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Forgotten melodies – The Shillong Times

Forgotten melodies – The Shillong Times

By Olivia Lyngdoh Mawlong

Because the tune of Tiew Kulab travelled from a distance and melted within the afternoon solar that crammed my room with heat and reminiscences, I imagined my grandmother readying her gramophone. I remembered the lazy afternoons of my childhood and the acquainted songs which we hummed leisurely. That was December 2017.
It was after a few years that I heard the favored Khasi track that made Rana Kharkongor, then a younger and good-looking man, a family identify right here within the eighties. With time, many aged singers and their Khasi songs have been forgotten as Western music features reputation amongst kids. Whereas some songs can nonetheless be discovered on YouTube, many have develop into a part of our reminiscence.
For over a yr, I had been making an attempt to hint the favorite singers of my childhood however circumstances had held me again. Lastly, I assumed it was time to pay tribute to the good artistes. It was not troublesome to seek out the singers as lots of them are nonetheless lively performers at All India Radio. The lengthy conversations which adopted not solely gave an perception into their life and profession but in addition highlighted the issues plaguing the Khasi music business in the present day. Whereas some are hopeful that know-how will go an extended approach to higher the state of affairs, many are sceptical.
Excerpts from the interviews:

Rana Kharkongor

The singer was a sensation throughout his younger days. He wrote the lyrics of a number of Khasi songs and was a part of the well-known album Jingkieng Ksiar. His some of the well-known songs, Tiew Kulab, gained hearts, particularly of girls.


Kharkongor now lives in solitude in his small two-storeyed home in Umpling. He stopped singing 4 years in the past as a consequence of ailing well being. He seldom meets guests and was stunned and irritated on the similar time when he noticed an uninvited visitor knocking on the door. For him, interviews are banal. “So many individuals come to talk to me and after a while, they overlook. What’s the purpose,” the singer stated, a touch of annoyance in his voice was palpable as he confirmed the lounge and went inside.
“What’s it about,” he requested, settling down on one other couch, a cigarette loosely hanging between his two fingers. When the aim was made clear, he agreed to speak, albeit nonchalantly.
Kharkongor began his singing profession within the early seventies and had even carried out in cities outdoors Meghalaya. “I had been to (erstwhile) Calcutta for recording,” he stated.
Later, I came upon that the majority artistes of yesteryear would go to Kolkata for recording as there was no studio in Shillong again then.
Kharkongor has 29 albums to his credit score. Amongst his different well-known songs are Nga lengthy tang U Nongbylla and Imat ka don ka daw.
Tiew Kulab is on YouTube and has over 40,500 views. Nevertheless, the singer was unaware of this. “I’ve not uploaded any track on-line. There isn’t any good response to the songs these days. There isn’t any incentive both,” stated the award-winning singer.
A sketch of a younger Kharkongor, framed with care, hangs on one of many partitions. He seems to be totally different, extra charismatic and energetic. The look in his eyes is intense in distinction to the despair that the 67-year-old’s eyes mirror.

John Gualbert Soanes

The senior artiste is oblivious to age. Music, he stated, retains him going. Soanes’ “music room” within the first flooring is his small world the place he experiments with sounds and tunes. A big framed photograph of Rabindranath Tagore sits comfortably on prime of a showcase.
Born on April 24, 1946, Soanes began his singing profession within the early sixties. With 300 compositions, Soanes’ contribution to Khasi music is immense. A Grade ‘A’ singer at All India Radio (AIR), the singer writes his personal lyrics and composes music. He additionally data his songs. “I’ve all of the sound recording set-up right here. My youngest daughter is a singer too and I’ve recorded her songs,” stated the singer as he confirmed the wired gear within the music room.


Phi dei o phi dei is certainly one of his compositions devoted to his spouse. Soanes, who can play a number of devices together with guitar and piano, stated Jingphohsniew is considered one of his favorite songs. The 73-year-old artiste continues to be an lively performer on radio.
Soanes, who resigned from his authorities job in 1984, is a multi-lingual singer and sings Hindi, Bengali and Assamese songs. “I had been to Mumbai within the seventies and met a number of the well-known music administrators and composers of the time like Laxmikant-Pyarelal, Shankar Jaikishen and Jaidev. Jaidev requested me to study sargam and so I got here again to Shillong and acquired into the one music faculty then in Laitumkhrah,” recollected the singer as he narrated the story of his studying Hindi and Bengali.
Soanes stated he was fascinated by Tagore’s songs. He took out a replica of Geetobitan, a set of Tagore’s songs, and sang a number of strains in Bengali.
When requested about an previous picket field in a nook, Soanes smiled and went as much as the field to disclose the key.
A gramophone, and that too in a working situation, is his proud possession. Soanes fished out a report from a bunch and adjusted the pin of the previous participant. Immediately, the atmosphere modified and the clear baritone crammed the room. “I nonetheless take heed to the previous data. Nothing can match the sound of gramophone,” the proud proprietor stated.

Tanbor Swer

Nobody can miss Bah Tan’s home in Nongshilliang, I used to be advised. One can see music all over the place. Musical notes adorn the gates and window grills.
Swer is likely one of the oldest artistes who sings Khasi and Gospel songs. He turned related to AIR in 1967. “Late Webster Davies Jyrwa and B Kyndiah have been current throughout my audition. I turned a Grade ‘A’ artiste at one go,” remembered the 71-year-old singer who’s now a member of the AIR audition board.
Swer began composing songs in 1963 and commenced singing a yr later. He was the primary Khasi playback singer and sang for the movie Ka Ri ki Laiphew Syiem, which was launched in 1982. In the identical yr, he made the primary Khasi cassette Na La Rympei. He additionally gained the primary open-to-all Khasi songs competitors in 1997.
Swer has intently labored with different well-known singers like Headingson Ryntathiang and Rana Kharkongor for a literacy album Hikai ia u ‘A’. The music, which is on YouTube, has over 46,000 views and one other music, Sha skul ngan leit, with different atistes has round 42,000 hits.


Amongst his different common songs are Ki nongpyniap and Ia im suk lang. Swer based the primary Gospel Band — The Endeavourers in 1975. He’s additionally the founder chief of the group Relations. Swer stated his curiosity in music began at a young age when his mother and father and relations would take him to live shows of well-known Khasi artistes like NC Shabong (his father), Khain Manik Syiem, Helen Giri, Siken Swer (his uncle), Elken Swer at Dinam corridor. He would admire these artistes they usually impressed him to take up singing.
When requested concerning the notes on the gates and grills, Swer stated they weren’t mere designs however tunes. “I composed them and gave for wielding. As soon as the person making the grills acquired a notice flawed and I made him do it once more,” Swer stated as he took the customer round the home and the small backyard.

Roytre Waroh Pde

The senior artiste seems to be extra of a humble authorities worker, which he’s, than a singer. However those that know him and his songs can immediately see the artiste in him.


Pde began singing in 1998. He has additionally composed Khasi songs and produced round 18 albums. The artiste took a break from his workplace work to satisfy Sunday Shillong outdoors the Secretariat constructing. Amongst his well-known songs are jadu aiu sha and Jingim nongkyndong, each of that are on YouTube. Whereas the primary one has over 2 lakh views the second has over 45,000. However the artiste stated he was unaware of the songs on-line.

The singer, who by no means had any formal coaching in singing, stated he takes his expertise as “a present of God”.
“I’m comfortable to be a singer. However at current, singing or composing songs is simply a interest,” stated Pde, who can also be a playback singer and member of SBUK.

Justine Sunn

The 53-year-old singer is the youngest among the many artistes that Sunday Shillong spoke to. Sunn can also be a Grade ‘A’ artiste at AIR Shillong. Certainly one of his well-known songs is ‘Shi eh ka khwai dohkha’, which can also be on YouTube and has greater than thousand hits.
“Shi eh ka khwai dohkha is predicated on my expertise about going fishing,” stated Sunn who has sung round 100 songs.
Sunn can also be a composer and has written lyrics for different artistes. He too feels his expertise is God’s present as there was no formal coaching. “A singer is a messenger of God, love, humanity and setting,” stated Sunn, who finds time from his authorities job to sing and train a choir group.

Phyrnai Marbaniang

The music composer and singer stated he doesn’t know the “A, B, C” of music and follows his personal notes. “It comes from inside as music is in my genes. My elder brother (Fluentist Marbaniang) was a longtime composer and singer. I make my very own notes and no one understands that. I’m semi-literate,” stated Marbaniang as he burst out laughing.
In line with him, the one Khasi classical music author was EBR Wanswett, the author of the well-known Khasi music Kynriam u pnar, u bhoi u struggle…, who was a terrific inspiration for him.
Marbaniang had additionally labored in Mumbai for a while. He lately helped within the composition of the track Mei Ramew for Terra Madre. “It was a joint effort and I particularly helped with the refrain tune,” he stated. The standard artiste stated Fluentist was a reputation within the Khasi music business and was the composer of Khasi people music Ha Syrngiew Jong U Bnai.

Headingson Ryntathiang

The singer, who’s extra in style for his Western songs, has sung a number of well-known Khasi songs like Kong Tyngkoi, La Shet U 57 and Por Ba Lah Leit kin ym wan phai composed by Loren Marbaniang. Ryntathiang stated he nonetheless performs at features, live performance and for AIR Shillong.

Ailing business

Because the wheel of time spins, the favored singers of yesteryear really feel know-how has accomplished a lot hurt to the native music business. All of the singers whom Sunday Shillong spoke to really feel piracy and on-line streaming of songs have ruined the marketplace for music CDs. “To be a singer at present, one has to wrestle to earn a dwelling. There isn’t a cash and no revenue in promoting CDs,” stated Sunn.
Songs of a number of artistes are on YouTube with out their information. Regardless of excessive viewership, the artistes fail to earn any royalty. There’s additionally no motion from authorities involved to cease such leakages.
Many singers rue the waning reputation of previous artistes and their songs. Native artistes ought to be appreciated and given a platform to showcase their expertise. They need to be invited to carry out at features and programmes and the Arts and Tradition Division also needs to play an necessary position to advertise these artistes, they really feel.
With the rising value of sound recording and tepid sale of CDs, artistes hardly become profitable by promoting songs, knowledgeable Rana Kharkongor.
“Additionally, singers lately are well-trained however they lack pure expertise,” stated Ryntathiang.
Swer, whereas appreciating younger singers and their compositions, stated they need to include significant songs “which may help revive our tradition and custom”.
“There’s an excessive amount of imitation. Artistes ought to be unique,” he added.
Soanes feels new-age devices are a worth addition and Khasi music must be upgraded by including extra devices.
Regardless of grievances and the onslaught of know-how, veteran artistes and aged listeners consider that previous lyrics are melodious and significant. “They’ve robust lyrics with deep which means. Some songs nearly take you down reminiscence lane. I feel with correct preservation and promotion, previous songs can also retain their reputation,” stated a younger listener who’s an admirer of Rana Kharkongor’s love songs.