Sinlung /
28 January 2013

Lengkhawm Zai: A Singing Tradition of Mizo Christianity in Northeast India

HEATH, JOANNA (2013) Lengkhawm Zai: A Singing Tradition of Mizo Christianity in Northeast India. Masters thesis, Durham University.
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Abstract

The Mizo people live in the Indian state of Mizoram. Following the arrival of missionaries in 1894 and a series of spiritual revivals, they have claimed to be a Christian people since about 1930. The Mizo hymn repertoire includes translations of western hymns as well as original compositions, and many of these are often sung with a modified tune and singing style that emerged during the revival period between 1906 and 1930. This singing style and the songs that have been composed specifically for it have come to be known as lengkhawm zai, and represent a Christian but indigenous musical tradition, with associated dance, gestural and instrumental conventions.

The context in which this singing takes place is lengkhawm. It typically takes place in two contexts: at a church service, and at a dedicated event for community singing called zaikhawm, which mainly happens at Christmas.

Can this relatively modern practice be described as traditional singing? In what way has it been shaped by the Christianity of the missionaries and subsequent influences from contact with other musical cultures? In what way does it reflect a continuation of the musical tradition that existed before the missionaries arrived in 1894?

This thesis explores the issues that surround the definition of modern traditions in Christian worship music in the context of lengkhawm, particularly addressing the nature of the exchanges that take place at the earlier points of missionary contact.

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