Coronavirus lockdown | Songs of peace emerge from Manipur’s battle zone

The COVID-19 lockdown has inspired a musical initiative for peace and bonhomie in Manipur, a State troubled by decades of conflict.

A group of musicians in the State has produced a multilingual music album titled ‘Yes We Care’ with the objective of bridging the ethnic divide believed to have been widened by the lockdown that has minimised human interactions.

he album, released on YouTube on April 28, has the same song in English and seven other languages, including Hindi. Extremist groups in the northeast have ideologically been against Hindi, which they say is the language of “imperialist Delhi”.

The local languages in which the song has been sung are Nagamese, Tangkhul, Khoibu, Vaiphei, Paite and Manipuri.

While Nagamese is the pidgin lingua franca of Nagaland, Tangkhul and Khoibu are Naga dialects of Manipur. Manipuri is the tongue of the non-tribal Meiteis of Imphal Valley and Vaiphei and Paite are languages of the tribal group classified as Kuki-Zomi.

The Meitei, Naga and Kuki-Zomi groups have had a strained relationship with each other. There have been several instances of ethnic violence.

“The idea behind the album was to spread the message of peace and brotherhood and enliven the people in this time of the pandemic,” said Norbert Khayi, the president of the Tangkhul Music Forum based in Manipur’s Ukhrul.

‘Remove misunderstandings’

“Apart from appealing to the people to stand up and fight the pandemic together, our aim was to celebrate Manipur’s ethnic diversity,” he said, adding that the project cost the forum about ₹40,000.

The main person behind the concept, Mr Khayi said he felt the need to remove the misunderstandings between the people living in Manipur’s hills and the valley as also different tribal groups within the hills.

“The song is about overcoming the situation brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic by sticking together,” said Mandira Das, who sang the Hindi version of the song.

Mr. Khayi composed and sang the song in English, Nagamese and Tankhul. “We are getting a good response from people through social media platforms after releasing the album on YouTube,” he said.

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