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An evening of Indigenous Christmas

Social communicator and song writer Kit Shangpliang on the culture of hope subtly bigger this Xmas

 IN THE predominance of social ills and the sense of hopelessness looming large, is the message of Christmas still relevant? On December 14, at NEHU’s Bijni Complex Ground, Laitumkhrah, ‘Christmas ha i lyngwiar dpei’ gathered people from different walks of life to reason together and listen to the disappointments and the hopes expressed by shillong’s fine artistes.

     ‘Christmas ha i lyngwiar dpei’ is a unique Christmas experience packed with indigenous music, fusion and other standards. Over the years, Shillong’s Christmas celebrations expressed in music form has been rather monotonous and perhaps too foreign. This 90-minute event was a peep into a superior reality of celebrating the season of joy – with a cut of cultural fanfare right in the laps of the Khasi hills.

     One of the organizers, Kyrsoi Pyrtuh said, “It was a world of imagination made real – where we as organisers attempted to imagine welcoming the birth of the infant-King, the indigenous way”. If this was alternative thinking or cultural innovation, it worked well on that cold December night.

      The event offered the audience the opportunity to revisit the organic past where the story-telling tradition of the Khasi community around ‘Ka lyngwiar dpei’ came alive. “In Khasi traditions, the hearth is a place where the family members and guests discussed a wide-range of issues from politics to domestic affairs to social underdevelopment. The hearth is a starting point of positive change, a place where visions and opinions are valued and nurtured. A place where memories are formed”, said Pyrtuh.

     Mark Laitflang of Avenues Academy and well-wisher of this project said, “Christmas is a time of great hope and joy, and there’s no better way to welcome Christmas than witnessing indigenous musicians expressing their joy through their spontaneous act – great show”.

      This event came about as young social thinkers, community and church leaders got together. Rev K Pyrtuh, Rev Nathan B Diengdoh, social communicator and songwriter Rev AT Sohliya, Rev Moody A Lyngkhoi, academician-photographer Lang kupar War and I are members of the core organising committee.

     The stage décor takes the picture of a typical Khasi kitchen, with a tyngier (a trey of bamboos where kitchen knickknacks are kept) is suspended from the ceiling. Around the hearth, of course, lie the mats, the baskets and the one-of-a-kind traditional umbrella called ‘Ka Knup’. Overall, it was a superb thematic concoction.

The music

ANCHORED BY Shillong’s TransFusion band SummerSalt, this event was once again spiced up by its array of original pieces both in Khasi and English. With Ador on duitara and keyboard, Weet on drums, Raphael on electric guitar, Baiaineh on bass guitar and Kit on main vocal & acoustic guitar – “Summersalt’s deliveries were meaningfully breathtaking”, said member of the audience, Raphaphang Sohliya.

     Summersalt’s Khasi songs include its trademark ‘Pyrta Shnong’ calling people to facilitate responsible leadership, ‘Jingngeit’ reminding the audience that if one has the faith of a little child, one can move mountains and ‘Pyrkhat ko khun’, the message of hope that the father of an unborn baby wants to communicate while the child is still inside its mother’s belly – it could well be Shillong’s first pro anti-abortion song. The band’s Enligsh line-up including ‘City Secrets’ and ‘We need to be the Change, that we need’ – calls for spiritual introspection.

Other seasoned artistes including Timmy Kharhujon, Benedict Hynniewta, Ronnie Khonglam, Maxter Warjri, Nathan Diengdoh, Andrew and Amir, delivered their goods and engaged with the audience. Timmy’s self written song questioned the social leadership and reflected Shillong’s disappointments – followed by the upbeat songs of the other artistes talking more about hope, closely connected to the hope that Christmas and Christ has to offer.

 Other art forms

ALONGSIDE THE music is the artist’s stroke of Careen Langstieh who captured the spirit of the event to complete the pack. For the first time, Careen’s Live Artistry was projected on the big screen giving the audience the chance to witness the progression of the artwork simultaneously as the musicians pluck their duitara and guitar on stage.

     No one can deny that the icing on the cake is the poems written and recited by Michael Syiem, Amanda Tongper and Indari Warjri. These poems and the way they were read have arsenal potentials to dismantle strongholds of social ills like the one extracted from Tongper’s poem ‘Beat’:

May we never have to read of daughters being raped

By their fathers

May we never have to imagine the lives of old men

Gunned down in their sleep

May we never have to see images of a father clutching

To the mangled body of his new born

May we never have to gloss over a picture of a

A torn body in Gaza or Lad Rymbai

Or anywhere…

May we never have to seek solace in indifference.

     This event is primarily about the message the organisers want to drive home the Christmas message of hope and peace, how it stands so relevant in the broken world today. The arrival of baby Jesus and Prince of Peace should remind the audience of the arrival of peace and justice – a supposedly timeless solution. Most songs spoke of many critical social issues and persuaded the audience to introspect.

     For people who love food – hot local foodies from the traditional clayey pots plate by Kong Rilisbina Kurkalang and Kong Lovely Shangpliang melted the taste buds of many on that cold December night and everyone got the feeling of how it is to be in the Khasi kitchen. While there is dominance of social ills and hopelessness, the conclusion around ‘Ka Lyngwiar Dpei’ was unanimous – the culture of hope, peace and joy is subtly bigger.

 

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