc recording of the song in "His Master voice Record" the name of singer was written as Smt. Chandrakala Devi, and the name of the composer and writer of the song were not printed. It has been observed that some people were of the opinion that the song was translated from Bengali to Manipur whereas some people claimed that the song was written in Manipuri by Irabot and translated into Bengali.

There should not be any difference of opinion on the song though the same version of the song was available both in Manipuri and Bengali languages. The song would have been written either by Irabot in Manipuri or Hemango Biswas in Bengali, and translated in Bengali or Manipuri.

During the course of search of the fact, sometimes it has come in mind that whether the song was first written in Bengali by Irabot as he was already a lyricist and knew Bengali language and then it was translated or written in Manipuri.

When visited Cachar I attempted to find a clue or information in this regard. Later on while I was at Assam University, Silchar pursuing my M Phil degree I got opportunity of talking to Professor M. Rajendra Singh, Department of Manipur, Assam University in a function on 13 August 2018 in the University. Very fortunately reliable information on the lyric of the song was with him.

He provided some information and a paper cutting of the Swatantra Dhhara Dainik "Samayik Prasanga" a daily news paper published in Silchar on 20 January 2016 with heading 'Itiharser tathyanusandhane ganasilpi Hemango duhita Rongili, Sangbadharna Janal Barakbanga'.

The paper reported that Rongili Biswas, the daughter of Hemango Biswas attended a function on translation at Silchar on 19 January, 2016. In course of her speech she said that she would like to mention the importance of Jananeta Hijam Irabot. She continued that the discussion on "Gan Natya" movement was not complete without the part taken by Hijam Irabot.

The song kastetare dio jore shan which widely popularised her father Hemango Biswas was the song specially translated from Manipuri into Bengali by Hijam Irabot.

A copy of the paper cutting is as under:
A portion of the report is reproduced as 'Ai prosonge tini bolte giye Jananeta Irabot Singh koth ullekh koren. Irabot Singh chhara jono natto andoloner itihas asompurno thakebe bolen tini. janan, Hemango Biswas ji gaantir maadhyome sobocheye besi porichiti peyechilen seti mul Manipuri thake anubad korechhilen Irabot singh.

"kastetare dio jore shan kishan" ei gaanti janapriyo hoi tokhoni. Durtiyo bishojuddho poriprekhite lekha ganti porobortite Manipuri Chandrakala Devi record Koren'.

The English version of the idea of the above report is that in this context, she said about the leader of Hijam Irabot Singh. Without the name of Irabot Singh the "Gan Natya" will be incomplete.

She said that Hemango Biswas got most popularity for the song called "Kaste tare dio jore shan" ("make the sickle sharp) which Irabot Singh mainly translated from Manipuri. The song was written in the view of Second World War. Later on Chandrakala Devi who was from Manipur recorded the song.

As per above reported speech of Rongili Biswas it may say that Irabot wrote the original script of the song and it was translated into Bengali. It was also endorsed by Dr Nara Singh in a discussion at Talking Point, Tom TV, on 27 September 2019. He also clearly mentioned the reported statement of Rongili Biswas, the daughter of Hemango Biswas.

However, the reported statement in the speech of Rongili Biswas, would be considered as she spoke with authority on the point of the song or not would be ascertained by a further study. Rongili is an economist by profession, musician by passion, writer and who was also working with the archive of her father specially focusing on the collaboration between Bhupen Hazarika and Hemango Biswas in 1940s, 1950s and part of the 1960.

It is very interesting to know that Rongili Biswas, the daughter of Hemango Biswas took the pain to describe the role played by Irabot in the Gana Natya movement and paid attention to a specific song Thangol adu maya thangu thouna hey lao-uba in her speech in a festival at Silchar the report of which was also published in the most widely distributed newspaper. It would be worth to acknowledge her for such an important statement relating to a leader of Manipur.

The writing of this article is mainly based on the paper cutting of the above news paper and a Manipuri translation provided by the Professor M. Rajendro Singh of Manipur Department, Assam University, Silchar. The author shall remain grateful to him always.

* Sanasam Yaiphaba Singh wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer can be contacted at yaiphabafff(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on September 28 2020.

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