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The Cover Story

Scene I: The riff of Black Night started so suddenly in a characteristic style of the masters. Just after the intro part of the song, it stopped unexpectedly and Sando, the vocalist of Phynyx, announced it was a sound check. The crowd went wild.

Location: The BOAT, Hafta Kangjeibung
1,000 people approximately, Nov 29 2011
Rock show, Sangai Tourism Festival

Scene II: After a warm-up session with the choicest delicacies at Moojikhun, we had come straight for the concert at the Sangai Tourism Festival. Otherwise we could have spent some more time on the drinks and further loitering around the various stalls set up for the festival at Hafta Kangjeibung, just adjacent to the concert venue.

When we arrived, Rewben Mashangva was strumming his guitar on some high Naga folk blues notes. The Dirty Strikes followed with the Strokes-inspired numbers. Both of these artists are original on their own right and that’s what makes them special performers of the night.

Scene III: In as much as Hindustani music has become a part of our musical legacy, rock n’ roll is now a staple diet for many people. However, there is a question of originality and this brings us to the third performer – the Manipuri star and the master of rock n’ roll, Phynyx.

Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin are redundant when Phynyx performs Stormbringer or Rock n’ Roll. In their two decades of existence, nothing would miss when Sando croons; the fastest, most complicated guitar solos would be already-played-in-high-school stuffs for Vivek and others.

Apart from their acclaimed Woman and few other songs, however, Phynyx is seemingly contented doing the cover songs only. It’s a complete waste of their unquestionable talents; and yet it would not be wrong to conclude that there is a huge obstacle to their creative prowess.

Scene IV: All’s really well that ends well. An all-girl punk band, Afflatus from Shillong did the closing act. Again, they belted out only composed numbers that were presented with a superb crowd-pulling performance. They wrapped up the evening, so to say, in a style.

Afflatus' vocalist Grace Miller at the Sangai Festival


On the Other Side of the Fence: We regretted missing the percussion show of the Educational and Cultural Harmony Organisation, earlier in the evening. But the three-hour rock n’ roll show made it up perfectly for the missed part.

We had been struggling for four months from the economic blockades, but nothing seems to matter. The musicians are too politically correct or indifferent; and we are too happy we found the perfect place to hang out at the festival.

But we were shocked a day later on 30 November, when there was a bomb blast near the newly-constructed City Convention Centre, a couple of hundred meters away from the main gate to the entrance of the Sangai Festival. An apparent warning to the scheduled visit of Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi on 3 December, the blast killed one person and injured four.

Black Night is just the perfect expression to describe Manipur today. Dark, mysterious and gruesome. Only protest songs and socially-relevant music make more sense inside the absurdities we are in.

It’s a matter of choice – rock, blues, jazz or pop – but what matters is some originality in meaningful music. That will also make sure the fans enjoy the real quality. Others are secondary.

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