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Glimpses of Nagaland’s music scene & musicians on World Music Day

world music day

Temjen Yanger
KOHIMA, JUNE 22: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s famous line, “Music is the universal language of mankind” comes to mind, on World Music Day (WMD). However, opportunities are not universal for musicians and artists across the globe.
Nagaland too has its own limitations vis-à-vis the ecosystem for artists and musicians to thrive.
Ever since the re-christening of the well-established Nagaland’s Music Task Force (MTF) to Task Force for Music and Arts (TaFMA) in 2019, the State has seen a lot of impetus being given for the benefit of artists and all stakeholders in the music industry with its all inclusive approach when it comes to arts, with special focus on music.
However, the pertinent question apropos to whether Nagaland has found the magic formula to provide the perfect ecosystem that musicians and artists can thrive is yet to be answered.
On the occasion of World Music Day, Nagaland Page caught up with the artist performing at the Musicians Guild (MG) 7th World Music Day celebration with the question ‘How do you feel about your future as an artist in Nagaland.”
Singer-Songwriter from Nagaland, Abdon Mech, who made his debut in the music scene with his single Again commented that there has never been a better time to be an independent artist, not just around the world but in Nagaland as well.
“The plethora of artists that we have accompanied by curators, event organisers, promoters is very encouraging. It may sound too clichéd, but seeing the talent that we have in our State and the people working behind the scenes, one can only be positive about the future”, he said.
Queried on what he would like to share with musicians of Nagaland, Mech said, “Speaking from a generalized point of view, I think artists need to stop feeling entitled. Do your own thing; stop waiting for people to come to you; get your act together”, he said.
Sharing his thoughts on music on WMD, “I am grateful for the music, it connects everyone. I think the COVID-19 taught us that. When everything shut down, everyone turned to arts and music. So I hope everyone continues to celebrate music and art”, Mech added.
Notable Naga rapper Moko Koza, known for his hits namely Puisa, Tribally Savage and One Day, said “Being an artist, we have to struggle on our own. The music industry will help you in small ways but the main thing to survive as a musician in Nagaland is that it all depends on you.”
“Hard work is the secret ingredient to success, after this we need to find the right people, build a network with good companies and hopefully everything will fall into their rightful place”, he said. “Nagaland still needs a lot of good production houses for video contents if we are to embrace a positive change”, Koza added.
Queried on his thoughts on lifting of The NLTP Act 1989, Koza opined that lifting of the Act will definitely help the music industry. “To drink or not to drink is a personal choice but I personally feel that the prevalent ban on alcohol is not conducive to the entertainment business. I don’t support the ban, please lift the Act”, he said.
One of the headliners of the 7th WMD was singer-songwriter and music producer from Nagaland Kl Pamei. Sharing his thoughts on the present music scene in Nagaland, Pamei said ‘If we look around the Northeastern States, the music industry is also growing but I think we are not there yet for us to really earn and make a living out of it.”
“Of the Northeastern States, Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram are really doing great but States like Nagaland and Manipur are yet to cross that threshold where musicians can really thrive. The good thing that’s happening in Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur is that festivals happen a lot there so musicians have more avenues to earn”, he said.
Queried on how he manages the financial aspect of making and selling music, he said, “I’ve been investing a lot in the past few years in my music. Now I am working on an album so I am investing a huge amount of money. Performance-wise, I don’t make that much but my source of income is that I also run a studio, so I record artists. In Nagaland, the best way to earn money is through weddings and corporate shows. On the other hand, we don’t earn that much from gigs like music festivals but then again it is important for our portfolio and it is good for our experience.”
Queried on whether the lifting of the NLTP Act will help the music industry in the State, Pamei opined that the other places that don’t have bans on alcohol have lots of pubs. This basically translates into artists getting more gigs to perform on a weekly basis, he added.
President MG, Melekhoto Pucho said the MG’s World Music day celebration started in 2011 with the vision not just to promote artists but also want to give a treat to our times. In other times this won’t be possible and this WMD is the one event where all the musicians come under one umbrella, he said.
“As musicians it is our responsibility to give back to society. On this it’s not just the musicians but the lighting and sound partners, power back-up and everyone under the music industry come as one to celebrate this day”, he said.
Queried on how Musicians Guild as an event management group envisioned a sustainable ecosystem for musicians, Pucho said that MG focuses more on quality by organizing two to three shows in a year. In line with creating that environment where musicians will thrive, MG recently concluded its second edition of MG Music Awards. Through this award we are making efforts to appreciate the works of musicians, he said.
“The present situation in the music scene is that we don’t have outside or governmental funding for organizing events such as World Music Day. The little revenue we generate from the ticket sale is being used to pay the artist performing at the event and all other elements that are crucial for a successful concert. Matter of fact, we are shelling out from our own pocket to meet the expenses of events such as the celebration of World Music Day”, he said.
“In Nagaland we don’t generate any profits through concerts, ours being a very small Sate, our music community is even smaller compared to other States. We need to support, encourage and promote each other”, Pucho added.
The host for the 7th WMD celebration was Mengu Suokhrie. Queried about her thoughts on the whole event, she said, “We just concluded the celebration of the 7th WMD at Kohima, all these years we have been organizing and we have been performing. Even this year, I get to see that the future, the music scene of Nagaland is so bright. Lot of musicians wanted to perform here but we cannot have everybody on stage in one night. Everybody will agree with me from what they have seen tonight at the celebration that we have really great potential”, she said.
Music will take us to the rest of the world and Nagaland will be recognized through music, note that, she said.
“As a host and organizer, we need more of this event, where more stages and more musicians can perform and inspire the talented ones because there are lots. However, we will need support from every end, starting from the media to listeners and everyone because this is going to be gold for us”, she added.
Queried on what music is to her, Suokhrie said, “Music for me is life, I’m a full-time musician, through music I’m getting my bread and butter and it has been a successful one so far. I’d also like to add for the younger lot that if you work hard you’ll get there eventually.
The celebration also witnessed electrifying performances by the Elysian, Imliakum & the Electric Cool Kid, Powerfaith, HIME, Imnainla Jamir, Worngam, After 20s, Zayie Zacchaeus Suohu, Fifth-Note and Temsu Clover.