Notes from the northeast
A gathering-cum-gig at an Andheri five-star gets northeasterners in Mumbai under one roof, as musicians perform original songs about violence in the garb of religion
It started off as a small gathering when Raktim Roy — who divides his time between Mumbai and Guwahati — organised a meet-up with others from the northeast near Gorai bridge in 2008, when he was still a full-time Mumbai resident. Since then, Roy has organised many musical nights featuring artistes from that part of the country. And this World Music Day, Hanghatik Northeast, the initiative he started, will celebrate 10 years of bringing together people from a little known part of India, with the aim of making sure they don't feel left out.
"It isn't a northeast-exclusive gig nor does it display every aspect of our culture. It's simply a night to promote talent from back home," Roy says. The organisation also helps northeastern people new to the city, and has held meetings with the Mumbai Police to ensure their safety. They had also organised protests after the killing of Nido Taniam, a youngster from Arunachal, in Delhi in 2014. But Hanghatik Northeast isn't as active today, which, in a way, bodes well for the community. "Racial discrimination was at its peak in Mumbai in 2008. But today, it's not as bad. Also, there aren't too many people from the region here," he explains.
The performers for this edition include Sagar aka Cyco and Tony from Guwahati, Sashanka aka The Lost Punk from Assam, Mumbai-based Shameless Mani and DJ G-Glock, and Guwahati boy Rahul Rajkhowa, known for politically charged and socially conscious rap. His set will include his new song about the LGBTQI+ community — a poetic take on how people should have the freedom to love irrespective of gender.
Rajkhowa's next set of songs will see him address environmental issues. "Governments will come and go, but there's only one environment. It's an issue that needs to be addressed, as does war and violence. Amit Shah tweeted, 'Another strike on Pakistan by #TeamIndia and the result is same,' after India won the match against Pakistan. You're inciting people the wrong way by comparing cricket to the surgical strike. I understand being excited about the match, but you can't incite people in the name of religion or country," he says. But through all the harsh realities he's trying to highlight, the catchy groove of his songs help make them more of a dance number, he reminds us.
The JNU graduate has also faced flak due to his association with the university. "If you're not getting the right amount of abuse, you're not doing the right thing. But all this hatred shows that as students, we can make sensible arguments without indulging in offensive language and are actually trying to find a solution, unlike those spewing abuses," he says, adding, "And just because we have cheap Internet doesn't mean you can resort to using words that will grab attention without making sense."
His song on peace also talks about discrimination. "It was pretty bad when I was in college in Delhi. Uncles in their 40s would call me 'chinki'. In Mumbai, it's more subtle. People don't use racial slurs, but I was once told, 'India isn't ready for a lead actor from the northeast,'" he shares. Even online, his videos have comments including, "What are you doing? Go make momos."
Rajkhowa explains, "What's the point of my education if I don't write intelligent lyrics, instead of objectifying a woman? Listening to songs like that subconsciously makes you a letch. Music has the power to change your mind. So why not do it for a better cause?" Every set he plays includes a song about discrimination. "It's crucial because Hanghatik has been trying to tackle it for 10 years," he concludes.
ON June 21, 10 pm onwards
AT Kitty Su, ground floor, The LaLit, Airport Road, Andheri East.
CALL 9987603114 (to RSVP)
COST Rs 2,000 (for a couple)
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