IDEAS to showcase Northeast India through Music and Dance

  • Simple ideas on how to promote dance and music of Northeast India. Other states can send their artists to northeast states too.  

During  the last couple of years been fortunate to attend festivals across  India namely Sangai in Imphal, Hornbill in Kohima, Hampi, Jaisalmer  Desert, Bundi, Dev Deepavali in Kashi and Trissurpooram in Kerala.  These annual festivals attract lakhs of tourists, Indian and foreign.  All except the last two are organised by State Tourism departments.

Artists  who perform at these festivals are invariably from the State except  in the case of North-East where they are from the seven sisters.

After  attending these festivals the question that came to mind is; Can  these festivals become a tool to showcase North-East India's rich and  diverse traditions in music and dance and promote its integration in  a deeper sense? 

Here  are broad contours of some ideas.

The  Government could organise an annual North-East Dance and Music  Festival across the country in say atleast ten cities. It could be a  5 day extravanza with performances by artists from every  north-eastern state.

Locally  made handicrafts and textiles could be on sale too for e.g. did you  know that -

People  of Arunachal Pradesh weave outstanding carpetsSee pictures

People  of Manipur make nice cushion covers, mats, carpets etc. See  pictures. The  Bamboo based products of Nagaland are impressive too.

With  time artists would get used to performing in front of different  audiences. Next the group could perform in countries with large  Indian populations.

Every  time the Prime Minister has a Madison type event it would be preceded  by a cultural event by artists from across Bharat.

What  are the implications of such performances?

One, it would become a platform for artists to showcase their talent and a  source of livelihood.

Two,  travelling artists get an opportunity to see the rest of India and  interact with people. This  breaks barriers and remove  misconceptions.

People  of Imphal and Kohima were happy to see PM Modi visit their festivals  in 2014, perhaps the first time a Prime Minister did so.

When  artists see better infrastructure and quality of governance in some  cities they are bound to go back and demand the same from their  respective State Governments.

Three,  those living in cities get to meet people from every north-eastern  state, understand differences so as not to ask questions like are you  Chinese.

Special  Events could be organised for school children. Seeing for yourself is  more effective than what a text book teaches.

Four, these events could be used to promote tourism to the region. The  author visited Manipur because someone from Silchar spoke very highly  about the Sangai and Hornbill festivals.

Five,  State Governments will become more aware - not make mistakes like  Maharashtra did in 2013 when they excluded Arunachal Pradesh from  India in published maps.

Eventually  it would result in better understanding and appreciation of each  other.

The second  idea is let artists from all over the country perform at such festivals,  majority performances would continue to be by artists from the  state/region. Here are examples of how this will work.

Kalbelia  dance Rajasthan performs in Manipur. This dance is also called Sapera  Dance’  or ‘Snake  Charmer Dance’.  Main performers are females dancers who dance and swirl, replicating  the movements of a serpent to some very likeable background music.  Dancers wear a long skirt called Ghagra. "It is black in colour  with red decorative laces. Embroidery on the black dress resembles a  black snake with white spots or white stripes". To see video of  dance Click here

 Dancer from Kalunath Jogi's group at Jaisalmer Desert Festival 2013. Super. 

Lhou  Sha Dance Manipur be performed in Rajasthan. It is a performed after victory in battle  or fight. "The Lhou Sha is a war dance performed at every  confrontation between two villages. The dance form has been preserved  as part of the tradition of the Maring community of Manipur and marks  the conclusion of significant festivals". Music and actions are  very catchy.

PUNG  CHOLOM Manipur is a visual treat and must be performed at every festival. The Pung,  or Manipuri drum is the soul of Manipuri dance and is performed  during Holi festival. It is a "Drum Dance i.e. a visual  interpretation of the various rhythmic patterns played on the pung.  In this dance, the drummer identifies completely with the intricate  rhythms he plays on the drum and expresses it through corresponding  body movements and footwork." To see video  Click here  

Playing the drum the artist jump in air at Sangai Festival Manipur 2014.

Chenda  Melam or Percussion Rhythm Kerala be performed across India. They play different type of progressions  and have different names. It leaves percussion lovers spellbound. For  many it was akin to being in a rock concert. To see video Click here

 Performance of 'Ilanjithara Melam' by about 300 percussion artists led by Peruvanam Kuttan,Trissupooram

Hozagiri  dance Tripura be performed across India. "The dance is performed on occasion  of Hojagiri festivals or Laxmi Puja i.e. held generally third day  after Dussehra. The Goddess Mailuma, (Laxmi) is worshipped with full  reverence and devotion on this day. The whole of the Huk or Jhum  cultivation is exhibited through this dance." To see video of  Hozagiri dance  Click here

 Performance at Sangai Festival 2014

Some  of what is suggested above is happening, a bit here and there. For  e.g. Manipuri Dance - Nupa Pala Sankirtan at Khajurah Dance Festival  2015. This needs to be extended to all north-eastern states, done at  a bigger scale and in an integrated manner involving all States.

Since  Vaishnavism has a large following in Gujarat and Manipur, Dandiya  Raas could be performed at Imphal and Raas Leela in towns of Gujarat.

If  handled professionally and passionately, it would be easy to find  corporate support for the above events.

North-East  is a great place to shop for handicrafts and local textiles.  Necklaces, jhola bags, cane purses, paintings on wood to is what  author liked in Kohima. Friends back home loved these gifts.

 Saw girls from Delhi buy many beaded necklaces, that you see, at Hornbill Festival Kohima 2014.

The third  idea is to get north-eastern states, besides Manipur and Nagaland, to  start their own annual festivals. It could coincide with their most  important local festivals. This would attract tourists, give local  artists an opportunity to show their talent, become a medium for  state level recognition and importantly integrate various regions of  a State.

The  Centre must lay down an overarching vision, lead from front,  facilitate interaction between States, iron out disagreements and  provide required funds.

If  implemented in right earnest, these ideas have the potential to  become an important tool for national integration and export of soft  power.

The  author is an independent columnist and travel photojournalist.

First  published in

Also  see pictures of
1. Sangai Festival 2014
2. Thrissur Pooram 2014
3. Dev Deepavali Kashi 2013
4. Hampi Festival 2011
5. Jaisalmer Desert Festival 2013
6. Tribes of Nagaland Hornbill Festival 2014

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