Sur Poorva was an extra ordinary exploration of the socio-cultural atmosphere of the Seven Sisters of India, a little distant from the other states, but still very near to our hearts. Sangeet Natak Akademi, New Delhi, in collaboration with Padatik, Calcutta, presented this unique three-day festival of the Northeast’s music, which brought out the fragrance of the Indian soil, the shades of the northeastern rivers and the rain-drenched dense forests, at the Eastern Zonal Cultural Centre auditorium.
The festival began with lama chants, the famous Buddhist chants, by Tashi Bapu from Arunachal Pradesh. Their first item was “Nyensen”, the musical invocation of the forces of goodness. In a tapestry of instrumental and vocal sounds, the monks invoked creative awareness within themselves and the audience. They enhanced the spirit of inherent sanity in the environment as a prelude to the festival.
Their second piece was focused on “Dalma” (comparable to the Hindu devi, Tara) who is the female embodiment of all the Buddha’s enlightened activities. Their chantings for this special deity by making offerings and praises expressed the strength of our inner potential. They also performed “Gunchag sum pa”, which was a prayer to the Buddha, seeking his blessings to bring about happiness and peace.
Leimokpam Lakhpati Singh with his team from Manipur performed nata sankirtana. The idea of nata sankirtana is similar to that of kirtanas and sankirtanas prevalent in mainland India. They made it special with their agile body movements and expressions.
The performance of Bhaskar Jyoti Ojha and Khusha Mahanta revolved around the khol and mridanga of Assam. The renowned khol player, Bhaskar Jyoti, got his tabla training from the guru of the Lucknow gharana, Ustad Afaq Hussain Khan. Khusha Mahanta is a well-known mridanga vadak from Samaguri Satra, Assam. The khol and mridanga duo began their recital with “Khit ta dhei daon”, the first bol of the guru-shishya tradition. After that they presented a composition from Assam, a state of valleys, hills and the mighty Brahmaputra.
Lipokumar Tsudir of Nagaland performed the choral music of his state along with his team. The simple approach, without instruments, the harmony of the boys and girls, and the sweet blend of charming old Hindi songs enchanted the audience.
On the second day, Gunindra Nath Ojha from Assam with his group performed Kamrupi lokageet. The programme began with a bargeet, “Narayan kahe bhakati karo tera” on Raga Dhanashree and Taal pari, Pat pari, Dakhabazi and Dharamjati Taal. Kamrupi folk music, derived from the ancient Kamrup kingdom of western Assam, expresses the thoughts and emotions of the common people of Kamrup. They also performed popular items like khelor geet (boat-race song) , Holi geet, dihanaam and the like. The accompaniment of dotara, dagor, ektara and flute was attractive.
Lawrence Lalnithanga of Mizoram presented the traditional music of Mizoram with his troupe members. Komik Khongjirem, with his troupe from Meghalaya, presented the Khasi tradition of music. The most exceptional feature of this performance was the orchestration with instruments made from natural ingredients like bamboo wood, dry leaves and the like.
Sunita Bhuyan presented the traditional music of Assam. Her mellifluous voice and skillful violin playing enthralled the audience. Her songs gave the true picture of flood-devastated life on the banks of the Bramhaputra, the jovial Bihu festival as well as the hidden love and affection of day-to-day conjugal life. Most of the songs were based on ragas like Dhani and Bhupali.
Sonam Tshering Lepcha from Sikkim presented Lepcha music. This part of the programme included welcome tunes with nibryok polit. The instruments used in this item were the double-barrelled bamboo flute, puntong polit, and the four-holed bamboo flute used to play the Lepcha folk tune in Damsang Raga. They also presented a Go Kurwaok song (“Beloved children of mother nature and god”) and Royon Oong Bob song (a typical Lepcha folk tune depicting the life of a fisherman and his wife).
R.K. Sanatomba with his group members gave a performance of the rhythms of Manipur. This programme was greatly enjoyed by the audience. Sucharita Bhowmik of Agartala sang traditional songs of Tripura that are interwoven in their socio-cultural life. Her voice was sweet and powerful, but the energy was very low that evening. The audience expected more from her.
The festival concluded with the performance of Prabhat Sharma who presented the Devagandhar traditional instrument of Assam. The dance movements and the vocal modulations were praiseworthy.