Top 5 songs to awaken your inner patriot

Ranjan Yumnam *

Picking the top five patriotic Manipuri songs is no easy task or doesn’t even seem like a good idea. At best, it’s like trying to catch the best fish from Loktak Lake using only a Lunghup. The finest might escape and the ones that are caught might not be good enough. But as we know, if there is no pain, there is no gain, no guess, and what--no music.

With this face-saving and self-serving disclosure, I have roped in Youtube as my assistant to select the 5 best patriotic songs in the Manipuri language that might resonate, especially during the difficult times we are currently facing. But this is not to say these songs are all about Manipur.

These are songs that you can listen to from your AirPods while globetrotting in flight mode, 3000 ft above ground if you so wish. They will sound nostalgic, relevant, and heartfelt wherever you happen to be (unless you are tone-deaf or drowning in deep sea).

Imagine having coffee at a Starbucks Cafe in London; one of these songs is sure to pull the patriotic strings of your heart and transport you to your birthplace, evoking a sense of homesickness amid the worldly glitz and sensations competing for your attention.

The second condition of the list is that none of the songs is identified with any ethnic group, except for the medium of language–showing that music has a cosmopolitan soul and is not affiliated to any particular culture. Yet, patriotic songs are cardinal to our sense of social identity or the moral universe of our roots.

The roots of music grow and intertwine with our humanity and become a language reverberating from heart to heart through ear to ear. Music transcends clans, tribes, classes, flags or any imagined ingroup. Here, I want to issue a word of caution. Which is, my personal taste may colour the selection of the songs in the list as music is a subjective experience, a happily lucky fact that may have unintended high points.

Wordsmiths call this phenomenon serendipity. One such serendipitous benefit of my list is open a reader to new music, tastes, ideas and vistas of artistic creations and add to the repertoire of her already rich musical bibliography.

Again, music has a way of surprising us. Without understanding a word and oblivious to the mechanics of how the rhythms, notes and octaves interact with each other, music may move you out of your inertia by its sublime nature.

Good music endangers you with its spirituality yet embraces you warmly with the promise of resolution of all the sensual tensions in a final harmony. Without fur- ther ahem, hello and testing, let's embark on a musical journey to cherish the following patriotic songs:

Song No. 5: Poknapham Ima, written and sung by Devia Kshetrimayum

The premise of this song is simple yet so profound. The main message in the beautiful lyrics is to remind us we are blind to what is so obviously lying in front of our eyes and by extension to say that the only wisdom we need for our society to survive and fight off the challenges is hiding in plain sight. Seeking it is simple.

We need not travel far, we need only to take the first step to look around our familiar territory, explore it, trace the roots of our history by unearthing the crucial clues and treasures left by our ancestors.

Warning that tomorrow may be too little too late and the opportunities may have already been missed, the song is a call to arms for immediate action to revive the past heritage. It’s a song to awaken us out of our slumber to look at our history lying neglected in the backyard for guidance to live forward.

Khangdabasing khang-houro,
Tadabasing tahouro,
Palem magi paotakni,
Eegi mari kaophade,
Pu lambithirase, hayengi phaangnade,
Puwari tarase, hayengtage taphade

Song No. 4 : Eigi Puchel Tappi sung by Ramesh Heigrujam

Ramesh knows how to weave patriotism into a special song that will outlive some of us. Though a fresh talent, he manages to make this song dripping in the pathos of love for our motherland. He paints a picture of our mother State, switching between low and high notes to crescendos--reminding us stanza after stanza how lucky we are to be born in her garden. The gifts she bestows us are many and beyond any gratitude.

We are her children living together in the plains and mountains, the abode of the rich flora and fauna, sparkling rivers and streams, the home of Sangai, the sacred Koubru and Thangjing hills. When I first listened to the song, it sent chills down my spine, asking myself, “What was that?” The message is loud and clear. We are blessed to have a perfect motherland, which makes our charmed lives possible filling our existence with motherly warmth and love.

Declaring that we are forever indebted to her, the song pledges martyrdom to protect her from all challenges thrown at her, no matter the cost and bring the pride she deserves. Taking the poignancy to its height, the song ends with the promise to hoist the mother’s multi-coloured flag and let it fly in freedom to the envy of the heavens and sky by the sheer glow of its radiance.

As long as we breathe, we will not allow any force to keep her oppressed, suppressed and subjugated, dear kind and loving Ima. Sample the following lines for yourself:

Ningthibi nungi leikolda,
Mapok kaya hanna hanna pokchage,
Nungidmak sijage,
Paihallamge konungi machunaiba phiralse,
Atiyana ikaisanu masek mangal danungi.

Song No. 3: Mikap Thoklo by Ajoy Keisham and Satyajit Athokpam

This is a hit in this list. Sung powerfully, the lyrics and the tune complement each other. The varying tenor, pitch and sonatas are all there, all artful pieces of musical cheers going crazy with passion. The song is a clarion call to the Bravehearts of the land to defend her by waking up and standing up to the siege laid by the enemies.

Whether the aggression is a battle over raw power, resources, ideas or cultures, it can be interpreted in myriad ways. What is important is the symbolism it evokes : patriotic masculinity in the service of a feminine progenitor of Manipur. Everything is fair in war and love.

Mikap Thoklo pushes patriotism to its extreme edges, explosively—by using evocative words like avenging, territory marking, and trumpeting the victory bugle from across the border. This song really injects your mind and body with energy and thrill. It is patriotism on steroids. Could be Rated R for graphic description:

Langi lanbung yeirare,
Huithou labaching phelle,
Lairen labayaowolle,
Mikap thoklo athouba,
Leimai chonna epakse,
Yeknabagi ekhengna thalhallo
Leiyi ama chingduna,
Hairam kholao aramkho,
Sana leibak Kangleipak.

Song No. 2: Liklaiba written and sung by Preeti Yumnam

Preeti Yumnam is a genre in herself. Her signature is the poetic lyrics that put soul into lifeless ink. Whenever I listen to her songs, it somehow makes me feel that the songs and singer were made for each other as a result of some unexplainable cosmic plan.

Her language is pretty and quaint and has that rare ability to transport you to an imaginary place where the flutes play only second fiddle to the royal poetess who rules the realm armed with only words. It's a triumph of beauty over brute force. The words call all the shots in a touching tone rivalled only by its softness.

Her dulcet vocals further add zing to her talent to sing in a rare female vocal range, which the music aficionados define as contra-alto. In plain English, she is gifted with unusual voice that heightens the emotional power of the music and can make it all effortless and natural. Silky, husky and soft, by turns.

Liklaiba song shows flashes of mother-son relationship, brings into musical bursts the intimate and caring sentiments held tight by a mother for her prodigal sons. There comes a time when the sons grow up and are raring to face the world, impishly disobedient but driven by bravado and youthful optimism.

In this song, the worried mother asks for divine blessings to protect her sons from all harm during the war and give them strength and courage. In one poignant moment, when the spirited son sets out to join the war, the foreboding mother can’t bring herself to watch her handsome child, who is now dressed in combat fatigues, proudly demonstrating his skilful mastery of the sword inherited from his uncles.

The mother further besieges the spirits “Close the Gates to the Underworld and return them safely to their mother.” Whenever the will seems to give up, she tells her son to remember:

Waraklaba matamda,
Ima leiri kaoganu,
Nungna lambi khangdrakanda,
Ima hainakourak-u,
Houna laona khummakke,
Pari lambimagkhinu,
Tekta kaida hallak-u

Song No. 1: Kanada Sinnani Firal Ase written by MK Binodini

The top spot in our list is a classic written by the household name of Manipuri arts and literature, MK Binodini. Though Imasi wrote many lyrics, too numerous to count, the song Kanada Sinani Firaal Ase stands out as arguably the most timeless of her patriotic oeuvre.

This song has all the makings of greatness resulting from the confluence of collaborative excellence in one patriotic trance: lyrics penned by RK Binodini herself, tune composed by noted filmmaker Aribam Syam Sharma and song rendered by talented Roop Raag artists.

What more could one ask for ?
Kanada Sinnani Firal Ase, without exaggerating, is comparable to an imaginary song written by Sarojini Naidu, composed by RD Burman and vocalized by Arijit Singh et al. Such is the breath of genius squeezed in one creative work. That a song exists in Manipur of such a fine quality—of art preening itself at its best is pure luck for us.

Kanada Sinnani Firalse works because it uses multi-layered symbolism. In the song, our flag stands for a heavy moral burden that falls on the shoulders of society's stewards in every generation. The society needs leadership from the stewards. MKB wonders whether the new generation has what it takes and is ready for the task.

Though she has done her part, she is doubly worried as the twilight of life closes in upon her. Can the young people give their lives in defence of the flag? Will their zeal endure? Binodini struggles to find the answers by frequenting her make-believe home for comfort. In a lyrical dialogue with the future pillars, her anxieties are finally addressed and resolved.

The enthusiastic young people answered with a thumping gusto, dispelling Binodini’s doubts. The rest of the lyrics and almost a hundred others are put together in a book titled Isei Binodinigi edited by A Syam Sharma and Chongtham Kamala and published by IMASI foundation. In Kanada Sinnani Firal Ase, the strong response of the youths to the song’s leitmotif is both delightful and reassuring.

Nillakakle, nillakle maikei marida,
Nouraba angangna wagi khonjelna,
Laorakle nouriba makhoina,
Eikhoi leiri (2) leiri kaoganu

BONUS LINE : Finally, all good things must come to an end. If you are not happy with the order of this top 5 list, turn it into a circle. Sounds good, huh

* Ranjan Yumnam wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on May 08 2024.

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