Rock On

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By Lakti Ningthou

It was during the winter of 1991, an open air concert was about to begin at the then MFDC open air theatre. The entry ticket was rupees twenty and one of the greatest bands of Manipur was performing, CANNIBALS. Three of us bunk and stealthily jump the walls, made of bamboo mat, of one of the most respected residential schools of the state. The 14 kilometer journey on a passenger bus didn’t take much time and we reach the venue well before the scheduled time. Three entry passes were bargained for rupees fifty and we were hundred fold happy when we entered the premise where we saw people much older than us. We have heard of cannibals from our immediate elders. They often talk about the guitar played by Mathew, smashing of the drums by Momocha and incredibly beautiful vocal rendition that Paul emanates. It was a band that brought the taste of heavy metal to the Rock music lovers of the state. They tried hard to propagate the melody of hard and heavy music. Doing mostly the cover songs, they covered Iron Maiden,
Deep Purple, Judas Priest with ease among many others. No one, if they happened to be in that concert, won’t forget how neatly they rendered Iron Maiden’s ‘Trooper’, Deep Purple’s ‘Smoke on The Water’, Judas Priest’s ‘Living After Midnight’ and many more great anthem numbers. It was told that rock concerts were organised much before on comparatively smaller scale. But the scenario began to change when Pole Star Club called a band from Shillong in the mid-seventies to perform for a new emerging music scene. The band was known as Living Death and it performed at GM hall. And after that a new trend was set. Ever since we had even have bands from outside the state, national and international that even include the Grammy winning band Firehouse, coming and playing in front of the rock enthusiast crowds and bands like Parikrama; arguably India’s greatest rock band, who came more than once as they feel great performing in front of the crowds here.

It is very disheartening to see someone associating rock music or western music with drug, violence and sex. The negative attitude towards this type of music is generally due to the emergence of a new genre called Glam Rock in the early eighties, the same time when rock music was just coming out from its nascent stage in Manipur. On the other face of the earth, glam rock bands like Aerosmith, Twisted Sister, Motley Crue, Kiss, Poison, etc were conquering the fans all over apart from facing stiff challenges. This was due to the emergence of retro music, another genre that was making a popular presence during that time. Shredded jeans, long curly hair, leather jackets, single earring, wrist belts, big and shiny buckles, cowboy boots were the dresses that the youths sported during those days. It shows the ascendency and charm of rock music upon other forms of music, particularly among the youths.

This sensation definitely reached on this part of the earth as well. Ours is relatively at a disadvantageous position as far as economic self-reliance and ‘modern’ way of life is concern. But the youths here do not lack in talent. They did everything as same as theirs and thanks to the then shops in row at the northern side of the prestigious Pologround, which made things happened – like the pre-owned clothes. That was the past.

Nearly after three and half decades of rock music in Manipur, we are finally seeing a healthy growth among the rockers, in terms of genre sensibility and taste. The coming up of Imphal School of Music and the number of students enrolled there is definitely going to demystify the prejudices of drug addiction and violence generally associated with rock music. Today’s parents and guardians have started to feel the vibe of rock. They now are seen carrying the stage gears, equipment and effects for their children to the stage. Some have even become manager of their sons and daughters band. We should feel proud for band like Imphal Talkies especially its frontman, Dr. Ronidkumar Chingangbam popularly known as Akhu, a post-doctoral fellow in Astrophysics, who sacrificed a lucrative career for music. His name is included among the artist selected from all parts of the world for the making of the album of revolution. Other bands will soon follow. Rock music in Manipur started out with bands covering famous songs of great bands. But now we are seeing much progress as the bands has its own songs recorded at least in the form of EP. Music has got no boundary though it takes time to get appreciation. One man who will be missed forever is none other than one of the pioneers: Paul, former front man of Cannibals. Rest In Peace.

(The Author is a Freelancer; he closely follows Manipur’s Rock circuit)

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