An evening at These Hills Called Home


By Jyaneswar LaishramCrowd that gathered at the main entrance gate of Safdar Hashmi Amphitheatre in Jamia Millia Islamia campus on February 26, 2011 was a mix multitude of youngsters belonged to a diverse spectrum of the North East Indian communities. They all seemed to be dragged by the delightful evening of folk dance, music and other astounding executions like live performance of FUBAR Ghetto, Stitch and Soulmate. Amid the huge audience of young horde included some elderly, eminent and equally enthusiastic people who made the evening a perfect extravaganza for all age groups.
The Centre for Northeast Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi in association with Oil India Limited organised the cultural event titled ‘These Hills Called Home’ under the aegis of Prof Sanjoy Hajarika and Asst Professor Sumitra Thoidingjam. Derived from the title of a book of the same name by Temsula Ao, the theme of the event conveyed an ideal message of love for the land that has been home to a myriad of traditions, cultures and peoples for centuries. Every audience at the show was quite substantial for being a unique face representing one of the Seven Sisters. Some of them were found to be brand ambassadors of traditional costumes and styles in the crowd.
Lo and behold! What a nostalgic sight to see! Some aged Manipuri (Meitie) ladies, who must be in their mid-sixties, turned up to watch the event. It was not lipstick but betel nuts they chewed that painted their lips red. The customary phanek mapaan naaiba (traditional Manipuri sarong) with perfectly matched inaphee (top shawl) they attired had cast an added charm on the essence of the colourful cultural evening. Traditional drum beats of Thaang Taa (Manipuri martial art), Zeliangrong Naga dance (Naga folk) and Bihu dance of Assam broke the silence of the campus to fill the surrounding with the tunes of North East for a moment.
These Hills Called Home was not merely a cultural execution as it rather developed a sort of reminiscence depicting both love and beauty of the far and away lands and people of North East India. Contained in the rhythm of Zeliangrong Naga dance was a quintessence that lulled the audience with the splendour of massive blue mountains of the region. The entire crowd eventually drowned into the tune of Bohaang Bihu song, which was crooned in such a way that it delivered a gist of festive mood to every listener.
Cadence of the show set into a new pace when FUBAR Ghetto climbed upon the stage. This band is unique in their styles of music. Opened with Jaco Pastorious’ The Chicken, the band subsequently delivered a mix of jazz, blues and rock and roll in two separate sessions. Though FUBAR Ghetto is a band of six, the first session was progressive jazz-blues instrumental by the quadruple of Chongtham Vikram on guitars, R K Raju on bass, Busso on saxophone and Aditya Singh on drums. FUBAR Ghetto is considerably one-of-its-kind band from North East India whose music is exceptionally revolved around jazz and blues sounds.   It doesn’t mean that FUBAR Ghetto missed its bandwagon down the lane of rock and roll at the occasion. Second session of the band was joined by electrifying Thingnam Sanjeev on guitars with vocalist Vatsav Bashisht to tremble the full-packed amphitheatre with their mind-blowing renditions of an array of evergreen numbers including Eric Clapton’s Layla, Led Zeppelin’s Stairway To Heaven, among others. That was the ever waited moment for the young horde of audience who gleefully screamed in rhythms of the all time favourite rock tracks.
What it then brought the audience on their feet was the mind-blowing gig of Stitch, a band of magnificent three from Jamia Millia Islamia. The trio comprising Rushnaf Wadud on vocals and guitars; Philips Tourangbam on bass and vocals; and Toto on drums swept the audience in storm of their punk-oriented alternative rock acts. As Rushnaf is a Bangladeshi national who is leaving the university soon, These Hills Called Home was supposed to be the last and memorable gig of Stitch. This was announced when Stitch waved adieu to the crowd after their outstanding performance. But the question of whether Stitch will be torn apart even after Rushnaf’s departure was still unanswered!
After the gleeful hours of jazz, punk and alternative rock sessions, Soulmate from Shillong finally ruled the evening with their soul stirring blues. Rudy Wallang of the then Great Society fame is the main architect behind this blues band whose footprints are quite distinct in the music arenas of both India and abroad. When it comes to reckoning blues music in the subcontinent, no blues artistes/bands in India have come up to the height where Soulmate is standing now. The soul of Soulmate is none other than its lead vocalist Tipriti Kharbangar who plays rhythm guitars too in the band. It’s not just exuberant vocal but her stage gesture that mesmerised the crowd at These Hills Called Home. Overall crowd appeal at the show doubtlessly signified Soulmate’s popularity with it record of more than 500 concerts performed so far in India and abroad since their inception in the year 2003!


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