As many as 368 electric guitarists from the North East played together in Nagaland this past week to enter the Guinness Book of World Records

Even as our mainstream media is engaged in reporting an escalating situation at the LoC, hundreds of miles away, in Nagaland’s Dimapur town, a posse of local media men collect to cover an unusual “international event”.

On a chilly, misty morning the crowd has already swelled to thousands at Dimapur’s NE Agri Expo Ground. In a place where the common refrain is, “nothing happens here”, all are up early on a Saturday morning (January 12) to watch a record breaking moment.

As many as 368 musicians from different States of the North East line up in rows on a makeshift stage, each holding an electric guitar. One among them is Gugs Chisli, the project director of Nagaland Government’s Music Task Force, the main sponsors of the event spearheaded by a local group, Sky Entertainment. They are attempting to enter the Guinness Book of World Records as the World’s Largest Electric Guitar Ensemble.

Shifting in his front row seat in anticipation is Nikhil Kishore Shukla, a representative of Guinness. He is to check the minute details before the event goes into the record books.

“They began to play together…finally around 3 p.m., Shukla declared it to be a world record, breaking the earlier record created by 250 guitarists in Ricoh, England, on October 14, 2012,” says Yan Renkikon, the publicity officer of Sky Entertainment, on phone from Dimapur.

As we talk, the phone line from Dimapur often goes on a hang mode and she suggests we exchange information on e-mail. “The idea behind the initiative was not only to popularise Nagaland internationally as an area of musical talent and show the world what we are capable of but at the same time we wanted to make this event relevant in context of our situation i.e, spread the message of peace and unity in the North East,” she says on the mail.

Around 600 musicians from Assam, Mizoram, Manipur, Meghalaya, and Nagaland registered to participate in the record breaking attempt. “We selected 368 participants finally. We didn’t have a short-listing system, those with an electric guitar were encouraged to play. The record-breaking team also included some members of the armed forces posted here.” While the youngest guitarist was a seven-year-old, the oldest was 60.

The participants played the Guns n Roses’ electric guitar version of “Knocking on Heaven’s Door”. “Two reasons why we zeroed in on the song. One, it is a very popular number which most guitarists can play. The other reason being that its lyrics are apt for the present situation in Nagaland,” she says.

Music Task Force director Chisla sounds almost apologetic for taking up the opportunity to play his guitar. With a giggle, he says, “I have been playing the guitar for a long time. As a musician, who doesn’t want to be a part of a record breaking moment?”

“Sky Entertainment came up with the idea and we decided to back them. This looked to us like a great opportunity to encourage the huge talent pool of musicians that we have in the North East,” says Chisla. The annual Hornbill Festival is the Task Force’s star event. Since 2006, it has been inviting musicians from the national level to participate. “The task force is a very small beginning but an important one. We give scholarships to talented musicians to pursue studies in music, acquire costly instruments, help music institutions buy software and gadgets for recording music. Lately, we have been trying to have a public-private partnership too. We are encouraging local event management groups simply because the Government can’t do everything and all the stakeholders need to be encouraged to turn Nagaland into a professional music hub eventually,” he says.

The focus is also to “give local youth an avenue to engage seriously with music to take it up as a profession and not stray into anything else.” The recent event in Dimapur was a part of the public-private partnership initiative. The local papers and news channels know the importance of the event, covered it extensively. The national media seems to have missed the plot. Like so often it does these days.