Category: Culture

May 21, 2017 /

‘He has a very traditional Metal voice’, remarked a senior editor of Raiot as Reach Down by Temple of the Dog was playing. I disagreed and tried explaining that it was, in fact, the voice of ‘grunge’. Not the voice but certainly an influential one.

May 13, 2017 /

Young men and women mainly from rural Nagaland come in for short-term training courses to learn basic soft skills: to present themselves, stand, sit, communicate, dress and apply make-up, all essential requirements for a job in the service sector. Many of them find placements in hotels, spas, restaurants, airlines or security companies.

May 12, 2017 /

What do you do when you hear a hear a voice from 1928 rushing to tell you the Parable of the prodigal son? Did our language sound like that? Why did he stumble? Who was he? Where did he record it? How was the narrator chosen? Did he get paid for it or was he forced to do begaar? When we discovered these scratchy gramophone recordings done for The Linguistic Survey of India in 1928-29 we had to share it. For us reasons are not merely historical or linguistic but emotional like divining the dead. So go ahead and listen to our ancestors speaking Khasi, Pnar and War.

May 9, 2017 /

I went to Pine Mount in Shillong in the seventies. I lived close to school, just behind the NCC office. So, my parents had made an arrangement with the school and I would come home to eat lunch with my mother (something I hated so, as I missed out on playtime and having lunch from a lunch box, but I was powerless and could not resist).

May 5, 2017 /

Souvid Datta’s work has always been problematic, that is independent of the recent plagiarism charges or the ethics of photographing a trafficked minor being raped. The fact that his work got to travel tells you all you need to know about the nature of what constitutes the photographic industry today.

May 3, 2017 /

This ‘play’ never had a script, being a work in progress so to speak, where the actors knew the opening line, knew the cue for the last line. Depending on intoxicants consumed the night before, the piece could be anything from 15 to 40 minutes.
It was staged in the late 1980s in New Delhi – by Hartman de Souza, a third-generation Kenyan by birth (but by default, Indian), and Kimamo Kuria, mwananchi from Kenya, final year law student at Delhi University. Both were also founder-members of the Delhi-based Afro-Indian theatre group, Ukombozi, that worked in Delhi – although they were not the first such theatre group to explore the common ground that benefits both sides, African and Indian.

April 29, 2017 /

My maternal grandfather loved the bottle. His room, which was always neat and clean would be whiskey-scented all day. After I was born, he drank only in the evening before dinner, and as he sipped on his glass, my brother and I would be on his bed playing cards, with a pleasurable sense of blasphemy even at the age of 6 or 7.

April 28, 2017 /

It has been obvious for many decades now that Bhagat Singh’s image carries contrasting messages for Indians. The image of the man, whose popularity in India around the time of his execution nearly eclipsed the established leadership of Congress and Gandhi, is truly an icon in the popular political culture of India; and like all popular icons the messages it carries actually manifest the internal contradictions of this very culture. Religious revivalist organisations like Arya Samaj, rightwing Hindutva groups and even the Khalistan movement have used his image of a militant nationalist to challenge Congress domination of the discourse on freedom struggle.

April 26, 2017 /

Assam’s Debjani Bora, who has won gold at the national level for her javelin throws, was targeted as a witch in 2014 in the state and assaulted, of all the places, in a community prayer hall. Debjani’s case puts into question one of the biggest myths around witch-hunting, that it takes place only due to superstition, ignorance and lack of education in far-flung remote villages, and among poor, uneducated people.

April 24, 2017 /

Today I write songs in Haflong Hindi. Haflong Hindi I would like to define is a mixture of Hindi, English, Urdu, Sufi, Bengali, Assamese, Nepali, Manipuri, Punjabi, Bihari, and with few words from different tribes like Zeme, Dimasa, Hmar, Kuki, Biate, Hrangkol, Jaintia and maybe even more which I am not aware of.

April 19, 2017 /

Entering Ri Bhoi is the first sign for me that I have come reached home. It was not just the low hills and the wide valleys nestled within them that elevated my heart but the sight of the shops littered along the highway and the people sitting inside them. Stopping and having tea and jingbam in these shops is one of my favourite moments of the journey.

April 17, 2017 /

Zubeen Garg, as the generation that grew up clutching onto his music through the turbulent 1990s and 2000s would tell you, cannot be defined. It is hare-brained to suggest that he was promoting Hindi imperialism in Assam by singing one of his old songs. But even if he was, it is ridiculous to see well-fed Bihu-committee tearaways hoisting the flag of a linguistic nationalism that was exclusive, chauvinistic and, more importantly, unbendingly middle-class from the word go.

In the last track, “Ma Nga”, the limit of interaction between the artist, the art and the audience is stretched to its extreme. The song, personal and dark, written by Malice in Khasi, is a recounting of emotions of a person sitting on the peak of melancholy hill who is going through a severe identity crisis. The lyrics carry a very depressing, aggressive, yet powerful undertone and the composition is something that is really unique, very technical and traditional. Being a Khasi song, you’d expect the guys to dig deep into the roots of their indigenous identity in the arrangement but that element is only catalytic, and it only serves as a subsidiary to the larger plan.

April 14, 2017 /

Christ, on this evidence, had been a Messiah, a prophet-king to lead the Jews in the apocalyptic struggle at the end of time. He died on the cross – like thousands of other Jews in the first century AD – not because he was a blasphemer who claimed to be god, but because he was a revolutionary who threatened the authority of Rome and its Sadducean allies.

April 13, 2017 /

Remember the terrible anthem with bad green screen video called Namami Brahmaputra by some guy called Papon? Obviously you don’t. Why would you even remember that abomination. But you remember the Original or the Truth Version of that Chutiyami Brahmaputra Song by that guy from Haflong? Obviously you do.

April 12, 2017 /

Eddie Rynjah wrote his own material and some reports suggest that he even tried putting together something called ‘It’s you I came here for’. It’s not clear whether this is a collection of songs and there are suggestions that he did record something but despite his sister Yvonne’s best efforts, this material can’t be located anymore. So, did he become disillusioned by the limitations of a small town and never quite got over the lights of Park Street? … Many afflicted musicians before and after him have died younger but the tragedy with Eddie Rynjah was that he lived long enough to realize his immense potential but either chose not to or was not allowed to – or both.

April 10, 2017 /

Sadly, artistic excellence too is a package. She had many prejudices and narrow revivalist instincts that her mother, Mogubai Kurdikar, was at least free from – perhaps a part of her Maharashtrian modernity. Unlike Kumar Gandharva, she did not betray any antipathy towards Muslim musicians, but it nevertheless came as a shock to see her re-name Raga Jaunpuri as Raga Jivanpuri.

April 10, 2017 /

Anthropologists Dolly Kikon and Bengt G. Karlsson collaborated with photographer Andrzej Markiewicz to trace the lives and lifeworlds of indigenous migrants who have travelled from the Northeastern frontier of India to the expanding cities of South India.

April 5, 2017 /

Those who eat beef partake in the infliction of momentary albeit lethal pain, lasting at the most a few minutes. Death might well be a relief for the cow, who otherwise might be left to fend for herself once she is past her prime. She might have to walk the streets, scrounge around in rubbish, eat paper and plastic (even in rural India), which ravages her entrails. Consumers of dairy products partake in and enjoy the results of torture on a mass scale. Perennially ropes are pushed up the typical Indian cow’s nose and round her neck and she is tied up in a confined space, left to wallow in her dung and urine: not for minutes or hours, but for days, weeks, months and many years.

March 31, 2017 /

As I navigate my way through the substance of the everyday in Delhi, I become a specimen of strangeness, a piece of curiosity and sometimes, a trigger for disdain. While some sections formulate ideas of sub-oriental and exotic fantasies, some would try desperately to figure out my existence using theory, and the rest, through the sexiness of political love.

March 30, 2017 /

I was twenty-four, fresh out of University and eager to put my skills to the test. My first teaching assignment was at a private college where my cousin, upon hearing about my incursion to the relative unknown, jokingly remarked, “There are colleges for First Class students, so there must be colleges for Third Class and Simple Pass students as well. If there aren’t any of the latter, you and I can establish one. We will have many takers. ”

March 21, 2017 /

On 14th March, a local Assamese news channel – News Live, owned and managed by the wife of the most powerful Assam BJP minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, connected few dots with ‘creative journalism’ and went on a frenzy that a fatwa has been issued by 46 Muslim clerics against Nahid Afreen. Soon other local news channels jumped into the war of TRP. Soon came the two midnight tweets of Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal adding fuel to the fire.

March 17, 2017 /

Translation of now infamous non-fatwa (pamphlet) against singer Nahid Afreen of Assam about which half the country is going crazy especially Delhi media. The non-fatwa is regressive and condemnable, no doubt about it. But it is also hilariously polite. Also, it tries to be emotional; it tries to be emotional by invoking hardships, hunger, drought etc. from the yonder years of migration (perhaps 80-100 years ago). By the end of it, it is oldies complaining about the newer generations who are transgressing regressive ideas

March 8, 2017 /

So,
To my country and my people, I don’t pledge my devotion,
Because
To your country and your people, I am but a woman,
To you my dear Khasis and Indians, I owe no patriotism,
Because,
To all of you, I am forever unwritten,
Forever an apparition, an absence.

March 4, 2017 /

Delhi University is fundamentally a feudal fiefdom. Within this kind of a climate the recent injection of the idea of developing market and technocracy means the attempt is to update the fiefdom in keeping with the times. But fundamentally the campus is only intermittently argumentative.

February 25, 2017 /

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.

February 23, 2017 /

There has been a horror at how fast the ‘centre’ i.e. institutional framework of liberal democracy is crumbling in the face of the rising tide of authoritarian conservatism- and there have been constant comparisons with 1930s. The spectre of fascism, of forces of reaction seems to haunt the globe.