The Sound of ‘Naga’ Music – Buhiu B. Lam Khiamniungan, B.A. 5th Sem, English Hon.

Recently, there has been a slew of music videos being aired on Vh1 by local artists like Alo Wanth, Shalo Kent and more on the way like Purple Fusion etc. They are just some of the musically successful and talented bands that have made a name for themselves in the music industry, both at the national and international level. Music is a talent that Nagas have been naturally gifted with from the time of our forefathers, which just shows that with a lot of hard work and dedication our Nagas have the potential to go very far ahead.

The Sound of ‘Naga’ Music

Music is an essential ingredient of Naga culture. Our ancestors have been great lovers of 
music. Folk or traditional music is the music that the Nagas are rooted in. Since time 
immemorial, music has been an important asset to our culture. In the past folks learned 
songs and use of different musical instruments from elderly persons in the Morung or 
dormitory. Some of the indigenous musical instruments of the Nagas are the bamboo 
mouth-organ, the cup-violin, the bamboo flute, the trumpet, the drum etc. The songs 
including the musical instruments were sung and played mainly during festivals, feasts, 
ceremonies, funerals, victory in war etc.

The coming of Christianity is depicted as the turning point of music in Nagaland. The western missionaries opposed the use of folk songs as it was associated with the spirit of worship and rituals. The translated western hymnals were introduced and this led to the decline of folk music in many parts of the state, although not in totality. However, as a result of Western influence, church music gained popularity.

Music is also considered as the replacement of sounds of bullet and bombs in Nagaland. The hills of Nagaland were once filled with the sounds of crying and wailing, but with the introduction of music all those were replaced by the sounds of various forms of songs and music.

Today, the Naga youths take music very seriously. The birth of new artists, musicians and bands are witnessed everyday with some even making it to the international level. Some of the successful bands of Nagaland could be Alobo Naga And The Band (winner of 2012 Best Indian Act at MTV Europe Music Awards), Divine Connection (winner of MTV’s Rock,2010), Zowe Madrigal (The only neo-classical male voice group in the country led by Nise Meruno), Tetseo Sisters, Abiogenisis, Purple Fusion, etc.
In the year 2004, Nagaland came up with the idea of the Music Task Force (MTF) which aimed at creating music industry in the state and making music a profession. Very true to its aim, the MTF was able to elevate music to a new level and hence, it is the main pillar of development of music in Nagaland. The Handshake Concerts, The Hornbill Rock Beat Contest, The Naga Orpheus Hunt (Naga Idol) and other singing sensations are some of the proceeding projects under the Music Task Force.

In addition, the other institutions responsible for the development and promotion of music in Nagaland include‘The Nagaland Conservatory of Music’(headed by LipokmarTzudir and James Shikiye Swu), Hope Center, Mountain Music Academy, Music Awards of Nagaland (MAN, institute by Native Trax Society), Backyard Buzz, Indihut,. etc.

Music is also a form of oral tradition in Nagaland. The oral tradition of the Nagas are spoken, sung and in voice form namely chants, prayers, folktales, folklores, laments, cries, etc. Every oral tradition is connected to festivals, feast and ceremonies, and plays a significant role making the occasion more delightful and pleasant. Unlike the folktales, folklores, myths and legends that are retold and recorded in the printed books, the folk songs are transmitted to younger generations through seminars or programs in a practical form.

With the influence of other cultures, Naga artists and musicians adapt to various genres of music and are experiencing music in different ways. In the case of folk music, it is reconstructed, modified or blended with other genres and used in a better and more elaborate manner. Folk songs are also performed as opera performances, choir ensemble, rock fusions, etc. The influence of western and Asian music is greatly seen in the styles of composition, tunes and music arrangements.

At present, Nagas have been introduced to almost every type of music: from folk to modern contemporary music. Music has become a central and also an essential part of our culture with which we identify ourselves. We have uncountable bands, musicians and artists and there are still many emerging everyday. Unlike the olden days where music was only sort of a personal contentment, now it has gained social importance. Music in Nagaland is at an unlimited high. It is more than an entertainment or hobby but a profession. To conclude, we can also state that music has taken to playing a greater role as a means of change, a channel of peace, public awareness, for show-casting our culture and most importantly, it is responsible for helping to keep the oral tradition alive.

(Abridged version of a seminar paper presented at the in-house English Dept seminar titled “A Symposium on Naga Culture”)

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