Can Shillong Music scene be saved?

Dabormaian Kharmawphlang’s solutions from #Shillong underground

Shillong has a tag of being a ‘rock capital of India’. It is like a rotting signboard that greets you when you approach the periphery of the town. For this day and age, a tag like that is distasteful and the perceptions and assumptions rising out of that stereotype is derogatory towards other musicians. It can lead the general audience to shun other talents, to turn a blind eye to potential pioneers of alternate genres. The scene in Shillong was rampant with blues and jazz and rock. But that image has aged like the urban legends of the bygone scene. However, in recent times, alternative genres have been coming to the fore, like metal, hip hop, indie and folk with artists wanting to express their creativity, identities and their positions in society sonorously in more different ways. There are stumbling blocks of course, especially when you’re out of the mainstream. It’s even harder when large portions of society count your genre as a taboo, as the devil’s enigma represented in music, as has been portrayed by the reaction of the public and authorities towards events of the metal genre.

The songs of today have a uniqueness in their tone. It is music that is born out of oppression, evident from the anti-establishment lyrics, the tales of disadvantaged backgrounds and the songs of everyday struggle. The heavy weight, the systematic pressure that has been re-directed into a creative flow has added so much depth to an already existing talent. These are the songs of the masses, the anthems of the forgotten ones. These are perspectives of life that we hear of but do not pay attention to. It is upto us to help these artists have a platform where they can flourish, we the people, we the masses. If we do not support local acts, we choose to lose out on raising the plateau and the progression of music of our generation. As it is, it is already hard for them to put forth their music in Shillong, with venue restrictions, monetary limitations and authoritative categorisation of music; maybe this might be utopian but let’s collectively reach a level where self-organised, crowdfunded gigs can create a scene where they can flourish on their own terms, with our backing. So, when our artists manage to DIY a gig, go out, support them, buy their albums and EPs, pay for your ticket, because the lack of local support is ridiculous when the same bands, the same artists are playing in jam packed pubs, sold out open airs in the mainland.

[perfectpullquote align=”left” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]The city of Shillong reeks with pretentiousness.[/perfectpullquote]

It is imperative that people understand how important public support is, with the biases, prejudices and politics prevalent in the music business. If the people can be galvanised, the status quo can be crushed and music can be revolutionised. If SCC can gather large crowds, why can’t their shows do the same? What’s with the selective interest and support for genres? The city of Shillong reeks with pretentiousness. Of course, one cannot deny the influence of foreign ideas and culture, the hegemony of the western world, but have we let that influence usher in an elitist mindset, or rather, has it been a catalyst to a stratified outlook? This toxic mindset that only succeeds at dividing the society into classes, is one that must be shown the door. The city of Shillong has a culture of getting behind its representatives, evident with football, for example, in the local leagues with the “rak-tak-tak kum ba phah i mei na iing” chants whilst approaching the grounds. Music, like football, is something that is meant to entertain but it’s not just a track we play that has sick beats, it’s an escape from a stale state, it’s a rhythm that helps us through whatever we’re struggling with and it’s a medium that elevates euphoric emotions. At the same time, it is very personal but we interact only with the art, not the artist, thus we do not truly recognise the attachment of the artist to the art. Make no mistake, when we listen to music we should separate the musician from the individual or else, if it was different, we would have less Kanye fans than we currently do. When we’re listening to music, we just hover over the creative, but, if we can really relate, we’re peering through the eyes of another human being who has a story to tell, who has given a part of themselves for the art. Let’s us not just consume music, but revel in it, revel in the intricacy of individual instruments coming together to form a perfect composition and the simplicity of its words. [perfectpullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]The power of music is that it can bring people and communities together[/perfectpullquote]

These are people who had nothing to lose but their chains, with society often telling them that what they’re pursuing is something that is not viable to live off, that they’re better off applying for jobs. Let’s appreciate the paths they choose to walk because, some may not accept it, but they’re living lives full of dignity whilst most of us have to bear the dread of 9-5s and Mondays. But, regardless if they get the appreciation and support that they deserve or not, they shan’t stop doing what they’re doing because they have never seeked validation from any entity. The power of music is that it can bring people and communities together, let’s take up this opportunity to breathe in a new dawn and seize the means.




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Undergraduate student, TUR member, advocate of progressive politics.

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