Thursday, November 18, 2004


Mangangsana And Company

Folksong by Langathel Thoinu and Khangembam Mangi

Priti had told me about Mangangsana’s Pena Orchestra. Sounds good to me, I said.

So Manganagsana plays in our sangoi, but with only one other young man. Wonderful to see this kind of youthful study and innovation of traditional music. They were a tad nervous when the great pena player Oja Mangi showed up – uninvited. To check up on them, I joked, not realizing how close to the mark my remark was.

Met Langathel Thoinu for the first time. I had been entranced by her singing in Eigya Syam’s films, one of which I hope to show during the week. She said she wouldn’t be singing but had brought two lovely students of hers.

We gathered around little charcoal stoves. Mangangsana and his pena partner presented the section on the Thoibi’s Exile to Burma from the Moirang Kangleirol Ballads. Had no idea such drama could be presented sitting down. Bonnie and Erin both whispered to me parts of the plot simply from the singing. Corrected me actually. I shouldn’t give my day job, had I but one, to be an interpreter.

Ta-Tomba looked at me. Then got up to give some money to the singers. Such a gentleman. Mike wants to see his and Iche Roma’s films together once I had mentioned, in a flight of hyperbole, that they were Manipur’s Tracy and Hepburn. We shall see. Paokhum Ama might be nice. It is short and Iche Roma is at the height of her beauty then. But I can’t remember if the print I saw has subtitles.

Great concert but, wait! Like a Ginsu Knife infomercial, there’s more!

Out on the moonlit lawn, with a mera-lamp hanging on a bamboo pole above them, we talked about what we had just heard, as the singers got into their cars.

What is Khullang Isei? Improvisatory love songs sung by boy and girl to one another, likening the objects of their desires to flowers, music, bees.

Khunung Isei? The same but without the nature allusions and imagery.

From the dark of the rear seat of his car, Oja Mangi begins to sing to Mike, asking Langathel Thoinu to reply on her behalf.

Oh no! The old coot is at it again! Langathel Thoinu feigns distress.

Oja Mangi sang of his besotment.

Langathel Thoinu: I can’t believe he is doing this to me.

Oja Mangi sings of his old man’s teenage crush on Mike.

Langathel Thoinu is finally driven to sing back, On Mike’s behalf, she calls him a shameless old codger.

It is magic. Mike turned to me and said: It is wonderful. Can our trip get any better? She asks.

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