KANGLASHA: THE ROCKING ANIMAL IS READY TO SPEW FIRE
"When the dragon rises from its slumber
The new sun will brighten the summer..."
If the people of Manipur had been longing to sight the re-emergence of Kanglasha, they can truly watch the coming of the mythical animal with the reincarnated persona. But there is caution one should exercise: Be prepared to face the loudest shrieking by a woman from a band of fearless fighters. Ladies and gentlemen, it is time to raise the curtain! Watch how they will be howling and belting out numbers from their debut album Pakhangba. Whether or not the sound they produce hits your sensibilities depends on the direction where the arrow of the musical compass in you points at. Look at the impressive line up. The one with the smoking guitar is Mantosh, axing the bass is Sen, Surjeet synthesizes the sound, behind the roaring drums is Chingkhei and the leading frontwoman is the unmistakable Tukun.
The genesis of Kanglasha:
Kanglasha is a band from Imphal, formed in 2007. So what is their unique selling point apart from invoking the spirit of the legendary animal, well, they are experimenting with a new sound and their new found love for the mother tougue. Their debut album called Pakhangba is an answer to to their toil and struggle to give the ultimate voice to the voiceless statues of the Kanglasha that have for so long dotted and guarded the Kangla, the most concrete, sacred and profane space of the Meitei cosmology.
Kanglei puwareeda yeklamba
Cheising matam yaorakle
Meetam lakladee nahakna
-- Lyrics from Pakhangba - Kangleipak
That is not all, they have many more ideas that might find resonance with the many upcoming and discerning music audience in contemporary times. "The idea behind our debut album and the band was influenced by the fact that the Manipur of today is dogged by so many issues, social, political and economic. And we find that most of these issues are not said loud enough. So, just like the helpless children of Manipur, we are appealing to the all potent progenitor Pakhangba to come back and establish his reign once again," say all the members of the band in one voice.
|L-R: Sen, Tukun, Mantosh, Chingkhei
Bass, Vocals, Guitar, Drums
The songs from the album Pakhangba possess lyrics that any average Manipuri will find serious enough to ponder upon. Most lyrics are based on hard realities and issues faced by the people of Manipur today. "We have dedicated the album to Ima Manipur. The idea behind the album was triggered by the situations we see today in Manipur. Most of the songs reflect the helplessness of the people of Manipur and their quest for an audience with Pakhangba and the people making a plea to the great Pakhangba to intervene on their behalf." says Mantosh. "Of the eight songs, four were penned by Mantosh and the remaining four were written by others. Three of the lyrics were the work of Jiten Ningombam. We composed the music." Sen says.
The Early Days:
They may have found a destination but all the band members of Kanglasha took different routes and had different tastes of music. Mantosh and Sen are former members of the erstwhile rock band the Red Devils. The duo bring in their experience to Kanglasha. But no one can escape noticing the inimitable Tukun, former lead vocal and female lead singer of the band Ex-Cannibals. Each of the band members were intoduced to music via different routes and they all ended up loving hard rock and heavy metal bands of the 1980s and the new crop of dead metal outfits that are doing the rounds in cotemporary world. Despite the common love for the contemporary, all of them have different stories to tell.
Tukun - A study in contrast:
Perhaps, Tukun's story is the most unlikely yet real in Manipur. "I grew up learning singing as we come from a musically inclined family. My father taught me Rabindra Sangeet, Bhakti songs and semi-classical Indian music. I was an approved artiste (Hindustani Vocal) of the All India Radio, Imphal. As a child, I began loving stage performances", says Tukun who is also a practising lawyer.
In fact, while in Manipur as a child, Tukun was not introduced to rock music and she began listening to rock ballads only when she started pursuing her studies at Ahmedabad. She says, "While in Ahmedabad, I used to take part in college festivals and even participated in singing competitions in Gujarati and Hindi. It was one of my friends who introduced me to western and rock music. And I was fortunate to have began listening to rock bands like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. I was really inspired when I saw videos of these bands performing live acts".
Mantosh & Sen - The Leads:
Unlike her, the lead guitarist Mantosh grew up on heavy diets of hard rock and heavy metal music. By 1989-90, He was a member of the then very popular band called the Red Devils and the Ex-Cannibals. Sen too had a similar experience. Both of them began to closely follow the works of Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Scorpions and numerous other hard rock and heavy metal bands. They are self-taught musicians and had never been to a music school. Matosh is heavily influenced by the guitar god Steve Vai while Sen finds inspiration in the works of bassist like Steve Harris of Iron Maiden. They have had numerous live performances to their credit. At the individual level, members of the band Pakhangba had performed with Aurora Jane, Pin Drop Violence from outside Manipur and many others local acts.
"One of the most memorable of these live performances in the recent times we can recall, was a concert at Mandalay, Myanmar. We went there during the Burmese water festival or the Burmese New Year celebration. Before we went on the stage, the people who had come to watch the show poured and sprayed water on us. When we asked why were they doing that, they said that we were being cleansed of all our past sins. We were elated and completely drenched when we started performing for the overwhelming crowd" recalls Mantosh. Another memorable experience was at the Alcheringa, 2009-IIT Guwahati Festival. There were around 24 bands contesting for the top slot. We were one of the last five finalists and also won the best drummer prize", says Sen.
Current Trends of Rock Music in Manipur:
The band members are concerned with the way current trends of rock music in Manipur is progressing. "Why is it, inspite of possessing the talent, we can not come out of Manipur and enter the world scenario or for that matters even the Indian stage. I think we have to be prepared and work hard to achieve something beyond Manipur." says Mantosh. He reflects and says, "We are not sure whether it is a question of genre or something else. If you look at the trend, there had been very good Heavy Metal, Hip-Hop and R&B talents in Manipur. Recent bands had been influenced a lot by Dead Metal too. But as a region, the Northeast is doing well if we count the contributions made by groups and individuals. In recent times there had been the annual Roots Festival organised by people from Shillong and the Horbill Festival organized by the Nagaland government. Since these events provide platforms to old and new talents, the scnario looks quite encouraging".
Utlasee apunba thounaa
Nganhanlasee maalem sinthung
Mikup adutanee ngaireeba Emmana
-- Lyrics from Pakhangba - Punshinba
"Whatever is said and done, we as members of Kanglasha have been able to crossed a barrier, that is singing in our own language. I think it was this language barrier that perhaps created a generation gap in Manipur. Now, even the older generation who are not familiar with rock music can understand our lyrics and they infact have started listening to our songs" says Tukun emphasising on the fact that it was indeed fulfilling to sing in one's own langauge as people can have better ways of expressing themselves. The members of Kanglasha also take note of the fact that in an increasingly connected world via the internet and new technology, they can learn what is happening around the world of music and also get a chance to further hone their skills and spread out to share their kind of music with the world. It is just that they have to live with the harsh social realities of Manipur today.
"There are situations where we can not go out of our own homes due to poilitical and social unrests and these come as obstacles on our way like wishing for staging a concert or performing far away from home." says Mantosh. But the bright side of the story is that having a frontwoman in the band has been quite an interesting experience. Tukun says, "There was a time when people did not take female lead singers of a rock band seriously as rock bands had been associated with all things negative and stereotypical aspects of youth. Now, I think people have accepted that rock music is not always about doing drugs and being a deviant. Along the way, I want to set an example. I am a practising lawyer. I take both my professions very seriously. I think this will also narrow the gender gap in rock music in the long run. At the end of the day, I am what I am and I will continue to sing".
The optimistic spirit of Kanglasha is soaring as high as the blue sky. So too are the expectations of the discerning rock music lovers. Kanglasha band members have tried their best to bridge a gap between popularity and hidden talents, between languages, between genres and between experiences. Some had tried the same formula before and had been quite successful in different sense. Will the people get what they expect? Only time will tell. Till then, like the band members of Kanglasha, we also cross our fingers and continue to pray to the Great spirit of Pakhangba for a bright future ahead for all His children, children of the socially, politically and economically damned.
Lead Singer: Tukun Chongtham
Lead Guitarist: Mantosh Thokchom
Bassist: Sen Thokchom
Keyboard: Surjit Kshetri
Drum: Chingkhei Nongthonbam
This artist's sub-site was last updated on 05th June 2009.