Although this writer doesn’t understand Khasi lyrics till they get peppered with English (I can see me… I can see you), the lush, green hills of Meghalaya flash before our eyes as we listen to the sound of drums and Shillong-based artiste, Rida Gatphoh’s earthy vocals in Trouble. It’s a song from a nine-track album, Musical Nature, that marked the debut of the Northeastern band, Rida & The Musical Folks in 2013. Besides an acoustic guitar, the album features traditional musical instruments like Ksing Shynrang (male drum), Ksing Kynthei (female drum), Tangmuri (windpipe) and Singphong (Reed instrument), all handcrafted by the musicians themselves.
The band, Rida & The Musical Folks
This weekend, the band will be in town to perform at Earth A Fair, an event showcasing food, music, arts and crafts from the Northeastern state. "The idea of curating art forms from Meghalaya is to learn from their tradition and culture and be inspired to strengthen our bond with the environment. The event features an artiste’s collective of instrument makers, musicians, craftsmen, designers and chefs. We wanted to bring various artists under one roof to make the experience more wholesome," says 34-year-old Ghopal Krishnan, a creative director, who moonlights as the band’s producer, and brings the event here after a successful debut in Bengaluru, earlier this year.
Rida Gatphoh (left) with local Khasi women pack handmade black clay tableware created for the label, Dak_ti Crafts
"My mother was a radio artiste, so music was a fixture since childhood. Moreover, every festival and ceremony in Khasi life is enriched with music and dance," says Gatphoh, over a disturbance-ridden telephone call, from the rocky roads of Jaintia hills. Incidentally, the artiste studied design at NIFT (where she met Krishnan) and shifted to Mumbai to work as a designer before returning to Shillong. "In 2010, I met Bah Rojet Buhphang and (late) Bah S Malngiang — traditional instrument makers and duhalias (traditional folk musicians) — who are also the founders of the Sieng Riti Institute for traditional folk music in Wahkhen, a village in East Khasi hills. They inspired me to write and compose songs over the next two years," says Gatphoh, who collaborated with the musicians, along with a few other artistes from the state and performed at The India Habitat Centre in Delhi in 2013 before launching the album. "The idea is to connect with nature through music, so we have handcrafted the instruments too," says Gatphoh, who will perform with band members, Peter Marbaniang, Shaun Nongrum, Shaun Morehead Nonghulu and Russell Warjri. "Beside the album, the band will also perform Khasi form of poetry and storytelling," adds Krishnan.
Rida Gatphoh with handcrafted folk instruments outside the Sieng Riti Institute for traditional folk music in Wahkhen, a village in Meghalaya
Apart from working on music, Gatphoh has also started Dak_ti Craft, a label with Marbaniang (also a designer) and Navackotti. "Dak_ti means impressions of the hand in Khasi. We work with local artisans to create handmade products using organic materials bamboo and black clay. We’re also doing research on pineapple fibre. I travel across the state’s villages to train and work with local craftsmen," she adds. The event will showcase Dak_ti products, including black clay tableware and bamboo bags, ranging from Rs 150 to Rs 5,000.
Jadoh with fish
A Khasi feast
The event will also feature a menu that packs in over a dozen Khasi varieties. "Khasi and Jaintia cuisine are similar and slow cooked. The food is flavoured with indigenous herbs, onion, ginger, garlic, chillies, sesame, bay leaf, pepper, turmeric and mustard oil. The usual fare is rice, meat (fresh or smoked), stew, fried vegetables, vegetable salad with local herbs and chutneys like Fermented Soya Bean (Tungrymbai) or Fermented Fish (Tungtap)," says Krishnan.
Shillong-based self-taught chef Roderick Nongrum, who has previously worked as an instructor with North East Slow Food and Agrobiodiversity Society (NESFAS), will prepare the dishes, with ingredients like smoked pork, bamboo shoot, sticky rice and a variety of herbs, sourced from the Northeastern state. "The traditional Khasi food is disappearing. So, I travel across villages to learn traditional recipes from Khasi locals. Later, I re-create and innovate the dishes using slow cooking techniques," says Nongrum.
On: July 2, 8 pm to 10 pm
At: The Hive, 50-A, Huma Mansion, Chuim Village, off Union Park, Khar (W).
Cost Rs 1,200 (meal and music), Rs 600 (only music).
Log on to: www.bookmyshow.com
On the menu
>> Rice varieties like Ja Stem (yellow rice cooked with local herbs), Jadoh Sniang (red rice cooked with smoked pork stock) and Ja Shulia (sticky rice).
>> Curries like Dohthad Sniang Lungsiej (smoked pork bamboo shoot curry), Syrwa Syair (chicken stew with pumpkin), Dohkha Phon (boiled fish with tomatoes in mustard oil) and Pathaw Iwbih (yellow pumpkin curry).
>> Accompaniments like Tungtap (tomato chutney with fermented fish), Ktung Khlieh (dry fish chutney), Jamyrdoh (local herb chutney) and a drink, Umsoh Pyrshong (Carambola Punch)