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Rocking Against Environmental Onslaught

features Jun 13, 02:42pm

Jyaneswar Laishram tells us about his experience watching the Imphal Talkies N The Howlers play at the 'Where Have All The Flowers Gone?' music festival held in Imphal on May 3, along with a line up of great musicians.
 Photo Courtesy: Sameer

There’s nothing unusual about catching Imphal Talkies N The Howlers climbing the stage to howl for environmental protection, since this Manipuri folk-rock band has been singing ‘protest’ songs rather judgmentally than any other when it comes to voicing against odds in the society—be it politics, insurgency, human rights, or racial attacks. They recently howled against onslaughts on nature at a musical event called Where Have All The Flowers Gone? held at Lamlai in Imphal. Named after the popular Pete Seeger song, the title of the carnival as well as the venue chosen on a picturesque knoll at South Loushing Hillock near Chingnungkok Village, perfectly portrayed what the execution endeavoured to convey for the cause.

Many wonder why the Delhi based folk rock band oddly chose the open venue, which is totally truncated from Imphal’s cityscape. Simple reason. They wanted to draw the general public’s attention to the constant onslaughts on the natural rural setup of South Loushing Hillock, carried out by picnickers, film crews, and many others. Having been one of the most sought after picturesque porches in Manipur where people from far and near corners often drop in to enjoy the serenity around, South Loushing Hills is now losing its charm at the hands of some unminded people who litter the knoll with empty bottles, treat wrappers, and leftover foods, which Imphal Talkies N The Howlers cleaned up to stage Where Have All The Flowers Gone? in form of a protest.

'Susmit Bose'. Photo Courtesy: Siddarth


Present alongside Imphal Talkies N The Howlers at Where Have All The Flowers Gone? was a league of superefficient crooners comprising Rewben Mashangva, a big name known for his gripping Tangkhul folk-blues; Susmit Bose, whose songs revolve around social issues, human rights, non-violence and global peace; Sori Senjam, one of the iconic pop sensations in Manipur singing and writing songs on varieties including social issues; Anggu and The Musos, a promising acoustic guitar act in the state; and The Koi, an alt-rock group recognized for giving a new dawn to psychedelic and experimental sound.

Where Have All The Flowers Gone? uniquely marked a commemoration of Pete Seeger on his 95th birth anniversary through activities that wholesomely signified the survival rights of South Loushing Hillock. Rendering the song, 'Where Have All The Flowers Gone?', Susmit Bose - who had been a friend of Pete's for years - said that the legendary American folk singer and environmental activist would have shed tears on seeing such a noble initiative taken by Imphal Talkies N The Howlers towards the protection of environment. Executed on a similar theme, on the sidelines of the music festival were some allied activities, such as an art fair, painting competition, and photo exhibition by Wild Animal and Habitat Protection Society.

The first-of-its-kind initiative taken up by musicians in the state, Where Have All The Flowers Gone?, delivered a multifaceted message to everyone gathering at the festival. Through the inspiring music and art sessions, the festival also paved the way to answering how ‘community bonding’ could help the general public in carrying social services forward to a larger extent. Akhu Chingangbam, singer-songwriter of Imphal Talkies N The Howlers, asserted that a kind-hearted Tankhul widow from a village called Happy Land near South Loushing Hillock helped them collect all the bamboos that constructed the concert stage - measuring more than 300 sq ft.

'The Koi'. Photo Courtesy: Sameer

Ever since the release of their debut album, Tiddim Road, in 2009, Imphal Talkies N The Howlers have been quite vocal about social and political issues. Their songs are always tuned to different situational and remonstrative ways. 'Lullaby', the band's internationally acclaimed single released in late 2013, is a dedication to the children of Manipur who are facing certain tyranny, directly or indirectly, in their day-to-day survival in the conflict zone. Doubtless to say that most of the songs by Imphal Talkies N The Howlers are directly drawn from real life experiences.

Now that the band has set to release their second album, When The Home Is Burning, under Giant Leap Records, 'Mr President Is Coming' is yet another number from the classic collection of sixteen songs, and a sheer narration of an ill-fated incident that happened to two of the band members who were illegitimately thrashed by the Manipur Police commandos on the eve of President Pranab Mukherjee’s visit to the state in early 2013. Compiled in their second album are some new and old songs the band performed during a string of protest events on several issues in the streets of New Delhi over the last few years, along with a few newly composed songs like 'Mr President Is Coming'. Since then, Imphal Talkies N The Howlers have kept expanding their protest venues and themes which eventually led them to landing on the knoll of South Lousing Hills for Where Have All The Flowers Gone?

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