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Music as wake-up call

By Willie Gordon Suting

Music connects to the heart. In Shillong in particular, and Meghalaya in general, music is an intrinsic part of life. And this is the reason why the Election Department chose the medium to connect to voters — first-timers, veterans and the special.
For the first time in Meghalaya, the Election Department has walked an extra mile to make a full video of its promotional song, Tarak Tak Tak, involving several local artistes. The song called upon young people of Meghalaya to exercise their voting rights by enrolling was well received. The song featured Summersalt, Khasi Bloodz, Tangsrik Sangma and many other artistes. On Saturday, Rock The Boat with Your Vote concert was the final round of the department’s awareness programmes.
Kit Shangpliang of Summersalt, reflecting on the song Tarak Tak Tak, says, “It was a labour of joy and we understood from Day 1 the responsibility that came with it. The song was intended to draw people to enroll and vote, but it doesn’t end there. It also calls upon people to vote thoughtfully and responsibly since it talked about informed ethical voting and being responsible as member of the electorate. As we’re nearing the polling day, we hope the song works as a gentle reminder that calls upon people to mount up, prepare and to have political clarity and vote responsibly, whether they are in the Garo hills, the Jaintia Hills or the Khasi Hills.”
Greg Nongrum, the guitarist of Summersalt, says Rock The Boat Concert was a wonderful experience. “The event was an art with a purpose. The idea was not only to attract people, but to remind them of the last and final call to vote on February 27. There was Meghalaya’s first floating stage. In the event, we had the honour performing alongside Haystack Ladies from Tura, Light after Dark – our friends from the visually impaired community and Khasi Bloodz.”
On being asked of thoughts on the Election Department’s efforts, Ador Shangpliang of Summersalt says, “The efforts of the Chief Electoral Officer and his teams this time is not only commendable and trending, it is multi-pronged, holistic, disciplinary, impactful and result oriented. The campaign goes beyond enrolment and voting, it touched upon the nitty-gritty of voters’ apathy, model code of conduct, inclusivity – embracing our friends from the physically and mentally challenged community and it calls upon each one of us to participate in democratic governance. We see participatory democracy at play and to have been given the honours to take part, we are thankful for the opportunity that has so much potential to touch 3 million lives.”
“On a stretched expectation, we expect political and bureaucratic leaders to be more honest to themselves which is perhaps unrealistic and too idealistic an expectation. On realistic expectation, we’re thinking arts and culture policy, holistic education, youth policy, environment policy, sustainable tourism and power policy. There is 5 per cent of candidates who look like they can deliver that and so we hope,” adds Ador.
Tangsrik Sangma, who featured in TarakTaktak, says, “The lyrics and song content is very inspiring for voters to exercise their rights and also eye opening to choose and vote.”
Sangma says the Election Department has helped a lot in spreading awareness in society.
On being asked what key issues candidates should focus on, he says, “Good infrastructure is needed where people can stand for their future livelihood. Also militancy should be curbed by bringing peace and tranquility to the state.”
On Saturday, Light After Dark, a group of visually impaired musicians had a performance.

Zawma Sailo, keyboardist of the band, says, “It was a brilliant initiative by the Election Department creating a unique election atmosphere not seen anywhere else in the country.”
Bassist Dilbertstar Lyngdoh feels the new government should pass the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act.
“Candidates should focus on overall inclusive development in society by supporting disabled people passing the RPWD act, state policy.”
Through music, the department also wanted to ensure inclusive and accessible voting.
While multiple stars helped the department spread its message of fair , free and accessible voting, in Garo Hills, Browny Marak, the legendary rock star in the region, has been doing the needful to spread the message of the Election Department in the once militant-hit areas. With violence already spreading in different pockets of the Khasi, Jaintia and Garo Hills, it is to be seen how far the tunes of democracy work wonders.

More tunes, parody
The Election Department is not the only one to use music to drive its message home. Political parties too are using the medium, and adjudged the best so far, to raise issues, make promises and convince the electorate to vote for their respective candidates.Their multilingual promotional songs speak of issues of all communities and promise to redress them in due course of time.

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