Oct 12, 2012

Nagaland Music Awards 2012: The Winners

On Friday, October 12, the winners of the 4th annual Nagaland Music Awards were not even locally-known names but new musicians with new tastes and new talents to display. 

Familiar names such as Alobo Naga and The Tetseo Sisters failed to land any music trophies but newcomer Vizho Thakro took away two awards, one for Best Gospel Song and another for best sound engineering.

The fourth edition of the low-profile but persistent annual awards for Naga musicians was organized by Native Trax this time and was held at the Imliyanger Memorial Hall in Dimapur. Commissioner & Secretary of Tourism Himato Zhimomi was the chief guest of the event that saw more than score audio and video nominations from various musicians.

This year’s awards were for Best Rock/Metal song, Best Pop song, Best Gospel song, Best Hip-hop/Rap/R&B song and Best Folk/Fusion song. Peripheral awards included one each for best sound engineer, producer, video director, music video and Song of the year. Likewise, there were the Trailblazer Award and the Patron Award.

Rongsen Longchari was awarded the Song of the Year Award for ‘Prayer,’ a rap/pop number, while The Tetseo Sisters and Alobo Naga were given the Trail Blazer Award for their contribution to the local music scene.   

The Tetseo Sisters and Alobo Naga were acknowledged with the award for their efforts that encouraged music and musicians in the art. Also, Commissioner Himato Zhimomi was acknowledged with the Patron Award for contribution to music in Nagaland.  

The Best Gospel Award was given to Vizho Thakro for his Angami number ‘A Khawahie Yi.’ The song would also go on to win the Best Sound Engineering, to sound engineer C Teeya Imsong of Tribes Music and Media Lab.  The Best Music Video Award went to hip-hop group Still Rhyming for their song ‘Give Peace a Chance.’ Charles Crezen Topno was named the Best Video Director for ‘Give Peace a Chance’ by Still Rhyming.

The Best Producer Award went to M&M Mediaworks for ‘Life Goes On’ by Imli Lee AKA Dejavu. In the folk/fusion category Alem Alia Jamir & Ethnic Team won the Best Folk Fusion Song Award for their song ‘Live A Better Life’. Alem Alia Jr and Kenei Chale also won the Best Pop Song Award. 

In the rap/hip-hop category, rapper Imli Lee AKA Dejavu took the award for Best Rap/Hip-Hop Song with his heartbreak song ‘Life Goes On’. Benathung Humtsoe won the Best Soft/Alternative Song for his track “On The Right Track” while rockers Cadence won the Best Rock/Metal Award for their song ‘Journey of Life.’ 

The award winners also performed during the event. Later after the awards ceremony Nagaland's rock band Divine Connection took the stage to perform 'El Roi' (From their album 'El Roi', 2008), Petra's 'I'm on the Rock' (from 'Beyond Belief', 1990) and an unidentified original. Another local musician Yangs Jamir performed as curtains to the 4th Nagaland Music Awards.   

Oct 4, 2012

Naga Orpheus Hunt 2012: 18 singers waiting for the Pink music slip

The ‘recording round’ of ongoing music talent hunt Naga Orpheus Hunt 2012 has thrown up many interesting surprises – the contestants are much younger and hungrier; host Arenla Lemtur is pregnant (or she forgot to go on a diet this year); member of the Dorians Club are getting rounder and rounder; former winner of the show Moanungsang Jamir has become the talent show’s cameraman and judge Tali Angh still hasn’t discovered the glorious practice of shaving. Facial areas, that is. 

And so there they were: 13 hopefuls vying to be called the next Naga Orpheus winner trying to impress the eagle ears of Media entertainment craftswoman Ate Kevichusa, local singing hero Nise Meruno and musician/school proprietor Tali Angh. The ‘recording round’ was held in the mini-theater of recreation center Highway 39 on Wednesday, October 3 in Dimapur. From the next round on, many of the contestants would be dropped like hot bricks from the Dorians Club-organized event. Only 6 would qualify for the semis. The rest shall come under the Nagaland Retirement Act. 

And so the afternoon started. The contestants were there looking their best for the video camera. The show would be landing on the small screens in Nagaland in a week or two. So they have had to look good.

Then there were the judges: Kevichusa was all tiny, round, pink and lovely; Meruno was all yellow hair but minus his trademark crotch-killing tight pants while the quiet-talking Angh looked on gloriously in his usual trusty beard. Highway 39’s mini-theater was also packed with members of the main organizers, the Notun Basti-based Dorians Club. Then there was the tamul-devouring Media people and anxious well-wishers who accompanied the contestants.

Further, there was this motley crew of sweating, bag-eyed, camera-toting and finger-signaling film crew led by rocker-turned-Naga-Idol-winner-turned-NGO-Activist-turned-Restaurateur-turned-Video-Technician-turned-something-else Moanungsang. In the midst of the hustle bustle, the nerve-wracked young contestants could be seen fighting a losing battle against panic attacks. The sinister video cameras in front of them only aggravated their condition.    

And so the show began. Judging by the look on the audience’s faces and the comments passed by the judges, the young singers’ performances fell into roughly 3 distinct groups: the Good, the Bad and the WTF. Of course, Miss Kevichusa and Mr. Meruno were diplomatically acidic at regular intervals. They usually killed the offending singers lovingly. On the other hand, Mr. Angh was generally mild, sweet and caring. He normally began his critique by saying mild, caring and sweet things before strangling the offending singer.

Among the contestants Wapang Longkumer of Mokokchung looked like he had all the makings of a real star. The smoky-voiced Longkumer took The Beatles’ 1970 classic ‘Let It Be’ by the neck, kissed it with his heart and flung it to the judges who had no choice but be bowled over. 

In fact, even female Simon Cowell Kevichusa and Meruno began sniffling noisily into their handkerchiefs at the heart-wrenching performance from the young Longkumer. Wapang’s performance was perhaps one of the evening’s highlights after another favorite Thunglamo failed to impress the judges in a prior performance. Another contestant, Houvino took on a big, big song – Aretha Franklin’s ‘Son of a Preacher Man’. She was a tad nervous, pitchy at times and shy but performed a passionate rendition of the classic to win the confidence of the judges. But not entirely of course – Miss Cowell was not convinced although Meruno’s eyes appeared suspiciously shiny. Angh was diplomatic but OKAY-ed pretty Hovino’s attempt.   

There was also a moment during the show that proved more interesting than music: One of the contestants, Temsuyapang, was abruptly summoned off the stage after the videographers discovered that the poor man’s forehead was shining gloriously either from oil or nervous sweat. Sensing the danger the shining forehead could pose to television imaging, the official Naga Orpheus make-up artist was swiftly summoned to exterminate the offending shine. The makeup artist quickly beautified the shiny man with some strange, colored powder of some sort. When he returned to the stage, Temsuwapang looked like he was ready to say “Take Care” as a tribute to Garnier men’s fairness cream. All’s fair in fair and love, you see. Sadly, the Fair & Lovely encouragement did not help his performance that much when he took on The Script’s ‘Break Even’ (from Breakeven, 2008).

Another surprise of the event was Yenwang Konyak who casually strutted on the stage for Blake Shelton’s Grammy-nominated ‘Honeybee’ (from Red River Blue, 2011). Armed with good diction, sober nonchalance and quiet confidence, Konyak seduced the judges. Sadly, the response would not be so warm for many of the evening’s singers who left the stage dreading whether they would at all survive the main rounds. But then, that’s a decision only the voting cards would make later. 

The Morung Express, October 3, 2012

Sep 19, 2012

You're Chord-ially invited to Green Music

The evening of September 18 at Nagaland’s Bamboo Resource Center in Dimapur’s 6th Mile was as lovely as the people who thronged the concert – bamboo growers, bamboo shoot lovers and of course, young lovers hiding among bamboo shoot clusters. Even the tall bamboos swaying in the centre’s plantation looked green with envy.  

For a district known more for bloody shootings than bamboo shoots, the gala marking World Bamboo Day for Dimapur was a respite from the daily torment of strife and violence, crime and general administrative inaptitude citizens continue to endure. For on Tuesday, at the Nagaland Bamboo Resource Center, citizens celebrated the one natural resource that has always been inextricably associated with their cultural history – bamboo, the green gold.

The evening was definitely wonderful – pot-bellied foodies attacking the bamboo shoot curry stalls, high-heeled beautifies trying to walk like proper humans, raunchy lovers and rowdy children and of course sweating Nagaland government bureaucrats. After a long day of protocol, the government had finally realized that a concert would be the ultimate dessert. 

The Nagas’ rich cultural tradition of speeches also took part. Thankfully, HK Khulu, Additional Principal Secretary and Mission Director of Nagaland Government’s bamboo mission, wisely decided that a long speech would definitely result in rioting. So after one paragraph of words, he “launched” what was touted to be “India’s first ever bamboo electric guitar.” The host for the evening wasn’t satisfied: So he repeatedly kept announcing “world’s first bamboo electric guitar” or something in that nature if one heard it right. 

Anyhow, like any true pork-blooded Naga, the official decided to try his hand at the bamboo guitar, which looked like a cross between an albino ESP and a Parker. Anyhow Mr. Khulu plugged in the instrument and played in quick succession what sounded similar to the riff on Deep Purple’s classic ‘Smoke on the Water.’ Suddenly, the official’s performance was over – his performance with the guitar lasted exactly 5 seconds.

Undergrounds, friends and enemies

After the meteoric performance from Khulu, Kohima’s Original Fire Factor (OFF) took to the stage. The protest rockers (or at least they once were) ran into a nice little technical snag which lasted at least half-an-hour of sound check. They played a set that included acid jazz star Jamiroquai’s hit ‘Deeper Underground’ and OFF’s own ‘Mr. Selfish.’ The two big rockers somewhat brought to senses some of the citizens who’d fainted after demolishing one too many plates of bamboo shoot pickles from the stalls. 

Nagaland rock bands
 (An ecstatic illegal Bangladeshi Immigrant rocks to Queen's 'Bohemian Rhapsody' (I think) while Dimapur's bosti crazy population looks on during the World Bamboo Day concert on Sept 18, Dimapur. Photo: Manen Aier) 

The next to come was the bamboo guitar itself – looking all new, glossy and apparently stricken by excessive Fair & Lovely cream application. A group formed from the bamboo mission’s own employees took the stage to play an awesomely sloppy rendition of ‘Friends,’ from American guitar god Joe Satriani’s 1992 album ‘The Extremist.’ The instrumental got off to a good start but started to make some enemies among the audience when tonal breaks, off beats and embarrassing half notes began spilling from the bamboo guitar. The band wasn’t a professional group anyhow, so while ‘Friends’ made some enemies, the audience generally forgave the group in the true spirit of Naga Unity, Peace and Reconciliation. 

Next in line was ‘Nagagenis’ a group of musicians with bamboo musical instruments as their base. Poor sound denied the audience full enjoyment. Nagagenis was followed by an upstart called Ronnie Odyuo –rumored to be Naga Idol Renbeni Odyuo’s baby sister.  The nervous little thing put up a brave voice and walked through American singer Adele’s hit single ‘Someone Like You’ for a generally-OK performance. 

Then the “male voice” group, Zowie Madrigal, came led by local music hero, music teacher and Governor’s Award recipient Nise Meruno. The group has been receiving some space in the Media for this and that; naturally expectations ran high. Then something unthinkable not even Nise Meruno’s lucky yellow tight pants could prevent, happened: A painfully faulty start to R Kelly’ classic ‘I Believe I can Fly.’ Tongues clicked, heads bowed and temples massaged in embarrassment for the not-so-cool start. 

Some pitchy notes and sloppy lows trailed all the way to the chorus. An overrated Zowie Madrigal perhaps; some in the audience thought loudly that the group would work on being worthy of the Media attention they have been receiving. Thankfully, the bad notes began to fade when a medley came up – Hindi pop and English rock married as the audience rejoiced. Although the medley sounded somewhat abrupt, whimsical and far-fetched to be convincing to serious listeners, the performance nonetheless, was rousing and the audience rejoiced.  

After Zowie Madrigal, two dance performances came on from two unidentified flying youths. For some reason the stage lighting appeared a bit bosti and few actually made out what was happening on stage except for blurred, frantic movements of legs and limbs. The confusion ceased when a musical comedy by theatre group ‘Dreamz Unlimited’ began their performance to rip-roaring laughter from the gathered population. The musical was a single narrative but acted out in comic sub-themes to illustrate some of the Naganess craziness Nagas are known for. The comedy had a Dimapur town hero toughie that talked big and ran even faster; an Illegal Bangladeshi Immigrant who rocked to Queen; two Dev Anand-era lovers chasing each other around bamboo clusters and yes, even two aliens from Saturn.

All in all the evening was pleasant; the concert was okay. But the bamboo shoot pickles were the best. 

Nagaland’s bamboo guitar: off-tuned for the prize

Bad news. Very bad news. It definitely won’t be music to the ears of Nagaland rock bands and music fans: The recently showcased “world’s first bamboo guitar” in Dimapur “launched”  on September 18 during World Bamboo Day in Dimapur is in fact neither the “world’s first bamboo electric guitar” nor “India’s first bamboo electric guitar” in any case. There are no more prizes to claim in either the electric or acoustic category as well.   

In commemoration of World Bamboo Day, Nagaland Bamboo Development Agency organized a gala at the Nagaland Bamboo Resource Center at 6th Mile in Dimapur on September 18 where an electric guitar with bamboo body and neck, was introduced repeatedly as “World’s first bamboo guitar” and/or “India’s first bamboo guitar.”  Some from the local Media had also hyped the instrument as being “world’s first Bamboo guitar” and so on.   

Musical instruments made of bamboo are neither a new nor a recent manufacturing idea, and the contemporary guitar has not escaped found exception. For years now, iconic performance-brands such as Fender and Yamaha and sound gadget producers like ToneRider have manufactured guitars made of bamboo. Likewise, in 2011, IIT Delhi students also created a bamboo electric guitar during the institute’s Open House in New Delhi. Amateur guitar makers haven’t been far behind in showing off their “bamboo guitars” for long now. YouTube and forums boast quite a number of the bamboo pushers. 
bamboo guitar, bamboo picks, bamboo guitar neck, bamboo guitar cabinet

American giant Fender has even a telecaster called the Fender Lambo Telecaster “the Bamboo caster,” an electric solid body that comes with a single-coil pickup and a 2-tone. So does Yamaha, with its Bamboo Guitar FG B1, a hollow. There are also bamboo replicas of Gibson’s popular models. That’s not all though. The music market is full of bamboo plectrums, disassembled necks and bodies, cases and cabinets and tops.

Bamboo is light and strong, if processed, and its Eco-friendly image and versatility remain undisputed. However, the material’s longevity and gestation-to-processing drawbacks are one of the basic reasons guitar makers still prefer top-end wood (called ‘Tone woods’) such as rosewood, mahogany and Maple to make guitar necks and body, either electric or acoustic, solid, hollow or semi hollow.

(Right: The Bamboo Electric Guitar. Photo/Manen Aier) 

Highly-processed bamboo fiber can lend a degree of credibility to the quality (such as Yamaha’s acoustic Guitar FG B1) of a ‘bamboo guitar’ but the process apparently isn’t viable for a market that still thrives on durable, highly-processed, qualified and tested materials. Naturally – no pun – manufactures still prefer Brazilian rosewood, Indian rosewood, mahogany, walnut, ash and maple than bamboo. The reason is simple: the quality of any guitar’s sound (especially that of the acoustic) is defined primarily by the nature, make and test of its base source i.e., the wood, in this case. Bamboo seems to be lacking in that area. Interestingly Yamaha has discontinued its bamboo FGB1 model.

Thankfully, bamboo or not, music is still music. And as long as bamboo guitars don’t start flowering in the middle of a song, let music bloom! 

(The Morung Express, September 19, 2012)

Jul 22, 2012

Rock Instrumental First for Naga Rockers

This is for the data addicts: Manen Jamir becomes the third Naga musician following the Nagas’ own classical guitar pioneer Renthungo Merry (or more popularly ‘Ren Merry’) and recent acoustic guitarist Imlitemjen Imchen, to produce a full instrumental guitar music album.

Also, for winning the ‘third prize,’ Manen gets a bonus: He becomes the first rock guitarist from Nagaland with a rock guitar instrumental album. The axeman released his debut album ‘Days of a New Dawn,’ on Saturday, July 21 in Dimapur. Now he has got two bragging rights. Bragging is good for belt – if it’s where achievements are hung, actually.

The quietly confident, Speak-2-Words-Every-One-Hour and 5-inches tall Manen Jamir has come a long way – a distance farther than most hand-to-mouth rock musicians in “Rock Capital of India” could possibly ride, in fact. On Saturday evening, the highway to musical hell finally got pissed at the determined young man and threw him into Café Destination.

So there it was – Manen Jamir’s big night. After years of lack, toil and muck, his teenage dream had finally come true. ‘Days of a New Dawn’ was released by a happily-grinning Additional Chief Secretary Imlitemshi Jamir (… ‘Jamir’ kin ya aika liramai a ja na…). Competing with chief guest Mr. Alemtemshi Jamir’s smile were Manen’s proud parents and friends, well-wishers and fellow musicians. 

(Photo: Guitarist Manen Jamir)   

In the beginning…

There was a lot of waiting. For an event that was all about speed and complex finger runs, the chief guest was all Tortoise this time. He came in nearly two hours late of the scheduled program, set at 5:30 PM. While waiting for the Additional Chief Secretary to arrive, discussions turned from music in Nagaland to political issues, from the price of pork in Kohima to extortion. Finally, everyone agreed unanimously that Café Destination had a great ceiling – so they all began to stare at it. Some counted the fans.
Then the chief guest, Mr. Jamir, arrived – apologizing profusely. He was in a meeting with government officials. All forgiven and forgotten, the evening began with Church leader Rev. Toshi Longchar who said The Invocation while another prominent church leader of the Ao community, Rev. Lanu Longchar dedicated the album.

Speaking to the gathering after releasing the album, Alemtemshi Jamir – also Development Commissioner of the State – recalled his youth. Those days, he explained, the guitar Gods were in the like of Blues legends Chet Atkins and Eric Clapton. He expressed happiness that Manen Jamir had marked a notched for the music community in Nagaland. “The best thing” about the album, Jamir explained, is that “it makes your heart glad.” 

According to Jamir, one of the State’s top officials, the industry of music and the culture of economics must ‘merge’ if at all Nagas are to make a living out of producing music. For the phenomenon to be, Jamir explained, there has to be peace and economic development at all levels: “We have to have economic development; we have to have peace; we have to have economics.”

Associating economics with industry founded from peace, Alemtemshi Jamir also emphasized on a relative factor – ‘freedom.’ For talented Nagas to prosper in their field and benefit from it, they must be nurtured in circumstances of freedom. ‘This freedom includes peace; freedom to free speech and expression; freedom of life and freedom to prosper,’ the Development Commissioner told the gathering.

Unleashing a teaser from his debut album (already on sale), Manen Jamir took a performance.

Remember the Asteroids?

For the note of readers, he used to lead a Dimapur-based rock group called ‘The Asteroids’ which blazed through some concert halls before fizzling out. In the 2002 edition of the then-Hornbill Festival Rock Contest, he won the Best Lead Guitarist prize. Following that he took to setting up a music school ‘Hills praise Music Academy’ located in Nuton Basti in Dimapur and a branch, in Diphu, Assam.

Humble, quiet and soft-spoken, Manen is preparing to face the dangers of being a father of two, very soon. We wish him luck. No, no, in his music career, that is. 

(Photo Credit: A guy called "Minus Pongen" was kind enough to dispatch the two photographs)