Oct 27, 2011

Naga Music: Grand Finale of RockAware

by Al Ngullie

On October 15, Saturday, Dimapur District Sports Council stadium gasped as the musical hordes thronged to confirm the truth that music is to Nagas what land is to Naga villages. The most hyped musical event of the fall, RockAware 2011 – a rock music-driven anti-HIV-AIDS campaign of the Nagaland State AIDS Control Society (NSACS) – had 11 rock bands grunting and growling angrily for the Rs. 1 Lakh cash prize. Noisemakers from Dimapur, Avantgarde metal band Avancer, finally killed the competition for good.

Peddled hard by the NSACS ever since the competition took off months back with the district-level auditions, the final event was as noisy and entertaining as it was hilarious and often ridiculous. The bizarre joy only Naga crowds know how to do best.

As usual, the Nagas’ rich cultural tradition of late timing inaugurated the show. Scheduled to commence by 4:00PM the event took to the decibels only from around 5:30 PM. Hosted by the easygoing entrepreneur and veteran musician Theja Meru, the evening’s formalities commenced with the all too worn-out appeals of “are you ready, Dimapur?” The Are-You-Ready-Dimapur would, later on, turn out to be The Dream cafĂ© proprietor’s most powerful instrument to keep the impatient crowd occupied momentarily.  Just momentary enough for sound technicians and stagehands to escape with their endless sound-checks in between sets.

Who’s Who 

The trickle of people into DDSC stadium surged into a flood. ‘Music lovers’ of all sort and species began strutting in, making the best out of something that cost them nothing more than an auto-rickshaw ‘bhara’ to reach the venue. 

As is a common sight in Dimapur, underwear was the unofficial dress code for the evening. Chattering confidently and looking undefeatable, hundreds of enthusiastic youths walked into the venue dressed in their best underwear – boxers of all shape size and color.

Closely following the boxers, the stiletto addicts came. This lovely lot floated in – or rather wobbled in – braving the odd wolf whistling from somewhere in the crowd. Drudging through inches of dust, the lovely ones endured their spine-killing heels like true pros would – but clearly looking self-conscious wondering if some naughty areas of their thighs may have escaped the strict jurisdiction of their skirts.

As the grounds filled, the cream of the evening, perhaps, finally arrived. Dressed in bright yellow, Grammy winner Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt arrived, accompanied by  a  white-clad Nagaland Minister for Health, Kuzholuzo Neinu. The youths were interested only in the swanky black Chevrolet they drove in.

     (A glimpse from the grand finale of the RockAware concert in Dimapur, October 15, 2011)

Welcome to the Show  

By 6PM, the show was already grinding any ear that came within 1 mile radius of the stadium. Metalcore rockers from Dimapur, Melodrama, were one of the several guest artistes lined up to warm the crowd up before the roasting.

The band whipped out from the word ‘go’ in a 3-song set. Of course, Melodrama’s 5th member – the police siren – also performed in the band’s original ‘Restrain.’ The gathered youths head-banged their Koreans off as ‘Restrain’ unleashed their months’ worth of frustration at not having tasted any major entertainment freebies in Dimapur. Easily one of the finest and more professional-sounding metal bands in the state, Melodrama roasted an ear or two that evening.

After the roasting, came the strawberry cream. Lovely Naga Idol Renbeni Odyuo took the stage to soothe every smoking and burning ear. With two songs – one unidentified flying number and the other, Katy Perry’s ‘Hot n Cold’ did the youths in. The Naga Idol was accompanied by another of Dimapur’s finest groups, Incipit.

What she lacked in stage fire was more than compensated by her incredible vocal performance, especially on the Katy Perry hit. The crowd – mostly noise lovers – for once set aside their musical differences and did their best to join Odyuo in the chorus at least. After the hot and cold set from Melodrama and Odyuo, Theja Meru walked back on stage flashing a 100 watt grin that outshone the stagelights. One couldn’t blame the former Blood & Fire man for being joyous at the crowd’s response. ‘It’s a good start,’ the “Believe” songwriter thought as he grinned his ears to  shreds.

The growing population of boxers and Nagamese-warbling Korean youths added to the general chaos at the show. As part of the show, two youths, Temjen and a Nungshinaro also took time to share their experiences and push across their message of responsible sexual behavior. It was only then that realization dawned on  the crowd – no matter what noise,  they were still in an anti-HIV-AIDs program. The confusion was understandable considering one of the two persons actually began by saying “although it is not a very good moment to talk about HIV and AIDS…” In response, a confused Nagamese sentence rocketed out from somewhere in the crowd – “Ehhh? Itu HIV AIDS laka awareness program no hoi?”

Battle of the Grunts 

Eleven bands representing their respective districts performed a set of three songs each, including a rendition of the NSACS theme song for the campaign ‘I Care.’ The competing howlers grunted, moaned, groaned and ranted – almost all were metalcore or avantgarde bands (at least their songs sounded so). Backed loyally by huge guitars and even bigger drums, the excited Dimapur crowd never had a louder menu of rock music in the past 9 months. They leapt and hopped – adequately dressed in their metal fingers and gestures; grunted and shouted along with the choruses and made sure they also built human pillars and pyramids.

Fans at the front climbed on each others’ shoulders  before crashing down into the crowd, much to the delight of the gathered sweating mass of humanity.  Sprained ankles and twisted necks from the fall   is a totally  different story.

Another interesting aspect of the event was stage-diving. Fans cheered and romped as the more adventurous climbed the stage and dove into the crowd. Stage-diving  is  a tradition during rock shows across the world. In Nagaland if a fan bobbed his head or raised a metal salute during enjoying a song, there is always a danger of being thought you may be either a drunk or ‘Bosti.’ But now that RockAware has officially inaugurated  stage-diving, Naga fans can now do more than just bob heads without fearing if someone would ask them how many bottles they’d downed.

(A glimpse from the grand finale of the RockAware concert in Dimapur, October 15, 2011)

Condoms & Atomic Kittens

Adding to the joy of the evening, Bryan Adams and Atomic Kitten also performed for the crowd  – during the lengthy sound checks.  As Brian Adams sang “Those were the best days of my life,” blown balloons floated. It  delighted  the more liberal men but sent the women running for the nearest cover if one of the ‘sexy’ things landed on their  heads. The Atomic Kittens “Tide is High” brought out even more blown condoms, much to the chagrin of the irritated womenfolk.

Overall, the entire show was one of  high spirits –  bottled spirits,  that is. Notwithstanding the festivities, many youths were  seen lugging around the brown-red liquid in  nice   bottles. Many a Bleary-eyed and Nagamese-shouting warbler could be seen with cans of beer or bottles with contents that clearly indicated they were not black  tea or coffee.

Free and open use of alcohol during entertainment events remains a concern. In fact, just before the Dimapur edition of RockAware was lunched, a Media commentary in a local newspaper had pointed to the common, abundant and open use of alcohol during concerts.  Also, fulfilling the rich tradition of picking fights during concerts in Dimapur, a fight reportedly broke out at the gate of DDSC stadium. Security cleared people and vehicles from the area of crisis.

Anther highlight was Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt’s performance. Floating in with Indian classical and playing poetry on one of the sub-continent’s most celebrated musical instruments – the Mohan Veena – Pandit Bhatt had the crowd singing along – literally. For an instrumentalist, he successfully encouraged vocalizing the words ‘I Love You’ on one of his tunes.

And of course, as the Pandit rigged  his second song, the crowd turned to ‘Baba Black Sheep’ for comfort from the soundcheck. At one point the soundcheck was so prolonged that many fans even reached Christmas – they all started singing ‘Jingle Bells’ and ‘Merry Christmas.’

After the festive chaos, fans returned home happier while winner Avancer, of Dimapur, 2nd runner-up Tears of Judas of Tuensang and 3rd runner-up Anti-Trust of Zunheboto, went home richer and heavier with the rupees.

(All photographs by Sorei Mahong)

1 comment:

  1. Let the good Rock rule !
    Paul C.Lalchungnunga
    Zarkawt Aizawl