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MANIPURIS AND FRIENDS OF MANIPUR RALLY GLOBALLY TO PROTEST ZAKIR HUSAIN'S REMARKS ABOUT HIS MANIPURI DRUMMERS.



Manipuris And Friends Of Manipur Rally Globally To Protest Zakir Husain's Remarks About His Manipuri Drummers

Original Email by Somi Roy
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Subject : Zakir Hussain's racist comments about his artists

Dear Friend:

Never in all my years in cultural programming and presentation in the US have I come across such vulgar crassness.

That this is a racism that is not often seen in the US does not make it any less offensive. Indeed, it deserves even more condemnation since it comes from a major Asian American artist and in a program that will be presented to the more traveled and educated culturati that forms the audience for world music concerts. It deserves a response similar to what we would give to other forms of bigotry.

I am writing to you because you and I have had professional interactions that lead me to think you will have an opinion about this and will be willing to step up and express it. Indeed, even though there are few Manipuri Americans, many of you are friends of Manipur.

In short, Zakir Hussain needs to apologize publicly.

Feel free to write a message for Mr. Hussain.

Somi *



* L. Somi Roy is a Manipuri-American arts curator living in New York
E-pao.net thanks all those who have contributed to this email Campaign that was started by L. Somi Roy.
Please email us immediately at feedback@e-pao.net if you wish your note to be removed from this cyber diary of Manipur's first global web-based arts campaign.
Zakir Hussien was scheduled to performed at WMI, New York on 20th May, 2006

Extracts from the original article in Houston Chronicle
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Short of climbing mountains and traversing deserts in far-flung pockets of India, your best bet for catching the musicians of Zakir Hussain's Masters of Percussion is attending Saturday's performance at the Wortham Theater Center.
...

This year, some of the drummers represent tribes from the extreme eastern mountains of southern India and others the extreme western deserts
...
...
The Manipur guys tie the drum to their body ….
And now that I've convinced them that they should be traveling without their hunting knives, it's even safer," he said, with a laugh,
...
...
"There are different languages within the group. At least between south India and north India the common language is English; but the eastern and western regions don't even speak English
...
...
I've successfully corrupted most of these guys in the sense that they have started coming down from the hills or the villages and playing performances all over India," Hussain said. "Now they also have students who come and study with them. Things are becoming more and more open."
...
...

Read the whole article here: http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/ent/music/3841774.html

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EMail from Friends:
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hi somi,

first and foremost i would like to introduce myself to you. i am boipu and am 17 years old. i just read your appeal here in e-pao and this is my conclusion about the whole issue.

The Manipur guys tie the drum to their body ..And now that I've convinced them that they should be traveling without their hunting knives, it's even safer," he said, with a laugh There are different languages within the group. At least between south India and north India the common language is English; but the eastern and western regions don't even speak English

these lines are the main thing that caused me to rethink again and again. i really dont know if he did laugh saying those words but all i can say is that even if he did.... he was sarcastically doing it.

what does he mean by saying that we do not even speak english? look at mizoram, it's got the second highest literacy rate and the other states are still well above average.what common language his he talking about? i dont know what he ate for breakfast that morning.its totally inhuman.

i strictly condemn him. it shows what a type of person he is. he degraded himself by saying so. i would insist on an apology.

Boipu
Imphal

Dear Somi, I have read Zakir Hussain's press statement published in "Houston Chronicle" before the performance of his musical group called "Masters of Percussion" at WMI New York on the 20th May 2006. The following lines caught my attention:

"The Manipuri guys tie drum to their body?. Now I have convinced them they should be traveling without their hunting knives, it is even safer" he said, with a laugh"

"I have successfully corrupted most of these guys in the sense that they have started coming down from the hills or villages and playing performances all over India. Now, they have students who come and study with them. Things are becoming more and more open".

This derogatory and racist remark given by Mr. Zakir Hussain about Manipuri people in general and Manipuri drummers in particular speaks volumes not only of his either ignorance of the two millennium old civilization and cultural heritage of Manipur but also of his narrow chauvinistic attitude towards the people of the minority cultural traditions. The comments are down right discriminatory and unbecoming of an Artist of Mr. Hussain's status and reputation. By passing such a rendered defamatory remarks about a section of his Artist group called 'Masters of Percussion' he is spitting upon himself. Far from playing the role of a cultural ambassador of India, Mr. Hussain is doing a great disservice towards his own nation deeply hurting the sentiments of 2.5 million people of Manipur and many more million friends of Manipur. Instead of trying to bring about the unity and solidarity of mankind through the medium of Art and usher in a culture of peace on our planet, Mr. Hussain is trying to cultivate a culture of disunity, discrimination and disintegration. It is high time for Mr. Hussain to give up his 'Holier than thou attitude' and exchange his peraucial and chauvinistic mindset and imbibe the culture of humanity and modesty which is the whale mark of a tree Artist. Mr. Hussain is still young and can be forgiven. But, he must tender an unconditional apology to the people of Manipur for his insulting remarks. In future he should refrain from speaking about what he does not know.

Sadananda Laishram
Imphal

Dear Mr. Hussain,
The remarks you had made about the Manipuri Drummers had only demeaned yourself. It seems the horizon of your knowlegde starts with 'Tabla' and ends with 'tabla'. So, it could had been better if you restrained your remarks within tabla itself. It is very unfortunate that being an Indian you don't know your India .

You deserve an apology to the people of North East India.

Best regards,
J.S.Tonjamba Khuman
Kolkata

Hi Somi

I read about the comments made by Zakir Hussian about our best Manipuri Drummers, it is extremely rude. It is sad to know how ignorant can a man of such caliber be.

I ask Mr. Hussain to do his home work properly before he decides to say something in public . It doesn't mean that he has the authority and opportunity to appear and speak in public that he can say just about anything... it's a SHAME !!

I strongly condemn the thoughtless remarks and defamation. I too demand a public apology

Glory Lalnipuii
Hyderabad

E-pao Team
Dated: 1st June, 2006

Sir,

We, at the European Manipuri association find the recent insensitive and uncultured comments made by one of India,s cultural ambassador, Zakir Hussain in an interview with Houston chronicle ,concerning his fellow Manipuri pung cholom artist and people of Manipur, as barely civilized, knife wielding natives , subdued by Zakir's into making music, as extremely offensive, derogatory, and discriminatory ..

Read the whole entry here.

Dr. Elangbam Bishwajeet
General Secretary
EMA

Dear Mr.Hussain,

I was under the impression that music education broadens ones horizons and expands the soul. Clearly in your case, that aspect of education has remained incomplete. Any true artist would tell you that it is not enough to be just a great performer. One must also demonstrate the best that one has learnt- in ones bearings and manners

By belittling your fellow artists, you expose the hollowness of your stature and reveal to the entire world the fragile foundations on which your "fame" rests. Rest assured, by making such cheap comments, you damn none but yourself.

Best
Subhash Phaomei

Ibungo Zakir:

I read the article in the Houston Chronicle with your provocative comments. Please allow me to tell you a bit about myself.

I am, myself, not a drummer or singer, but it has been my good fortune to have served as the Secretary of Jawaharlal Nehru Manipur Dance Academy, one of India's premier dance institutions. During those 15 years, it was my privilege to get to know intimately some of some of the greatest Manipuri dancers, musicians and drummers of our time.

My experience with the remarkable Ojas of drumming, like Thangjam Oja Chaoba and Leichoimbam Oja Koireng - of the generation before your own esteemed father's - afforded me some of the most instructive and valuable lessons of my life. So today, as someone is old enough to be your mother, I would like to offer you some advice.

Be humble. In Manipur, the most accomplished of artists never say they are the greatest. Come to Manipur. Sit by an Oja, as I have done, when a mere boy timidly approaches to be taken in as a student. You will hear even the most accomplished of Ojas say something like, "Why do you come to me, I, who know nothing? I am the weakest of all the teachers you could ask for…."

Over the years, I noticed that they more the Ojas knew, the more they protested that they knew nothing. So in Manipur, people usually say that the more you say you do not know, the more it shows how much you do know.

Manipur has a great tradition of drumming that I will not go into now but you can seek out for yourself if you so choose. Do not dismiss it so easily. I remember that whenever I asked the great Ojas of the Academy about other's traditions and arts forms, they would invariably always say, "Ours is nothing compared to theirs… "

I am sorry this has caused such an embarrassment for you. I realize you made your comments because you are still young. I see many people here are angry. Please understand that the tone of your remarks is not customary in Manipur, even when addressing persons of lesser accomplishment or lower social station.

I might also add that upon, reading these responses, it has been a pleasant reminder to me that politeness and good manners are universal and not merely of my country. You would do well to make them your own.

Maharaj Kumari Binodini Devi
Imphal

Dear E-pao Administrator,

I am the only student representing the manipuri student in Israel and i feel it is my moral duty to condemn the heinous remark made by Mr. Zakir Hussein. I am literally shocked on learning the interview given by one of the most respected indian musicist of our time to the Houston Chronicle recently. I have no good will gesture at the moment but only a very sore feeling to be an Indian(when the rich and influential people of the same country still continue to defame hundreds of thousand of his own countrymen for personal fame).

I would like to remind him that arts and traditions are something which needs to be appreciated as it reflects the rich heritage of a particular society and it cannot be washed away by any flood nor can shake by any hurricane. It is engraved in the heart and soul when any manipuri is born.

Here itself if we start under-looking the different cultures and people from the different regions of India, it would really be a nasty thing and relations would become irreversible. I am not here to discuss the difference in color, language, culture etc, but expecting Mr.Zakir Hussein as a gentleman to take back his words and respect the rich culture of our community.

If this sort of humiliating and uncivilized comments continue, remember that people of this region one day would loss its stamina to bear any humilation and stir for extremism and violence.

With utmost grievance in my heart, i am joining the thousand voices to regain back the dignity in the World platform and appreciate the rich culture of manipur which has been shining despite being surrounded by obstacles for centuries.

Hail Manipur and its Culture!!

Regards,
Chongtham Boi
Department og Biotechnology.
Ben Gurion University. Israel

Mr. Zakir Hussain,

It’s a big surprise for me when you assume Manipuris to be living in the same condition as the barbarian Moghuls who emerged from the mountains of Uzbekistan and Afganistan 500 years ago. For your kind information Manipuris were peace loving and farming civilized community while your forefathers were still wandering in mountains in search of civilization for loot and plunder.

You should apologize to the whole India as you disrespected a sacred Hindu Art form. You must realize that Moghul rule ended centuries ago and it’s right time for you to respect the indigenous culture.

-Shangkar Mayanglambam
Hyderabad

Eileen,

This is with reference to your story on Indian Tabla maestro Zakir Hussain and his remarks about Manipuri drummers. I fully understand that the remarks made by Mr. Hussain was truly his own thought and you were delivering your best in compiling the story, but I would like to say few words. The remarks made by Mr. Zakir Hussain were extremely rude and it clearly reflects his lack of knowledge about the cultural diversity of India in general and Manipuri classical music in particular. It seems that, though he is undoubtedly a master in his own world but he has very limited knowledge about the rich art, culture and tradition about Manipur.Hence he has no authority to comment about the rich Manipuri Culture.

Zakir sahaf , do you know that Manipuri Dance is one of four Major Indian dance forms?It is the soul of Manipuri Sankirtana music and classical manipuri dance. What are trying to say? The dance you are referring is called pung cholom.Pung is a form of hand beaten drum and the same set of artist dances simultaneously to the rhythm of the drums(cholom).The dancers are graceful and very acrobatic at the sametime.

A person of his stature should understand on how dangerous it is to comment on something which he has no idea.This is not only an insult to the Manipur's Art and Culture but also a big blow to the entire Indian Artist community because of the fact that an artist like him is making such a comment.Has he recently lost his sense or does he really mean with his comments?

I would also appreciate if you could also do some due diligence before making the stuff available to the public domain.

To tell you a little bit about the dance form which our big/bug master Zakir was referring, here is brief note on Pung Cholom.

Pung or Manipuri Mridanga is the soul of Manipuri Sankritana music and Classical Manipuri Dance. It assumes an important ritual character, an indispensable part of all social and devotional ceremonies in Manipur, - the instrument itself becoming an object of veneration. Pung Cholom is performed as an invocatory number preceding the Sankirtana and Ras Lila.It is highly refined classical dance number characterised by the modulation of sound from soft whisper to a thunderous climax. There is the interplay of intricate rhythms and cross rhythms with varying markings of time from the slow to the quick with graceful and vigorous body movements leading to ecastic heights.

As closing note, I would really appreciate if you could carry out story about the backlash of his Mr. Zakir Hussain recent remarks attacking one of India's oldest dance form in a unfortunate manner.

You may find more feedback at e-pao.net .

Rahul Dev Sharma

Mr Zakir Hussain,
I didn't know that being an extremely famous musician and saying "wah Taj" on the TV gave people enough authority to insult a community and its artform which has been existing for centuries. Even if you didn't have enough knowledge of this superb artform or of the people who invented it, why did you have to use such rude words? You could have simply said "I don't know anything about this, don't ask me". Instead you had to invent utter NONSENSE. Well done.

If you ever feel the need to acquire some much needed knowledge about Manipur, feel free to mail me at: adit_sana @yahoo.com

Aditya Sana
(A proud Manipuri)
New Delhi

Dear Mr.Hussain,
You have offended our best drummers which is known as "pung cholon". "pung cholon" is one of the best exceptional master piece of manipuris I ever seen in my life? Anyone can play drums, but "pung cholon" is some kind of art which our manipuris brothers has to fight against the gravitional's law, by rotating their whole body, same time beating those drums.

Manipur is really a land of jewel.It got it's name for a certain reason, for its rich culture and decent society. It could be wrong if you view today's situation there in my place? I would rather term it as some kind of Renaissance. It occur every place. Manipur's rich culture is flourishing since the reign of Maharaj Beighyachandra. I know you since I was a kid.

Today, you're no longer an artist in my heart and soul. You should try to see the world in a broader angle, rather than bearing a narrow minded and useless racism.

Vic Sorensangbam
Vancouver, CANADA

There are some things for numerically small communities like the Manipuris that are revered and treasured for generations. The Manipuri "Pung/Dholok" (drum) is one of them. Mr. Zakir Hussain, whatever has happened to your training and learning as a member of the "World Art" scene ?

Will you not now own up your mistake and come up with some gentlemanly and civilized act ?

Akendra Sana
New Delhi

Hi Somi,

It's really heartbreaking to see such ridiculous comments from an artist of such a repute. Seeing the excerpts of the statement, it seems a deliberate one. I mean it's disgusting. I feel he's really carried away by his fame and fortune, forcing him to make an irresponsible statement.

Yes, definitely he does need to make a public apology.

Manjit Ch.
B'lore

You must be a great musician, but your insult and contemptuous remark brings you so low, Mr Hussain. How can you talk about us as some kind of stone age people, living in the wild with knives. What if the Manipuri drummers don't speak English? They are artist(drummers) first. Why to mock at them for they don't speak what you speak.

We grew up seeing you say on TV: "Arre Huzoor, Wah Taj Boliye..." And we thought "Oh, he is a great musician"

Now, you will be remembered with disdain -"Oh, that racist, Hussian"

Ringo Pebam
Bangalore

Dear Zakir Husain,

I wish I were able to think your comments about the Manipuri drummers were humorous.

"And now that I've convinced them that they should be traveling without their hunting knives, it's even safer," he said, with a laugh.

I am offended at this cheap comment that plays into all the usual racist preconceptions that are all too common in this country. The importance of world music is in part to help broaden our international understanding.

I think an apology is in order.

Sincerely,
Steven Watson, Ph.D.
New York

One of the pung artists is the son of Ojha Th. Babu. To suggest that he is some kind of wild man with a hunting knife in his hand who had to be publicised by Zakir in order to attract students is worse than an insult, it is a downright lie.

Christel Stevens
Maryland

Dear Mister Zakir Hussain,

Ref your comments certainly reflects a high degree of immaturity on your side in context to your rude statement about Manipuri drummers. This so, especially for the fact that your musical genre depicts 'world music' in which, you are highly respected, and is about music from all parts of the world.

It is a pity indeed that most of us Indians are often groomed to loathe others outside our own communities. And maybe this is a result of historical distrust between conquerers and the vanquished, or more likely today - the disparity between the haves and have-nots. But whatsoever the reason be, we can understand this condition prevailing amongst people who have never experienced life beyond the perimeters of their society and their simple living. However, for an internationally acclaimed artiste like yourself, who, having experienced living and performing around the world, it is shameful to note how you poke fun at the traditional lifestyles of backward communities, the very same people you happen to be using to promote yourself.

Can you strap your tabla around your waist and keep on playing while performing a somersault?

Arthur Pazo (of the Lepcha community in Sikkim)
Namnang, Gangtok, Sikkim

Dear Mr. Browning:

It was pointed out to me the disturbing comments of Mr. Hussein about his musicians from Manipur. Perhaps -- more than perhaps -- you need to have a chat with him about what is and is NOT considered an appropriate way to speak about high caliber musicians of a different ethnic tradition than one's own without causing strife. Speaking about the musicians from Manipur as he did can only cause bad feelings within his company and certainly between friends of your organization and friends of the vibrant artistic community from Manipur, especially those who reside and are respected in the US.

Sincerely,
Lynn Kable
North Carolina

Dear All,

The unfortunate remarks by Zakir Hussain expose mainly his ignorance, disrespect for art and culture of others, and narrow minded bigotry. We can not standby silently to such rash disrepect for our culture and heritage, and of Manipur.

We should initiate a set of actions to expose such acts by Mr. Hussain and people like him.

First, we should write to a letter to the editor of Houston Chronicle exposing the ignorance of Mr. Hussain and of chronicle's reporter. If the news item was published in the print edition we should get it published in print also. The letter to the editor will necessarily be short but will serve the purpose of refuting the misinformation in the same forum. We can then write a longer and more detailed article and post it at all appropriate sites, e. g., websites of NAMA, EMA, e-pao, etc.

Second, the action initiated by Somi to make Mr. Hussain apologize in public should be pursued actively. He may not be willing to do this and if he refuses to apologize we should expose him as such.

Best wishes,
Adhikarimayum Surjalal Sharma
Maryland

Mr.Hussain,

It is utterly disgusting to learn about your ignorance of the culture of certain section of the society.Your thoughtless and uncouth comments on the Manipuri drummers is a reflection of your "UNCULTURED" behavior in front of the many cultured people. I am shocked to find such an uneducated and uncultured person like you in the midst of cultural world. If you dont know the culture of other people, you better learn how to respect it.

By saying "And now that I've convinced them that they should be traveling without their hunting knives, it's even safer," you are hurting the sentiments of millions of people who love manipur and its people. Manipur artists are considered one of the best in the world and they do not carry hunting knives. What kind of a cultural person are you who do not even respect your artists? You are such a disgrace to your society...

In this world of cultural diversity, the basic mantra for harmony is to respect other's culture. You don't seem to have that basic sense. In a way you symbolise the Indian art and culture and the audience are all well learned and educated, your racist comments will only define who you are as a person and will only harm the image of India whom you proudly represent.

"You need to be a cultured man first to be in the cultural world".

As a lover of Manipur art and its artists, I strongly condemn your thoughtless remarks and defamation. I demand a public apology.

Kheda Sanjenbam
Atlanta

Dear Friends,

Manipuri classical music performers certainly have a place in the Indian culture. Mr. Zakir Hussain being a maestro in Indian music cannot miss this fact. Therefore, the recent remarks of Mr. Zakir Hussain about Manipuri Drum players speak of his biased and arrogant attitudes towards them. These also expose the pitiable ignorance of Mr. Zakir Hussain about professional etiquettes. Anybody having a similar ignorance could have commented on Mr. Zakir Hussain as "somebody who stares at two broken pieces of a drum and plays it without looking up to see the world around him with his eyes curtained by his long drooping hairs". If Mr. Zakir Hussain does not apololize for his childish and unfrofessional remarks about a community he deserves a tit for tat. Too unfortunate.

Sincerely,
Rajkumar

The speech given by Zakir Hussein regarding the Manipuri artists has made it clear that we are like second class citizens in the world's largest democracy. The indian leaders are preaching the democratic ideals of eqality and liberty while in manipur they discriminated us as anything but human beings. The policy of racial discrimination is nowhere in the world as it is in manipur. A person like Hussein has challenged the pride of our race. It is not only against the manipuris but against the racial and linguistic minorities of the entire north-east. Identifying himself as a citizen of the largest democracy and speaking ills about its fellow beings has shown clearly that we are like wild beast living in the jungles of N-E.He must be boycotted in N-E for his foolishness.

If a person like him can speak like this against the manipuri race,then what the security forces can do against the civilians with their justice proofed powers like AFSPA'1958. The ill treatment of the N-E people by indian agency as well as the mainland indians is now not our imagination but a self-proofed truth.

The Manipuris are also human beings with what we have inherited from the two+ millenia old historical civilization in the IMPHAL RIVER VALLEY like the indus valley, the tigris valley or the hwang ho river civilization. The mainland indians instead of helping us are following the footsteps of their leaders like V.P.MENON, SARDAR PATEL and NEHRU who forcibly occupied the kingdom of manipur(kangleipak)in 1949 without the mandate or popular consultation of the manipuri citizens.

The time has come for all the manipuris to question whether the govt of indian is willing to consider the manipuris as rightful citizens of indians or colonised people of a fully militarised of N-E territory. I as a lover of democratic principles strongly condemn such a derogatory comment towards my beloved countrymen and WE MUST DO THAT.

Puyam Rakesh(Nongdreikhomba) Meitei
New Delhi

Dear Mr.Robert Browning,

I have read the following statement of Mr. Zakir Hussain:-

"This year some of the drummers represent tribes from the extreme eastern mountains……
A new element that adds visual interest is the Manipur dancing drummers from the eastern mountains…
And now that I have convinced them that they should be traveling without their hunting knives its even safer"

The Manipuri artistes are not primitive tribal and do not come from the hills. Manipuris happen to be one of the most civilized and sophisticated communities of India. Their performing arts including the drums are in no way inferior to the other Indian classical drums including the Tabla.

I wonder what made Mr. Hussain come up with such derogatory and insulting remarks. If it was done for the sake of some cheap sensation or joke it was done at the cost of a community and their art. I wonder how he would have felt if the same statement was made about tabla players.

We would expect him to stop issuing such wrong and damaging statements and offer a public apology.

Singhajit Singh
New Delhi

Zakir Hussain's racist comments is a sample to 'invent' a image of representative 'Manipuri' of 'far-flung pockets of India'... for civilized world!!

We must raise resistence such kind of propaganda, vision, dominated by ideological bais ostensibly suited to the projected colonial mind ...

Konthoujam Suranjit
Dhaka

New York, May 18, 2006

Mr. Zakir Hussain:

I am a lover of Indian classical music and in my life I many times heard both your father (such a great man!) and yourself playing tabla solo or accompanying another maestro both at huge public auditoria and in small gatherings. I really admire your touch on the tabla.

Now, your description of the art forms in India that will be staged at the World Music Institute has caught my attention. There are two demeaning paragraphs in the text that may offend not only the people who hail from Manipur (Imphal) but also some of your audience. I quote those two paragraphs below:

"The Manipur guys tie the drum to their body and then they play the drum and visually imitate the patterns of the drum," Hussain said.

"And now that I've convinced them that they should be traveling without their hunting knives, it's even safer," he said, with a laugh, alluding to myriad cultural challenges such a tour presents.

I am sure you meant the musicians of the tribe and not the Manipur guys who tie the drum to their bodies. I am equally sure that the members of the tribe do not openly walk around with hunting knives. In my experience, it might be good for you and your admirers (including me) if you could say a few words of apology for the inclusion of those two paragraphs in your text and explain it to the audience what you really meant. As a writer I know that there often slips between what you think and what you write, especially when you are in hurry

Last year I traveled to Kolkata with Air India. As we were about to land in Mumbai they started showing touristy ads on the big screen. Mumbai was the biggest city in India, Konarak is a must-see etc. And you know what they said about Kolkata? It is a great place for teas. Is it really? Kolkata is known only for cha? Air-India management never heard of Nobel Laureates Rabindra Nath Tagore and Amratya Sen, and Pandit Ravi Shankar, Ustad Vilayat Khan, Ustad Allah Rakha, Maestro Jamini Roy and, for that matter, Ustad Zakir Hussain? Do you think I liked the Air-India ad and the masters in their marketing department? It's your guess! Like me you are a Kolkatan at heart.

Sincerely
Amitava Dutta-Roy,
New York

Dear Zakir Hussain,

I hope you will give some careful thought to the way you belittled the artists from Manipur on your program in the recent interview. In referring to their knives as something thuggish and threatening and in describing their drumming dance as something freaky, it sounds like you might be trying to please a journalist looking for an easy way to box up the unfamiliar into sound bytes for the masses. You must surely know that generations of Manipuri artists have been developing their art for ages and we the audience are privileged to enjoy the fruits of this process. You should help to build them up, not knock them down. You are a great artist yourself, also from a long line of performers. I think all will be happy to hear your apology.

All the best with the show and your future.

Les Blank
Berkeley, Ca.

Hi Somi,

Being a US Southerner, I'm very familiar with rascist ugliness. I don't feel that Zakir's comments are quite as terrible as you say. Insensitive and a bit stupid, yes. But maybe he was tired and just trying to knock out some sound bytes to please the journalist interviewing him. I've done much worse in my less glorious days.

I think he and the public could benefit from a brief history of Manipuri culture and some encouragement to respect a strong and beautiful tradition, that's been holding its own just fine in the face of decades of constant effort to "corrupt" it.

Best,
Les Blank
Berkeley, California

Hey Somi,

How the hell are you? It has been way too long. The comments this jerkoff made is messed up. Nobody f**ks With Manipur!!!!!!!

Kieran Garvey
New York

hi somi

it is amazing that people who one imagines would be super-aware of the racism inherent in these comments can not only say them but have them published around the world!

i have a few friends in the academic world of asian/queer studies, etc to whom i will forward this.

best,
Ardlee Lister
New York

We were deeply concerned about the insensitive comments mad by Mr. Zakir Hussain concerning his musical colleagues and fellow artists from Manipur.

We hope you will draw his attention to the fact that sensitive people everywhere were offended by his offhanded & dismissive tone. He needs to apologize immediately and appropriately to the artists in question.

Thank you.
Mirra Bank
New York

Dear Mr. Husain,

I have read your comments on the web about your Manipuri drumming colleagues and I find them racist and defamatory. You owe a public apology to all of Manipur.

Rosalind Solomon
Artist
New York

Hi, Somi. Thank you for sending this to me. My note is included below, if you wouldn't mind forwarding it on for me. As a strange aside, I saw Zakir Hussain perform at Town Hall last year (?) with my Indian friend (the one who is from Bombay, married to the Brooklyn Irishman). His comments are appalling and sickeningly arrogant. I am imagining barely civilized, knife-wielding "natives" in loincloths being subdued into making music by the great Zakir Hussain, without whom they'd be sitting in the dirt, eating meat from a carcass and picking their teeth. Feel free to use my name. This guy should be ashamed of himself.

To Whom It May Concern:

I have enjoyed past performances of Zakir Hussain at Town Hall sponsored by the World Music Institute but I don't know that I can enjoy future performances after having read his recent comments in the Houston Chronicle. Zakir Hussain has done more damage with his words than all of the good he has done in bringing an appreciation of Indian music to world audiences.

He speaks of the Manipur Dancing Drummers with a complete lack of respect and an arrogance that is shameful. Perhaps he is channelling a British officer from occupied India? How ironic that he treats his peers from the "extreme" east and west as if they are only worthwhile because he has subdued them.

It will be impossible for me to attend this performance now that I've seen what is at the heart of it; a complete lack of understanding and an utter lack of appreciation for his fellow countrymen and musicians. A public apology is clearly in order.

Sincerely,
Erin Jurew
New York

Please express my dismay to Mr. Hussain at his thoughtless comments quoted in the Houston Chronicle concerning the Manipuri performers that will participate in his Saturday performance for the World Music Institute. His characterization of these people as backward and uneducated is certainly not my impression of the Manipuri, and his performers are due an apology.

Barbara Mayfield
New York

Dear World Music Institute and Mr. Browning,

I am concerned with Mr. Hussain's comments in the Houston Chronicle regarding his own drumming colleagues from Manipur. Mr. Hussain's own personal feelings of racism are not acceptable. Perhaps he was misquoted or misunderstood, in this case, it is equally important that he corrects this and apologizes for representing his colleagues and Manipur in this light. It is not a matter of being politically correct, but recognizing racism disguised in humor and saying it is not acceptable.

Thank you,
Amy Sharp
New York



* L. Somi Roy is a Manipuri-American arts curator living in New York.
This article was webcasted on 22nd May 2006.


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