Fab Five - Rock & Roll in My Town

Tapta | Rewben Mashangva | Eastern Dark | Imphal Talkies & the Howlers | The Koi

Without music life would be a mistake. 
- Friedrich Nietzsche

Some play the game as hard and passionately as usual; while some change the rule of the game and make all the difference. This is about those who dare to change the rules. We have five bands/singers with their distinctive, inimitable styles, which have entirely redefined the meaning of music.

So many of us have so many philosophies about music; and there are so many choices, about this and that kind of genre, but music in my town will be incomplete without these guys on our playlist. A few of them are singing and reminding us to get back to our roots and some others are ready to defy what the most sophisticated armed forces cannot even do. This is just a list of my five favourite bands/musicians and you will be disappointed if you don’t find here a textbook approach to study music, an analytical study of style or lyrics and so on.

Here it goes.

Tapta’s Master’s Voice

Tapta is the real star of Manipur. The group arrived on the scene with a bang, with the Power of Attraction, around the mid 90s. Since then, as we say, there has been no looking back. If there is any singer who croons with the ethos, pathos and logos, that’s Tapta and if there is anyone who can come closer to its position, it’s only the man behind the shows — Loukrakpam Jayenta, one of the greatest entertainers of all time and the first musician to introduce concept albums in the region. Though, sometimes, Tapta gets too much with its ‘dhol-dhulki’ music and male chauvinism I cannot help but love its songs. Of late, it has run out of experiments but I do believe, somehow, they will come out with something new, as always.

Rewben Mashangva – the Folksy Gentleman

“Blues had a baby and they called it rock ‘n’ roll” and all the people rushed in to cuddle the baby. There is one man who has nurtured not the baby but the mother with soulful Tangkhul folk tunes—and here he is, the father of Naga folk blues: Rewben Mashangva. His music comes from conviction, innovation and love, not necessarily in that order. In our town, a band covering a Led Zep or a Lamb of God makes a more popular style statement but Rewben has made it clear that music is more than making a statement. His name has been prefixed with a ‘Guru’ officially but he can do much better than that.

Lights On for Eastern Dark

When the news last came in, Eastern Dark has become Eastern Doc with a new line-up but its legacy continues to exist. The band has members who are old timers in the local rock ‘n’ roll scene but apart from their experience the band is well known for its political music. According to the Eastern Dark, our leaders have mortgaged the land while the rebels are hurling grenade in private residences. The sentiments of our lived experience are captured succinctly in its songs. I love its anarchist standpoint and outspokenness, in addition to the world-class compositions but not its sporadic music releases.      

First Day, First Show with the Imphal Talkies

Imphal Talkies N’ the Howlers was made in India, in New Delhi, many a year before PM Modi initiated the Make-in-India crap. With their thought-provoking lyrics—that are indistinct from free verse poetry, punctuated by folksy compositions and that generate songs of the Real: the bleakness that we are so accustomed to—the band has made quite a fan base. Fronted by Dr Ronid Chingangbam aka Akhu, who has a PhD in physics, the band has so far released two albums and a score of singles. Despite its monotonous music, no one can miss a beat from Imphal Talkies, which is currently based in Imphal and has craftily used its music as a weapon to show that art has utilitarian values.

The Poets, the Koi

Even if it is the youngest of the lot in the list, The Koi has shown us that age is just relative when it comes to producing high-fidelity music. In an approach not so different from that of western music, the band has a trace of the alternative-music mode—which has prompted me to experiment with this genre that I had little regard in the past. However, its strength lies in composing original melodies that are heart-wrenching and technically very sound. If I’m not wrong most of its songs are poems written by Arambam Somorendro. Original and hi-fi doubtlessly, yet I believe they will produce more high quality recordings in the days to come. 

PS: I had written this piece in 2011 with just four bands as Fab Four. The Koi was not around that time. Now with a little tweaking here and there, plus a new collection of full B&W graphics, I have decided to post it.



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