Each and every opening line of the songs featured in this book ‘Ka Marynthing Rupa’ by L. Gilbert Shullai takes me back to the time when western music took root in the flesh and blood of Khasi musicians and when it seemed like the music itself was going to be an integral part of Khasi culture. Perhaps, this was possible because there hadn’t emerged at the time Khasi musicians who were skilled enough to understand the intricacies of songwriting. In those days, Khasi songs had a very strong mainland Indian influence and they were performed mainly in theatrical shows in places like Jowai, Mawphlang, Mawngap, Marbisu, Sohra, Mawsynram and among the Seng Khasis in Mawkhar.
Author: K Mark SwerK Mark Swer is a filmmaker, writer and a radio artist. He is a resident rock critic for raiot.
2016 has dimmed the lights of two truly great artists –David Bowie and Prince. Both share a lot in common- their blurring of the lines of gender, sexuality and identity and their expansion of the vocabulary and possibilities of popular music. But in one area they differ. Bowie brought into pop music sensibilities from modern art, architecture and classical music but Prince developed into high art the popular black styles he loved. His work is art without being ‘arty’.
The missionaries gave us the written word though it could have easily been Bengali rather than Roman. It is in this process that a complex history of battling calligraphies contrived to sort out an oral tradition that they considered to be uncivilized.
MIA has sold over a million copies of her albums and god knows how many more downloads and in contrast to Bollywood actresses attempting crossovers, hers is really the story of a girl from south Asia making it big in the west. The fact that she made it by rapping about issues that most pop stars wouldn’t touch with a barge pole is all the more remarkable.
It is fair to say that in any writing of the history of western music in India, Shillong would deserve a chapter. It is just that the writing of this chapter has become way too problematic – too many loose ends, too many grand unifying theories. The culture of western popular music in Shillong has no shortage of hagiographers. In fact most of the writing on this field has been gushy, uncritical and downright fallacious (there have been so many that it would be worthwhile to bring out a compendium of these).