Hoi Kiw – The Call of Khasi
In the heart of Meghalaya, the music flows like year-long rains, awaiting its time to embrace the people. Inspired by the natural beauty that surrounds them, the melodies of Meghalaya’s music mirror their everyday lives, their heritage and history.
One of the captivating discoveries we made in Meghalaya was the paramount significance bestowed upon its music. The people of Meghalaya possess a profound familiarity with their tribal music and cultural heritage. Many individuals further deepen their understanding of music by pursuing formal studies through various courses provided by institutions. This dedication and reverence towards music are integral to the fabric of Meghalaya’s cultural identity, making it a truly remarkable and enriching experience.
Immersed in the enchanting world of Khasi music, we were greeted by the strings of the “Duitara,”(string instrument), the melody of the vocals entwined with the rhythms of “Ka shynrang”(percussion) and “Ka bom” (drum). The group Da-thymmei warmed all of us with their uplifting music.
“Da-thymmei” which means “from the roots” is indigenous to the Khasi and Jaintia tribes. The group led by Daijed Sing Kharkongor aims to “Preserve folk culture and defend dignity.” The group laid before us a mesmerizing performance, the tunes and words of which are etched in our minds & hearts even today.
As the documentation began, the group started with the song “Ka shad ka kmen,” where the chorus of “Hoi Kiw” effortlessly uplifted our spirits. This heartfelt song pays homage to the Khasis of Meghalaya, painting a vivid picture of their culture, traditional instruments, their vibrant clothing and so on. It has truly become a Khasi anthem that leaves a lasting impact, as the chorus finds its way into the hearts and minds of listeners, lingering for days to come.
In their second song, “Thawlang ïawbei,” the group pays heartfelt tribute to their ancestors, expressing gratitude for their wisdom and protection of the tribe’s interests. Listening to this piece was a surreal experience, as its musicality and structure swept us into deep reflection, even though we weren’t familiar with the language. Such is the power of music – it transcends barriers, evokes emotions, and bestows upon us the precious gift of listening and feeling.
Daijed, the leader of the group shared that, Khasi being one of the most prominent tribes of Meghalaya, their culture is synonymous with that of nature. Khasi musicians draw inspiration from the melodies carried by the rustling leaves, the melodious calls of birds, and the gentle murmur of rivers and the trees that stand tall within the sacred forests. They also embrace the profound wisdom inherited from their ancestors. Rooted in the knowledge passed down through generations, their music reflects the rich societal fabric, the philosophy of life, and the significance of events like Thanksgiving, harvests, and changing seasons.
Their group Da-Thymmei emerges as true leads in reviving the vibrant folk music culture of the Khasi community, skillfully blending traditional ensembles with contemporary fusion elements. As a versatile performing arts group, they encompass the realms of Music, Dance, and Theatre, showcasing the diverse facets of their rich heritage. Each artist within the group possesses exceptional skills in their respective disciplines, united by a collective mission to safeguard and preserve their revered cultural traditions for generations to come.
As the group prepared for their performance, we witnessed a beautiful ritual led by Daijed. With utmost care, he wrapped the silk turban known as “Jainspong” around each member’s head, symbolizing unity and respect. The group donned traditional attire, including the elegant “Paila” necklace, a sleeveless jacket adorned with motifs known as “Jymphong,” and the graceful dhoti called “Jainboh.” The female group member looked beautiful in the “Jainsem,”(Traditional clothing for women) completing their ensemble. Their attire not only reflected their cultural heritage but also added an enchanting touch to the entire performance.
Our initial introduction to Khasi music began with this incredible group, recording their soulful folk songs. It was a wonderful experience as they played with absolute ease and precision, transporting us effortlessly along with Meghalaya’s gentle breeze. We found ourselves captivated by their melodies, swaying to the rhythm of their music. It was a truly lovely encounter that left a lasting impression, inviting us to embrace the world of music in Meghalaya.
– Meghal Sharma (Research Fellow)