Khasi drummers impress in dhak competition

By our reporter

SHILLONG: The competition among the dhakis (drummers) is one of the most coveted events of the Durga Puja festivities and this year the celebrations in the Pine City was amplified by a special competition created for Khasi drummers by the Central Puja Committee (CPC).

The involvement of the local drummers gave the audience an indigenous flavor and the exposure to dhaks inspired new ideas in the Khasi drummers.

Of the three teams that took part in the competition, Sngap Paka Institute of Indigenous Heritage emerged winners while Jeeban Roy Memorial Creative Arts Academy and Seng Khasi High School finished second and third respectively.

“It was a historic moment and a day would come when Khasi drummers would take the main stage during Durga Puja,” said Amalemdu Dasgupta, who has been convener of the Dhak competition for 22 years now.

The winners walked away with a cash prize of Rs 2500 along with gold medals while the second and third prize winners were awarded Rs 2000 and Rs 1500 respectively besides medals.

Dajied Sing Kharkongor, secretary of Sngap Paka Institute of Indigenous Heritage, said, “They (dhakis) are very professional. Their instruments and beats are a little different so competition between us is not possible, but if there are programmes we can fuse with them.”

Kharkongor is a student of BA music at St. Anthony’s College.

27-year-old Sanbok Synrem, who teaches at Seng Khasi and is the project coordinator for Jeeban Roy Memorial Creative Arts Academy, was equally thrilled about participating in the event.

“It feels great and such exposure will give the kids of Seng Khasi a lot of confidence because there is a lot of difference between practicing in class and participating in competitions,” he said.

The boys from all three teams were dressed in the traditional outfits of spong (turban), saptithohlieh (white shirt), jain phong (sleeveless coat), jain tehsyngkai (hip sashes) and boh (dhoti) while the girls wore jainsem with colourful beaded necklaces.

When asked about his opinion on the competition among the dhakis, Sanbok said, “Music has no language they say and watching the second competition taught us a new language. Though our aim is to perform in the traditional Khasi way, next year we will add a bit of fusion from the ideas that we have got from watching the dhakis.”

While Seng Khasi and Jeeban Roy got the invitation around four days ago, Sgnap Institute came to know about the event only on Saturday. “Ideally we should have get a month’s notice,” Synrem said.

The invitations went out late because the plan to invite Khasi drummers was a last minute decision. Explaining the delay, Dasgupta said, “CPC secretary JL Das and I decided to invite the Khasi drummers only six days ago, and they have performed very well. Next year we would like to invite everyone at least one month in advance.”