The Song Must not Fade

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Bertolt Brecht once wrote: Will there be songs in dark times? / Yes. / Of dark times. These words, pregnant with his characteristic intuitive brilliance, have also proven prophetic. There is poetry in life, even in its darkest times. In retrospect, even the leanest and most agonizing periods of anybody`™s life becomes the subject for nostalgia: all the more reason for those in difficulty never to give up. But more literally, have there been songs in dark times? Even a cursory scan of the list of Nobel Prize winners for literature in the post colonial era should provide the clue. For indeed some of the most powerful literature the world has seen have come out of the dark, poverty stricken, chaotic world of the newly decolonized Third World. The works of men like, Neruda, Walcott, Soyenka, Paz, Marques, Naipaul are evidence. Even though not Nobel Laureates there have been equally intense and powerful articulators of ideas like Achebe, Okri, Rushdie, Roy, Sen, Fanon`¦. The last named, Frantz Fanon, although his works were based on the conditions of Algeria of the mid 20th Century, are still considered a powerful portrait oppressed and oppressor binary anywhere in the world anytime.

The question then should not be all about doubts as to whether there would be songs in dark times, but about the quality of the songs in dark times. The demonstrated answer has been, these songs can resonate with a brilliance that can break new grounds and indeed add new colours to intellect as well as literary creativity. Dark times produce a peculiar angst and yearning for rebirth that can only find satisfactory articulation through creative outlets and critical minds. Creative energy thus built cannot remain bound all the time and there always comes a moment of truth when `Prometheus (becomes) Unbound`, to use another analogy from the world of literature. But if Prometheus must become unbound sometime or the other then there is also another uncomfortable fact. The wait for the time he matures and takes courage to shed his shackles can be terribly long, sometimes too long for creative energy to remain kinetic. It may even cool and become dormant, perhaps never to awake again.

What is the nature of Manipur`™s songs about its own dark times then? For dark times we are in without a doubt. Ours is no longer just a question of oppressor versus oppressed, for the line that divided the two is on the verge of vanishing. The oppressed and oppressors have become interchangeable. Here the mind is never without fear and nobody walks with his head held high. Few or nobody sing from the heart or speak from the mind. In such a circumstance, even the idea of freedom is no longer a lived experience but reduced to seminar room rhetoric, signifying empty semantics more than substance. Our intelligentsia have been less than articulate, or else have lacked the courage of conviction to be open or honest. Will our creative spirit ever become unbound then? Will we ever know the true essence of freedom? We wish our bards and intellectuals would honestly sing these tunes someday in the near future. Our arts have had a taste of the energy that only dark days can generate `“ energy which comes from a yearning for freedom, or a will to resist oppression. It therefore also signifies hope and aspiration. When hope is murdered, this energy too will die. The question which all of us who love the place should be asking at this moment is, are all the mindless violence, petrifying terror, paralysing intimidations, monolithic corruption, institutional injustice, doing precisely this?

Leader Writer: pradip Phanjoubam

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