When globalisation evolved and took over our rich culture and traditions, an indigenous music band, Featherheads Haokui, based in Manipur’s Ukhrul district, is striving to safeguard and preserve the dying ethos of the Tangkhul Naga community through its music.
Founded in 2012 by Augustine Shimray in New Delhi, the band aims to bring back the once-known glory of the community to life through music and empower the youngsters of folk culture and preservation of identity which were enshrined by their ancestors.
“We started with a small project to sing in churches with acoustic. But as we were always inclined towards our folk culture and identity, finally, we slowly evolved into folk musicians,” said Augustine Shimray, the brains behind the band.
Despite having various hiccups in their journey, the band with five members remain true to their beliefs and march ahead with hard work and perseverance. Up till now, this alternate-folk-rock music band, though with little means of survival due to lack of resources, has already released a single titled Ihao Thot.
With Shimray as the lead vocalist and acoustic guitarist; the band consists of Soreichon Shimray (female vocals); Urngayam L Shimray (percussion); Asher Vasah (bass) and Kuikui Hunphunwoshi (lead guitar and Pena or Tingteila, an indigenous musical instrument).
Keeping in mind the younger generation’s interest and choices of music, the band also pitches in with progressive elements of rock music. This newer composition in the traditional idiom has helped in keeping the band unique and also gained popularity across ages in the region.
According to the team of musicians, these intelligently sequenced folk music collections are mostly inspired by nature, humanity and the process of life. “The songs are mostly about giving out the message of humanity to the world,” they said in unison while speaking with VibesMojo.
Music, indeed, is the sole universal language by travelling thousands of miles with no barriers.
Meanwhile, for these young Naga folk musicians, finding the right stories to fit into their music takes days and months while doing research. Moreover, finding a storyteller who is well-informed of their ancestors’ stories takes a herculean task to locate him/her. However, their love for folk music and willingness to learn its meaning keeps them going strong.
“As we are eager to know our roots and culture, folk songs and its meaning; we keep learning by hearing lots of stories and do research on myths and history. However, it is getting very hard to find more stories of our ancestors since many elders who know the stories are passing away each day,” lamented Augustine.
“But we are fortunate that there are few elders who are guiding and teaching us the old Tangkhul Naga ways of living,” he added.
As informed by them, besides the folk elements, the band members put their chanting and recreate the lyrics and tunes.
Augustine further said: “We have two different line-ups, one is completely folk version of our ancestral folk songs and the other one is our originals which come out from within us.”
Besides writing lyrics and recreating of folk music, the band members are also into art. Often, the members participate in exhibitions and exhibit their products such as wind chimes and indigenous musical instruments, among others.