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Akhu unplugged, in Bengal

- The Imphal Music Project to be launched next month

Calcutta, Jan. 19: India I see blood in your hands! This is what singer-musician-writer from Manipur Akhu Chingambam said to budding lawyers at the conference on Law, Development and Democracy 2013 at National School of Juridical Sciences in Calcutta today.

The artiste shared his perspective on democracy from his experiences back home between his powerful renditions of When your home is burning and Eche, the song on rights crusader Irom Sharmila’s struggle.

On the sidelines of the event, Akhu, known for his anti-establishment lyrics, discussed his plans and the financial hurdles he faces while working the way he wants to, for his band Imphal Talkies and other projects.

“The immediate launch I am looking forward to is the second album of Imphal Talkies, which features Hem Guru Mayum and Sunil Loitongbam, apart from me. It is titled When your Home is Burning and will release in March this year,” he said.

Akhu, however, has his hands full as far as upcoming projects are concerned.

He recently completed recording the first song, Nonglei (the storm), for The Imphal Music Project where he collaborated with musician Rahul Ram of Indian Ocean fame and Naga folk blues singer Rewben Mashangva.

His inspiration is Imphal and the agonies of the people of Manipur. “I feel comfortable working with Rahul Ram. He not only understands my music but the cause behind it,” Akhu said.

The project was thus an extension of his worldview.

“The Imphal Music Project is a platform for artistes to come together and share their views on life and politics in their region through music, to make collaborations happen between Imphal-based musicians and musicians from outside,” Akhu said.

He hopes he will be able to launch the first episode of the project with this song and a video for it by next month.

For the second episode of the Imphal Music Project he has an ambitious plan.

“I will collaborate with Mumbai-based singer and guitarist Sumit Bhattacharya in April to record songs with war widows of Manipur. The songs will tell their stories with the women singing and writing for the episode,” he said.

He also has a unique plan of a 17-track (song) opera narrating the life of a boy from Imphal living in Delhi.

“The opera is ready but I need money to record it. It is really difficult to get funds for the work I do. Recently my name was dropped unceremoniously from a government-funded programme in Guwahati. I guess when they called me to perform they did not really know what I write.”

He, however, makes it clear that he will never compromise. “The government is elected by people. I write about people, their sorrows, their troubles. I cannot understand what is so problematic in saying my home is burning when my home is burning.”

Funds are the biggest concern now for the nonconformist artiste.

“I don’t want to sing for people who don’t care for people around them. Singing songs about Irom Sharmila in front of a drunk crowd doesn’t make sense to me,” he said.

But the man who holds his cigarette precariously loose on his fingers puffs out worries just as casually. “For now I am looking forward to seeing Coffee House and College Street,” the artiste said.