Recording of song with children
In 2010, there was a blockade called by Naga organisations in both the highways (National Highways 37 and 39) leading to Manipur against the State government’s decision to bar the entry of NSCN (IM) leader Th. Muivah into his home district Ukhrul, Manipur. In one of the rallies supporting Muivah’s entry into Manipur held at Mao gate, two Naga boys were shot dead by State police forces. And the highway blockade continued for three months. The blockade led to shortages of fuel, food and medical supplies in the State. This condition also fuelled communal tension between the Nagas and Meiteis of Manipur.
During the three months, Burning Voices, a Delhi based organisation of poets and musicians which Akhu was also part of, raised funds from people all around the world and bought medicines for common ailments for the people of Manipur. He came down to Imphal and become part of medicine distribution team. On one occasion, they distributed the medicines at a children home in Kanglatombi, Senapati District. There at the children home, they found out that the children are from various ethnic backgrounds and tribes and these children hardly bothered about their own ethnicity or social status. They were simply happy living under one roof and sharing what they had at the home. This was one moment that made me realised that if we recreate such innocence, the people of Manipur can coexist respecting each other. Since then, he had thought of launching a music project with children to promote peace and harmony between the ethnic tribes/communities of Manipur. So he started an initiative called “A Native Tongue Called Peace.”
It started from May 2015 with the children of Carmel Jyoti Children Home. He introduced various ethnic music instruments and folk songs with help from Chaoba Thiyam, a Pena player and Guru Rewben Mashangva, a Naga folk singer.. At the same time, origami classes were organsied which the children thoroughly enjoyed were . As the project went on, he found out that many of these children are also living with HIV. Moreover, they also have lost their parents due to familial and other crisis in Manipur. Many of them are on ART medication which impacts on their moods often. Sometimes they were cranky and grumpy; sometimes they don’t want to play the guitar. Akhu and his teams had to encourage them with stories of musicians and artists, how music have healed and played important role in a society like ours.
They started using music as a therapy to heal the children emotionally and expose them to a different world of joy which they have not found in their daily activities. In one such therapeutic session, they played a song by Nepali instrumental folk band Kutumba.
In the month of July, they finished the first song called “All We Need Is Love”. The song also featured legendary Indian guitarist Rudy Wallang on bass and Keith Wallang on percussions. The children sang the chorus part and recorded inside the compound of the children home. Later in early August, Churachandpur was in turmoil protesting against ILP Bills passed by the State Assembly which consequently led to the killing of nine persons by security forces. And there was some sort of communal tensions brewing between Kukis and Meiteis. In such moments of ethnic differences, music is of immense importance. With children he and the children penned sone called “About these dolls”.
“Hey little shinning doll,
you look so bold,
don’t know where you belong,
but I will give you a home”
By this time, some of the children had already learnt how to play guitars from my band mate and classical guitar player Karnajit Laishram. Karnajit is an excellent guitar teacher with a three years’ experience of guitar teaching in Bangalore School of Music. He also has a diploma degree in classical guitar from ABRSM.
Soon after he released the song “Little Shining Doll” and a preview organised for Child Welfare Committee, Imphal East, the children performed the song at Royal Academy, Imphal on teachers' day celebration. Few days after, the song was released on YouTube and YouTube India shared my band Imphal Talkies' YouTube Channel as channel of the day with a screenshot of the children performing the song 'Little Shining Doll' from the YouTube video we released.
Akhu has done good work with the children. He implemented the project in state which is plagued by ethic conflicts and insurgency. FST will continue to support him in future through other means.
Rehearsing with children