| Chakeshang women during the Hornbill festival in Kohima. Picture by Eastern Projections |
Dec. 7: Surhonieyi Soho won the prestigious Naga-style wrestling championship at the 2009 Hornbill Festival in Kisama heritage village here over the weekend. But long after the curtains came down on the “festival of festivals” here tonight, what will be remembered is not the strength but the grace and splendour of one of the most colourful festivals of the country, which this year brought together people from many parts of the world.
If the opening ceremony on December 1 was a riot of colours, highlighted by the performance of cultural troupes from Myanmar, it was all music last night. Tonight, the festival ended in pulsating music and dance.
In the audience last night was former chief minister and present governor of Maharashtra S.C. Jamir as previous winners of the Hornbill Rock Contest like Eximious, Diatribe and XTC belted out hit numbers before the guest band Five Little Indians brought the house down in a grand finale to the show. In his speech before the show, Jamir expressed happiness over the gathering of all 16 tribes of Nagaland at one place, which in itself is an attraction to all. “Not through confrontation but understanding we can build a new Nagaland,” he said.
Though the first band from eastern India to perform as guests at the 10th edition of the festival, Five Little Indians has a Northeast connection — its lead guitarist Allan Ao is, in fact, a Naga born in Kohima but brought up in Calcutta.
“It is a great feeling to return to the roots and perform in front of such a large crowd. Music is a way of life in the Northeast and people love good music here,” Ao said.
Cheered on by a vociferous crowd, the band performed its own numbers like Go Back in Time, Happy Birthday, Washing Windows and Sunshine.
The Hornbill Rock Contest this year saw 20 bands from across the country vie for the coveted winner’s title and a cash award of Rs 5 lakh. Nine bands, selected for the final round, performed tonight and the results are expected only after midnight.
Over the past few days, the Kisama Heritage Village has become the proverbial melting pot of many cultures with artistes and tourists thronging from places like Japan, Republic of Korea, Thailand and Myanmar, besides European countries.
The opening act of the festival on December 1 was a “breathtaking sight” — as a tourist from Japan put it — with Naga warriors of various tribes in extravagant costumes let out their war cry as cultural troupes from Myanmar and Thailand , decked in their traditional finery, swayed gracefully to musical accompaniment.
“The culture and tradition of the Naga people are awesome. I am really enjoying this festival. It is great place to be in,” said Martin K, a tourist from the UK. He said it was his first visit to Nagaland and had never expected such “wonderful hospitality so far away from home”.
A young tourist from Delhi, Pradip Sharma, said he decided to visit the festival after hearing a lot of good stories about Nagas from his friends. “I’ll return with very pleasant memories. I hope to come back next year too.”
Named after the bird with the magnificent plumage, the Hornbill Festival is organised by the state government.