Sinlung /
23 May 2014

New Sounds From The Northeast

By Savitha Gautam

The famed Mokokchung Chancel Choir from Nagaland
The famed Mokokchung Chancel Choir from Nagaland

The Chancel choir from Nagaland, which plays on June 12, is all for experimenting with tribal sounds

Quick look
Event: SPIC MACAY’S Second International Convention
When: From June 8 to 14
Venue: At IIT Madras campus.
The choir will take the stage on June 12, 2.40 p.m.
“We want to keep our vibrant musical tradition alive and retain its unique identity… that’s the endeavour of our choir”, says Talipokum Pongerer while introducing the famed Mokokchung Chancel Choir from Nagaland, during a telephonic conversation. The young singer is the spokesperson of and belongs to the choir that’s the brainchild of Lipokmar Tzudir, hailed by many as one of India’s finest choir conductors.
The choir is in the news now because it is part of the upcoming mega event, SPIC MACAY’S Second International Convention, to be held from June 8 to 14, at the idyllic IIT Madras campus. The convention will see the confluence of India’s creative minds in the fields of music, dance, art, craft and cinema. The choir will take the stage on June 12, 2.40 p.m.
Lipokmar or Lipok, as he likes to be called, is armed with an M.A. in Ethnomusicology (Intangible Music Heritage) from the Sheffield University, U.K, and is a Sangeet Natak Akademi's Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar awardee. With the intention of showcasing some amazing talent that the Hill State has to offer, Lipo and his friend James Shikiye Swu started the Nagaland Conservatory of Music, as the premiere academy of the Nagaland Music Education and Arts Society.
And 22 of the students from the conservatory went on to become the Chancel Choir. Says Talipokum, “We are not all that literate musically. But our passion for songs keeps us going.” The choir, that has a healthy mix of male (tenor and bass) and female voices (soprano), has performed at many prestigious choral festivals across the country.
Nagaland’s music is largely derived from the Naga oral tradition which has been passed on from one generation to the next through folk tales and song. “So, music was used as a tool of communication and preservation of a rich culture. Now, with globalisation, these traditions are slowly disappearing. Which is why we have taken a conscious decision to root our music in the Ao tribal tradition,” says Talipokum.
What about the music per se? “The group comprises teachers, social activists, government officials, church officials and of course, students. So the age group is broad and therefore, the tastes are eclectic. That’s reflected in our repertoire,” he explains.
Chennai’s music lovers can listen to not only ethnic sounds but also Western choral arrangements, Broadway standards, fusion and yes, classic rock. “We have experimented with such classics as Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody and Elton John’s ‘Circle of Life’ by lending a folksy feel to them. One of our songs titled ‘Tabla’ is a string of percussion sounds produced orally. Our aim is to sound fresh and yet be able to connect with our listeners.” That’s something to look forward to!
This is the first time the choir is in Chennai and the team is all excited to perform for a new audience. Says Talipokum, “We want to share our music and emotions and hope people like it.”
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