By Khogen Khoibam
‘Pena is like my friend. Pena accompanies me when I am lonely’
IFP: Who is Mangka and what is she?
Mangka: It all started with the background of art in our family and the organisation of my father. Dancers and musicians used to come frequently and practice at our home mingling with my father and I was somehow drawn into it. Sometimes, I used to sneak out and practice dance.
I was in 5th standard, knowing my strong inclination in dance and music, my father once asked me whether I was really interested in music, and I replied ‘yes’ and then he took me to Grandma Thoinu and my music training was started. And to come over to Pena, it had been always there in our family and I was fascinated by it since my childhood though I could not play it properly that time as I found it quite heavy too (…laugh) but my father being a Pena player, I got inspired from him and I gradually started to play it from my 6th standard under the training of Grandpa Khangembam Mangi. And that is how I am here now.
IFP: Who is your role model or inspiration?
Mangka: My father, of course!
IFP: How do you manage your time to practice Pena with your academic?
Mangka: Of course Pena has to be practiced consistently but I also need to go to college regularly and I just need one hour in the morning and in the evening to practice Pena, followed by coaching a few students, and that is enough for me.
IFP: What is Pena to you?
Mangka: Pena is like my friend. Pena accompanies me when I am lonely and I just play it and sing and become happy.
IFP: Being an artist, do you find yourself different from others?
Mangka: I am different because what I am doing is different and I am proud of it but I do not have the pride and never thought that ‘I am the best’.
IFP: What else do you love in the form of art apart from playing Pena?
Mangka: I love theatre and for sure dance and music and there are many I would love to do and know, for example I want to learn Piano.
IFP: Tell me about your experience in participating Asia Pacific Broadcasting Radio Song Festival 2014?
Mangka: Well, I would say it was great experience and a hectic journey too. A girl and I were selected from Manipur by All India Radio (AIR), Imphal and we were sent to Delhi. There, all the participants from several states of India were made to play their tracks and after listening to them by the panel of judges, a male artist from Bangalore and I were selected and sent to Colombo. There again, the members of ABU considered our tracks and I was finally selected for ABU Radio Song Festival.
Before heading for Colombo, AIR organised a special concert for me in Chennai and during my stay there, I had to cope up with change in food and weather and eventually I became too hectic by the time I reached Colombo. Deprived of energy, I had to go directly to Stein Studios for rehearsal but somehow I revived my energy when I took over the stage and rehearsal was performed perfectly.
Next day was the main event of two hours, in which other seven countries, Brunei, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Australia, South Korea and Pakistan and three artists from Sri Lanka, were to perform.
(Her mother, Rebika Mayanglambam added in between): Mangka was selected out of around 50 songs by different artists throughout India and after she was selected, we had some issues financially and government of India did not look upon it but Bijaya Yumlembam, Programme Officer, AIR and the editor of Hueyen Lanpao, helped her with Rs. 60,000 and she was able to make it to Colombo.
IFP: Heard about the appreciations for you in the event, how did it all go?
Mangka: About the performance, people were amazed when I represented India as my look is oriental and it was quite contrasting with the people’s expectation. Most of the people were not ready to accept when I said “I am an Indian” and the irony is that, no one knew where is Manipur (…laugh) and I had to re-locate Manipur in the world map. But I was all the time loved and liked by the people and particularly from Asian countries like Japan, Vietnam appreciated me immensely. We shared a good rapport between us.
IFP: What is the actual genre of music you perform? People say it is as folk music, do you agree?
Mangka: There has always been a misconception by the people and I have been waiting for long to clarify that what I perform or sing is not a folk song or music but it is based on the folk music, with some upgradation like mixing with guitar. The songs are composed by my father and lyrics are also written by him. Real folk music or song is totally different from what I am doing.
(Her mother added): Mangka mostly focuses on the song which is powered by Pena but now it is becoming more of a Pena and many young boys and girls are inspired by her and have joined the Pena workshop on every Thursday and Sunday at Lai Hui, an organisation run by Mangka’s father, Mayanglambam Mangangsana.
IFP: While you are on the stage, your performance is outstanding. Do you make it that way or it just comes with the mood?
Mangka: Well, the movement and the way of performance are just spontaneous and the gestures might have come out from my dancing skills. Even if I plan for something to do on the stage, music always dominates it and everything goes with the mood and flow of the music. But to add up, sometimes it depends on the lyrics too, as how to demonstrate the meaning of the song with the movements and gestures of the hands and body.
IFP: Has there been any incident in your life that strongly inspired you to do this?
Mangka: I am into this field of music by my own choice and I am not doing this by someone’s influence. My inspiration is my father and I love all the performances by Lai Hui…truly and madly I love it (…laugh).
IFP: Tell me some of the criticisms you heard about you?
Mangka: There are lots, many people criticise that what I am doing is something a granny should do but I do not care and I am not ashamed of it. People even said that I will not be able to concentrate in studies and my academic will be in disaster but I have proved that wrong when I passed out my matriculation in first division and later on again in intermediate, now I am pursuing my graduation. Still there are lots of people who back-bites about me but fortunately I find more people who encourage me and I am happy about it.
(Her mother added): There is need from the family side to support effectively so as to balance the academic and artistic career and we never force her to top in studies and my daughter is quite tactful to manage everything.
IFP: Is there any upcoming projects in the pipeline?
Mangka: Well, there is going to be a music album in the month of August which is produced by Our Village, which is runned by Oinam Doren. The music album will be made by funds from the crowd from wherever possible and there will be nine songs of pure folk music.
(Her mother added): Oinam Doren has been following and capturing performances of Mangka since her childhood and she had also sung for his film ‘My Hands’.
IFP: Lastly, what is your view on people’s attitude towards an artist?
Mangka: Yes, most of the people commonly think of an artist as some kind of outrageous being and this is because usually artists of our olden years were somehow academically weak though they were artistically very high, may be they must have had a hard time to cope up and balance with the society but now time has changed with more opportunities opening up. And this does not mean that everything is framed for you and to be an artist is to work hard with maximum support from the family side too, which is much needed.
Finally, to share about the people’s attitude for an artist, I would say still there is a biased nature and more preferences are given more to the people who work as government servants. As for example, most of the parents prefer their children to become a doctor or an engineer, and I am not criticizing them, it is alright if they really want that. As for me, I want to become a professor or a scholar (…laughs loud) but I am an artist too.