Indian classical music has reached international fame and recognized at a global level. But, the Indian folk culture, talking of the existing in predominantly rural communities today, does not enjoy the same celebratory status. Partly, because tribal and folk music is not taught in disciplinary formats similar to Indian classical music. Fortunately, that’s changing today, as Indian youths are picking up folk music to express themselves on various platforms and sustaining their roots and culture for the ages to come.
Today at R&L, we showcase an important folk performer, Mangka, who’s a musical revolution that state youth forums are rejoicing over. She has put Manipuri folk singing on the international map and is the voice that has popularized Manipuri folk song form, Pena.
Meet Mangka Mayanglambam – Folk Song Artist and Performer at the Laihui Ensemble from Imphal, Manipur.
Mangka acquired the knowledge of folk music from her father, Mangangsana, a renowned Pena artist and recipient of Ustad Bismilah Khan Yuva Puraskar in 2008. Mangka started learning Moirang Sai and Basok (a rare traditional female performing art) from Guru Smt. Langathel Thoinu since a tender age of nine. She has also learned Pena music and Hindustani Sangeet. Because of her extensive work towards reinvigorating interest in Manipuri folk music among today’s youth, the Election Commission of India has selected Mangka as Manipur’s ‘State Icon 2017’.
When she’s not being a simple college girl, she is flying across the world, making her mark in one prestigious music festival after another. She has also been an artist at the All India Radio station in Imphal.
- So Mangka, since when did you realize that you wanted to be a singer?
The second I could start talking, I started singing and dancing with many Laihui artiste\s when they came home to practice their singing. I was 9 years old then and when I first started learning Manipuri music from Oja Langathel Thoinu (my grandma), the system of learning was a strict Guru Shishya tradition. Before this, I used to learn from my dad and his fellow artist. I started learning Pena, a Manipuri traditional fiddle instrument, from Padmashree oja Khangembam Mangi, when I was 13 years old. And I also learned Hindustani Sangeet Visharad from Guru M. Jiten. Now, I am also a performer with the Laihui Ensemble.
“On an average day I go to attend classes and record documentation and research related to our culture. And then I practise dance and usually spend some time with children singing, dancing, and teaching them. Children are my happiness and our future. My main focus is to train them and learn from them.”
- How have your roots inspired your musical passion and career?
My family has a deep background in music. My father, who is my inspiration, is a national award winner, folk musician, versatile artiste, composer, and the artistic director of ‘Laihui Ensemble’. I have been singing the traditional songs that our ancestors used to sing since I was a kid. I have grown up singing ‘Moirang Sai’ and ‘Pena Ishei’ traditions, which are ballads that are central to Manipuri folklore. But now I also sing a few contemporary songs based on Manipur’s folk tunes that are composed and written by my father and other renowned lyricists. My parents are my strength and they have been supporting and guiding me towards the right path from the very beginning.
- Are there any more international acts coming up that we can look forward to?
I can’t really perform much nowadays as I need to get done with my studies and classes for now. But I do perform three to four shows a month. I have got some shows coming up in Imphal. I am currently working on music collaborations with artistes from Hawaii and Portugal, as well.
Check out Mangka’s beautiful singing and performing skills in her music video – ‘Nongthang Leima’.
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