Mumbai Local

The sounds of Meghalaya

At this particular point / As our greed can be as bad or lower / But to justify our human nature / Lets not be atypical…but natural / All beautiful and graceful / All unique and equal. These lines, from the song ‘Natural’, capture much of the transition of song writer and singer Rida Gatphoh’s life-changing journey from Mumbai’s corporate jungle to the real one in her hometown, Shillong, in Meghalaya.

Taking her cue from the oral story-telling traditions of the north-eastern State and its indigenous musical instruments, Ms Gatphoh developed a new form of music which aims to spread the message of caring for the environment. On Sunday, she was one of the awardees at the World Sparrow Day programme jointly organised by the Maharashtra Nature Park and the Nature Forever Society.

Ms Gatphoh lived in Mumbai from 2004 to 2009, working as a designer for a city-based firm. In 2010, she went back to Shillong to teach at the National Institute of Fashion Technology. She found that the Meghalaya of her childhood had changed, and its natural beauty was under siege. “I saw a lot of mining activity and deforestation,” she told The Hindu . “I saw hills being eaten by machines. This kind of exploitation affects everything, the overall environment around us, the flora and fauna and our lifestyle.”

Her work with local artisans brought her closer to the village folk. “We were working on sustainable arts and crafts. It was interesting because I was connecting at the grassroots.”

She came not just from a musical culture but also from a musical family : her mother is a folk musician and radio artist. So it was serendipitous whne she “came across a village called Wahkhen, which made traditional musical instruments.”

In 2010, Ms. Gatphoh started working on a project called Musical Nature , an ecological art project with folk musicians and contemporary artists. In 2013, Rida and the Musical Folks released Musical Nature , its debut album. Ms Gatphoh wrote the songs and composed music. It incorporates songs set to the sounds of the local instruments like the duitara, tangmuri, singphong, ksing, padiah, bom and maryngod.

Since then, she, with the group of eight musicians have been performing at art festivals in Delhi and Shillong. “Our message is to be aware of the environmental situation, which you tend to miss out when you are working in a corporate set up. You don’t notice the birds disappearing, the sparrows dwindling. Most of our songs talk of nature to help people connect with it. We use traditional instruments except the guitar. Our music does not fit into any existing genre. Musical Nature encourages people to think of the larger context in which they live in and to see how our current actions as individuals affect the Earth’s future.”

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Printable version | Feb 24, 2021 10:29:05 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/news/the-sounds-of-meghalaya/article8379870.ece

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