Honouring the Guitarist

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The season of spring might have well passed with a drought like situation in Manipur. Natural cycle of the dried leaves giving way to new leaves might have passed unnoticed from our vista, for most of us were hard hit by water scarcity. The scarcity could have been well avoided had there been an iota of vision and sincerity on the part of people who are at the helms of affairs. Imphal School of Music, a budding musical institute has created a niche of its own in the musical landscape of Manipur. Established in the year 2012 by some musicians who had pursued Western music from institute like the Associated Board of Royal School of Music and Trinity College, which are two well respected musical institutes based in London. It is heartening to learn that ISM has been declared a visiting Centre of Trinity College of London. This will provide a unique space for those who wish to pursue Western Classical music in Manipur. Moreover, the grade examination system in Western Classical music can be appeared in ISM under the supervision of the visiting faculties from Trinity College, London. Well, this might once again roused the curiosity in us, of how a reputed institute like the Trinity College would take interest to come all over to a tiny state of eastern India. A simple answer would be: the love for music, though there could be so many ways to explain it. The faculties who are now serving in ISM have earned their grades from either ABRSM or TC of London. They are also the founding members of the ISM. Their specialisation is in the musical instrument called the guitar. The origin of this musical instrument is still obscure, though there are many hypothesis related with it. We shall however not digress with its historicity. It is a fact that the instrument has become the common property of all music lovers of the world, cutting across its geographical landscape and political boundaries. With all its ambiguities as far as its origin is concerned, the instrument is generally considered a Western musical instrument. How did the instrument reach Manipur or South Asia, for that matter, is hitherto another question. Most of these countries have their own string musical instruments. One viable answer would be the charm of the instrument and its reach associated with it. ‘English Song’ is one that has its reach in almost every parts of the globe. There has been a considerable advancement in technology after the Industrial Revolution which took place in the early period of the Nineteenth Century. It gave way to inventions of many scientific tools and products. Needless to say the Record Player is one of them. This particular innovation made it easy for the recorded sound to be distributed all around the globe. And hence ‘English song’ arrived along with it, and undoubtedly the charm of guitar. Perhaps its influence reached Manipur in the late 1960s. In a nutshell, the history came alive at an event organised by ISM on June 1, entitled ‘Honouring the Inspirational Guitarists’ in a modest function held in Imphal. ISM took an initiative to honour some of the pioneer artistes of guitar. It included names like Yumnam Rajen Singh, Wahengbam Samson, Laimayum Radhacharan Sharma and Laimayum Dvendrajit Sharma, who were mostly prominent artists of the Roop Rag; a name that is synonymous with the modern Manipuri music. They are considered as the first generation guitarist of Manipur. These names are followed by Gohao, Guru Rewben Mashangva, Guru Jiangam Kamei, Elangbam Nutan, Ringo Golmei, Vivek Sharma and RK Brajakumar Singh; the second generation guitarist of Manipur, who have made a name for themselves in the Western Music, in the Rock ‘n’ Roll genre. What is exceptional is that these two generations of guitar players had to struggle with the minimal exposure and the knowledge of playing an instrument like the guitar. It was out of their sheer passion for the instrument and love of music that they could carve out a space of their own in Manipur, a state which was already vibrant with other performance art forms and music. Now, we have so many guitar artistes in our midst. Almost every Leikai has them. What is appreciable is the recognition given to the ‘old’ by the ‘new’, without whom the third generation guitar artists like the ISM and its contemporaries would not have played guitar. We can only reiterate the Chinese proverb: A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song. Keep playing.

 

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