Born to be Musicians!
Bravo to Mr. Banshailang Mukhim for effortlessly embracing numerous roles in the musical realm. A true Duitara wizard, let’s dub him as such, Banshailang’s ensemble possesses the ability to elevate the music, lending more essence to its performance.
As our time in Meghalaya drew to a close, we met with the talented musicians of “Shlem”
Institute of Music in Smit village, led by Mr.Banshailang. The name “Shlem,” which translates to “home” in Khasi, is a perfect embodiment of the institute. Within its welcoming walls, every artist feels a sense of belonging as they embark on their musical journey, making it a true home for their passion and growth.
Amidst weather-induced delays and location quests, we were treated to a cherished experience of immersing ourselves in Banshailang’s understanding of Khasi folk forms and being inspired by his musical journey.
Upon asking what is the speciality of Khasi music in terms of its structure,
Banshailang shared that Khasi culture possesses its own unique structure of rhythms (taalas) known as “skits,” with three particularly popular ones. In addition, there are rhythm cycles that are exclusively performed during rituals, such as the Nongkrem autumn festival, which is a time of giving thanks and celebrating the harvest while paying homage to the deities.
He also shared that the Khasi people have a deep connection between music and their rituals, as well as their everyday lives. Music serves as a medium that not only maintains their connection with nature but also acts as a reminder of its origins, as music is believed to have originated from nature itself. Within Khasi culture, songs are predominantly sung to express reverence and gratitude towards all-natural elements.
The Khasi people hold a strong sense of love and pride for their tribes, which is reflected in many of their songs that highlight the community, its people, and the surrounding nature.
At the Shlem Institute, many students flock to learn the intricacies of Khasi folk music. Each student within the institute possesses remarkable talent, whether as a skilled singer or instrumentalist, showcasing musicianship in their performances. Notably, their performances are further heightened by the interplay and playful camaraderie between the musicians. This joyful interaction reflects their deep dedication to their passion for performing, creating an impact as their music is straight from the heart. Under the nurturing umbrella of the Shlem Institute, it is evident that every individual is cultivating a spirited and vibrant performer within them.
During their first performance that day, they shared an exquisite composition called “Shyrta,” derived from the Khasi language, meaning “For the rest of the life.” The song was composed by Banshailang Mukhim. This enchanting instrumental piece featured the melodious tones of the Khasi instrument ka duitara, accompanied by the harmonious sounds of ka Bom, ka ksing shynrang, and ka kynshaw. Through this musical masterpiece, they conveyed the sheer joy and a heartfelt longing to preserve the experience of love and happiness throughout their lives.
This instrumental piece is a treat for the ears, showcasing the intricate craftsmanship of each instrumentalist, woven together into a harmonious and rhythmic composition.
Their second song, “Ka por” stands for time. “Por” (Time) is a song delving into the concept of time’s impact on our lives. It skillfully expresses the fleeting nature of time, urging us to embrace the present and shape a better future. The lyrics evoke nostalgia for lost moments and highlight time’s regal influence.The song reflects on the cyclical and irreversible nature of time, encouraging us to learn from the past and create a brighter future. Despite challenges, it urges us to pave the way for progress. Ultimately, “POR” invites contemplation on time’s essence, inspiring us to cherish life’s precious moments.
Both of these songs, the song performers, the sound of instruments and the melodious vocals set the stage for a perfect end to our days in Meghalaya. Being in Meghalaya became all the more special only and only because of the people we encountered during our time there. And we’re proud to say that our encounter was with the storytellers who sing the truth they’ve learnt, that they’ve lived and that which they want to share with the world and beyond.
They say, that sometimes people choose music, but so to say, it is also true that sometimes music chooses people, so it can flow through someone’s melodious note, a rhythmic beat, a soothing string or even a breath of air. Music is in the air, and everywhere. Are you listening?
– Meghal Sharma (Research Fellow)