After the Ziro Festival of Music announced its line-up on August 22, music lovers could not keep calm. Names like Laxmi Bomb, Da Minot, Bipul Chettri and The Travelling Band have made it to the line-up of the festival that will be taking place from September 29 to October 2 at Ziro Valley, Arunachal Pradesh. Another artiste on the line-up is Mangka Mayanglambam from Manipur.
Mangka is a Manipuri folk, classical and contemporary performer and pena player. She is also one of the few remaining Moirang Sai (storytelling art form) and Basok (female performance art) artistes. She has received her training from several famous Indian classical artistes, like Guru Langathel Thoinu and Padma Shri recipient Guru Khangembam Mangi, and she is also the recipient of the State Icon Award in Manipur.
Mangka is also associated with Ziro Focus which is a collaborative project between Ziro Festival of Music and Focus Wales (UK), which showcases artistic collaborations across both countries. Supported by the British Council, as part of India/UK, Together Season of Culture and the Arts Council of Wales, Mangka and UK artiste Eadyth have also collabed on a song titled RaRaRaHei.
Although we will miss Eadyth this year, Mangka spoke to The Telegraph about the upcoming performance.
How does it feel to be associated with a platform like Ziro Focus and Ziro Music Festival?
Fabulous. I had a lot of fun having new experiences and meeting new people, especially new artistes from different genres. It’s inspiring and gives me new and loads of ideas and connections.
For attendees of Ziro Festival of Music can you tell us a bit about what they can look forward to when it comes to your performance?
I will perform contemporary folk melodies of Manipur and storytelling music in Manipuri dialect.
Mangka with the traditional pena
I had to observe their (her gurus) styles with no phones, no YouTube, no books. I am blessed to be treated like their granddaughter and they taught me all the priceless knowledge, stories along with different art forms
Mangka, you are known for your folk, classical and contemporary music and performance. When did your inner voice identify that this is what you want to do?
The second I could start talking, I started dancing and singing to our tunes and the sounds of the drum and the pena. I was inspired by my father, a composer, songwriter, artistic director and dramaturg and he is my first guru. I performed at AIR Imphal when I was 10 years old with my guru for the first time and that’s where I realised that I belong on the stage and I need to interact with people and reach out with my music.
You are known for preserving Moirang Sai. What can be done to keep such art forms alive?
The art form can be kept alive only when the artiste is highly intellectual and can understand fully what the art form is in order to carry it well from within. They have to know how it is shown to the public and then inspire the youth and pass it on.
Coming to the pena, is it an easy instrument to learn and play?
Yes, it’s an instrument that’s so easy to hold and play but you have to sing along with it and that makes the whole performance complete (of the pena).
People address you as the Princess of Manipur Folk Music. Dow does that make you feel?
Responsibilities. But again, I feel blessed to be trusted with this title and represent our beautiful culture by being a Meitei woman wherever I land.
Can you tell us a bit about the experience while training under some legendary names?
The training method was guru-shishya parampara and I had to stay with them, be with them, go with them for their performances and watch them perform. I had to observe their styles with no phones, no YouTube, no books. I am blessed to be treated like their granddaughter and they taught me all the priceless knowledge, stories along with different art forms. It’s a never-ending task to learn and I am still learning. I would also like to mention that Guru Mangi recently passed away and it has been a great loss for all of us.
What’s coming up?
Before heading to Ziro, I am hosting an event here in Manipur called Manipuri ~Wales Music collaboration on September 27. The idea is to connect cultures through music. Keeping this theme, I will be connecting with artistes from different cultures and collaborating with them in the future. At the same time, I am still working on having my own Academy of Manipuri folk music and culture.