Excerpts from November 2013 report
Adim Sangeet that is Adivasi Music is the first category of Indian Music which in many ways forms the ground for latter categories. Unfortunately, induced urbanization in interiors of India has been proven a threat to Indigenous Arts especially Tribal Arts. When indigenous knowledge systems meet the streams of modern sciences & technology a new idiom of art is created which changes the face of Music which is an important happening as far as growth and development of any art form is concerned.
As we know, it has a unique cultural significance when an artiste belonging to the western belt of India travels across the country in the opposite direction and stays with an artist from another community belonging to the eastern belt of India.
Both of them speak different languages, follow different musical traditions & live altogether different lives. When they both meet & try to exchange musical traditions & ideas, in all possibility a new language of music is created which bridges the gap between cultural fraternities. Study of Mishing Commune Music becomes a catalyst in bridging this gap.
In a way, it is an experiment to explore the Unity in Diversity.
To give you the basic frame of their music we are sharing link from internet for your perusal. Song of the Mishing :
A Small Note on Music & Culture of Mishing tribe from north east Assam.
(This note is prepared by Shonia Doley, my collaborator artist, Mishing Community)
The Mishing are a colorful Mongoloid tribe who inhabit the reverine areas of Lakhimpur, Sibsagar, Darrang, Sonitpur, Golaghat, Dhemaji, Jorhat,Tinsukia Districts of Assam. They were originally the Tibeto-Burman speaking tribe who, probably trekking down from the point of dispersion and came down to the plains. The Mishings, forming a part and parcel of Assamese society, have contributed a lot to the formation and enrichment of the local culture throughout the centuries. The mishings have been living in the plains of Assam in the midst of non-mishing population ever since they migrated from the hills i.e the 11th century or so. They have their own traditions, customs, religious beliefs ,practices and language which distinguish them clearly from the rest of the non-mishing people. The Mishing has a rich folk literature which reflects their sentiments and feelings, social norms and values, historical events associated with their migration from the hills to plains as well as socio-political events experienced in their life. Their folk literature can be described under the broad headings (A) Folk Song and (B) Folk Tale. The folk songs can be again sub-grouped into(1) Devotional song (2) Love song (3) song of lamentation (4) Lullaby, (5) Nursery rhyme (6) Songs of religious and ritualistic association (7) Narrative songs (8) Songs sung on the “occasion of marriage”.
The devotional songs called ‘A:bangs’ occupy a unique position in the life-stream of the Mishing community. It is a verse of hymn of praise and worship to God or Goddess. It reflects the true philosophical concept of community. It narrates not only the pray songs of the supernatural but also the different modes and ways of life of the Mishing people. It is the true religious guide to the community. On the other hand it may be love songs which celebrate the lusty joy of life constituting a form of poetic art. The ‘A:bangs’ are very rich in emotional appeal, philosophical import, figure of speech and elegance of words. This is decidedly a superior literature and no man of taste can fail to appreciate its sweetness. These songs are very agreeable to the ears as songs combining occasionally with dance while they can captivate the minds of the listeners with mead of devotional ecstasy. The ‘A:bangs’ are the earliest known verbal songs of the community. Hence, these songs can be called as Historical Songs or Poetical History of the community.
Without a ‘Mibu’ the priest of the community it is beyond to the common people to remember these songs and explain their exact meanings. Some festivals like ‘Po:rag’ etc. can’t be performed without ‘Mibu’. During the ‘Po:rag festival the ‘Mibu sings ‘A:bang’ throughout the night with a group of young boys and girls. These songs wonderfully appeal to Gods or Goddesses for their special incarnation on him. The spirit of God and Goddesses is supposed to have entered the body of a ‘Mibu’. This system is known as ‘Pa:ro A:nam’. Here the ‘Mibu’ has been empowered with some supernatural powers and can foretell the fortunes of the people. In this way the ‘A:bangs’ occupy a religious sentiment in the mind of the community.
Mishing oral literature abounds in compositions that are the expressions of love and yearning of the youthful heart. The most popular and numerous of this class of songs are those of the type known as ‘Oi-ni;tom’ which are comparable to the Assamese Bihu songs in both form and content. Short and averse compositions of normally two (and occasionally three or four) lines, the ‘Oi-nitoms’ are exquisite pieces outstanding for their natural lyricism, poetic sensitiveness and picturesque imagery.
A few examples and these are free rendering; an exact translation being next to impossible:
My tears falling in the river
Have gone downstream.
My love take some water in your
In the lending of the river at
You will see my shadow through……the openings fingers.
Drink as rice-beer the tears that……flow by day.
Light a lamp with the tears that
Flow at night.
One could even count up all the
Stars of the sky.
But the sorrows of our love-torn
Heart are beyond counting.
Another form of love-lyrics is made up of love-dialogues a series of addresses and counter addressals between the lover and the beloved. Below is a fragment of such love-dialogue known as lupo in Mishing.
Youth: My love, let us elope along the elephant track.
Maiden: My treasure, I am not such a maiden as to elope along the elephant track; but I do love you.
These songs are sung in season and out of season. They indicate many of the feelings which pulsate the heart of the youth. ‘Oi-Ni:toms’ are sung both singly such as when someone is doing work alone in the fields and sometimes, are sung collectively during feasts and festivals such as Bihu, ‘Po:rag’, ‘Ali A:ye’ Ligang’ etc. While they works in the fields, they sing to relive the monotony of their activities. The ‘Oi-Ni:toms’ are interesting for several reasons. They are exquisite love songs and give a glimpse of the youth psychology. They prove that even the unlettered people can create superb imagery. They also throw light on social and domestic relations including their occupations. They also reveal how lovers talk rather than in ordinary speech.
The songs of lamentation are popularly known as ‘Kaban’ are the expressions of sorrows and grief. These songs are commonly sung by a deserted lover at the time or death of departure of a very close relative. But they are commonly associated with the women section of the society. She gets consolation of mind by singing ‘Kabans’. Once a ‘Kaban’ is sung, uncontrollable tears roll down the cheeks.
The ‘Kaban’ are as old as the love songs-the ‘OI-Ni:tom’. Descriptions of ‘Kabans’ are found in ‘A-bang’. The ‘Kabans’ are sung recollecting the sweet memories of the past.
The ‘Kabans’ has been classified into eight part. They are as follows:
Do:bo, Me:bo, Yamne’, Sirug, Do:ying, Bone’, Pumsu, Tumbo.
Songs are sung to lull the children to sleep. Such songs occupy a special place and appeal to both young and old. Most of the lullabies in different societies have been composed by the unlettered women and so there is an originality and natural charm about them.
The lullabies are usually fanciful compositions but they reveal a delicacy of sentiments which are beyond the reach of literary poetry. The logic of sequence of ideas in these songs is of child’s. The Mishing term for such items is ‘Moman ni:tom’.
The bulk of the material of songs of religious and ritualistic association category comprises the priestly lore (Mibu A:bang) which is the exclusive preserve of the priests and shamans (Mibu/Miri), sung or chanted by the latter for such purposes as divination, invocation and propitiation of the gods and spirits, the language of much of the material is esoteric and archaic and as such not easily intelligible. One reason for the elusive nature of the meaning is the fact that some of the rituals and beliefs have lost their original significance because of culture shift. Some ‘Mibu A:bangs’ have creation myths and genealogical legends as their content. The following is an example of a ritualistic chant:
Oh, our ancestors,
We are offering you today
Valuable beads and jewelery.
Keeping the sun and the moon
As our witnesses,
We have shown these to all
Present in the board daylight.
Today we have killed a tusked
Boar in honor of the gods above.
Do keep us safe and sound.
Some ritualistic songs are, however, not confined to the priestly function and are sung by the common folk taking part in the ritualistic ceremonies. Some of songs of the rain ceremony are sung only on special occasions like ‘Ali-A:ye’-ligang’ and ‘Po:rag’. The songs beginning with ‘’Lo: lole lo:le’’ is one such.
Do:yings’ are narrative songs and as such are akin to ballads. While some ‘Do:yings’ have creation myths and etiological legends for their content. There are others which are more in the nature of ballads proper with the human element predominating in them. Since most of these song-narratives have tragic themes and thus have something of the lament in them, they are designated by the term ‘Do:ying Kaban’ (story song of lament). Song of Gela, of Deobor- Dentale, Song of Binod- Pipoli are a few compositions of this category.
Mishing songs sung on the occasion of marriage are something very different from what are commonly known as marriage songs in most other Indian societies. They are not pieces enlivening the proceedings at various stages of the marriage rites : they are in effect not far removed from laments-laments of the bride at the prospects of being separated from her family, from her friends and from the familiar surroundings of her girlhood. The Mishing term for marriage songs is ‘Midang ni:tom’.
As indicated earlier, songs of Assam Vaishnava association, Bihu songs and other Assamese songs cast indistinctly-Mishing phonetic and musical moulds as well as some mixed compositions ,containing both Mishing and Assamese elements also form part of the folklore heritage of the Mishings.
There were various types of Mishing instruments found in Mishing Culture. They were divided into three parts. Such as:
1st part – Ejuk Tapung, Tumbo Tapung, Pumsu Tapung, Derki Tapung, Tu-Tok Tapung, Tu-Lung Tapung, Pemp.
2nd part – Gunggang, Gu-tig.
3rd part – DUM-DUM, DUM-PAK, DEN-DUN, DEN-TUK, LE-NONG, MARBANG.
Apart from these instruments the Mishing people use LU-PI, TO-KA, BU-BUNG.
Excerpts from December 2013 report
India has a very rich tradition of tribal music dating back to several thousand years – most probably since the advent of the tribal living itself. The very old tribals in different parts of the country – the Pulayans, the Thodas, the Orams, the Santals, the Savaras, – have their typical music and dance. This ancient tribal music contributed to a large degree to the general mould of India’s music. The extreme cultural diversity creates endless varieties of tribal music styles. The Tribal Music of India has a unique identity of its own in the wide spectrum of music in India. It is intrinsically merged in the tribal life. The musical instruments are generally very rudimentary blending well with the local environment like daf, dholak,nal, horse hair violin, duduk, bamboo flutes, ektar, dotar, saringda, rabab, Shankh, Ghungharu, Gummeta (Dakki, Budike), ldakka and Udaku (Udakai), kartal, Kenda, Manjira or Zanz, Nout, Pungi, Thanthi Panai etc. Often raw material from coconut shells, animal skin, bamboo, pumpkin, peritoneum, pots etc. which are sourced locally are used. These instruments are not refined as the ones used in the classical music. The tracks of the tribal music are acknowledged as ruggedly tribal because of their booming sound.
The peculiar feature of the Indian Tribal Music is that unlike the classical music, it is not taught in music schools. The skills are passed on through the hereditary process of learning. It is passed down from generations to generations. Indian tribal music is a closed-group form of ethnicity. One cannot study it in isolation from the social and ritual contexts of the tribal society. It has a well formed basis of community living. In a tribal society the learning and playing of music forms a cardinal part of the community living. It is a kind of musical socialization. It’s learning is an integral part of numerous customs and practices conforming to the reckoned appropriate by the tribal society. Children are initiated in the learning process of tribal music from an early age. Singing and dancing are an integral part of the music. Children from the Santhal tribal society are initially supplied with the katic murli (small sized flutes) of five to six inches in length with three to four envoys to blow and the drums of smaller size to beat.
Indian tribal music scenario possesses its aboriginal restrictions. The music amongst tribal is considered as a ‘community’ property and not an exclusive individual property. For this very reason, tribal music even if framed by individual composers remains anonymous. For example, none of the Santhal songs can be seen to contain the names of individual Santhal composers.
Music in the tribal community is learned almost by osmosis. From childhood the music is heard and imbibed. There are several community functions which give an opportunity to the tribe members to practice and hone their skills. These are the normal functions which synchronize tribal life with the universe.
With the advent of modernization and spread of technology and improvements in communication and transport facilities, the ‘tribal-ness’ of the tribal community is fast getting diluted with its resultant impact on the ‘virginity’ of the tribal music. It is feared that within next decade, we will lose forever the original form of tribal music. This loss will be irretrievable. It should also be noted that any study of tribal music will be incomplete without the study of tribal culture, living style, rites and rituals, language and most importantly the local environment – which all blend harmoniously in the life of the tribals. The present project has a ‘focus’ on tribal music but alongside it will also encompass all these aspects to make the study complete and meaningful. It will also serve as a valuable reference material for the future generations for the study of anthropology, sociology, history and other allied sciences. The project will involve visiting the hinterlands of tribal areas of India, often with inaccessible and indomitable living conditions and staying with the tribal community.
Excerpts from February 2013 report
Important information I could read about Ali-aye Lygang Fest –
It is a sowing festival and literary meaning of Ali-aye Lygang stands for first sowing of roots and fruits in which ALI stands for roots, AYE for fruits and LYGANG for sowing. The oncoming of the Ahu & Bau season is marked with the celebration of Ali-aye Lygang.
The Mising people believe the Wednesdaay as Lakshmi day and on that day the head of the family marks the sowing of seeds in their respective fields, with a handful of seeds , a YOKPA, APONG, PURANG, TAKE, PEERO, SI:PAG ONNO, preferably carrying in an VGYN.
In the day time, the women get busy preparing APONG & PURANG, in the evening hours, the head of the family again pray their forefathers including KOJE-YANGGO.
After the feasting-merry making starts in the form off GUMRAGSO:MAN.
Gumrag is the dance of the commune where entire community get to gather and dance joyfully.
Major points of our discussion were:
Mishing is one of the aboriginal tribes of Assam and it lives mainly in Upper Assam on the banks, south and north of the mighty Brahmaputra and its tributaries. This Mongoloid tribe that’s the Mishing believes DO:NYI and PO”LO as their mother and father respectively.
They have got their own language, traditional beliefs and practices. They sacrifice animals in the name of different deities.
They have rich folklore & their folk literature mainly contains folk tales and folk songs. They are composed in their own language and handed down from generations to generations from time immemorial.
Their folksongs reflect the human feelings, sentiments & social values. Their folksongs are the resources for scholars to find a new concept in their life.
EG: “ Oiya selabdo okume selabdo
Tangki rengadpe kablen bikupe
Tangki rengadpe kablen bige:la
Meloke doyingem kingabau bikupe”
– A Mishing Song
[“Oh my love.. I shall become a dove and pour out my lament sitting on the rooftop of your house.. And through the lament I shall recreate all the tales of our past..!!”]
I met my guide Dr Anil Boro and had a long interaction with him. He very warmly shared his valuable insights about the Mishing culture with me and advised me to focus on the Special Songs of the Mishing those are :
A:bang – Religious
Kaban – Lament ANU NI:TOM
Oi Ni”tom – Love song
Ko:ni:nam – Lullaby
Moman – Nursery Rhymes
Excerpts from March 2013 report
I am herewith sharing some of my notes which I took during the fieldwork.
Dr Taburam Taid pointed it out : “First were called Hill Miris, originally residents of the Hills of Arunachal Pradesh, the Mising came down to riverside of upper Assam and became habitants of Brahmaputra river valley few hundred years back.
Initially the tribe who believed in Nature Gods and ate meat, later came under the influence of Srimant Sankardev’s Satras and Vaishnavisms slowly started following some Hindu customs and yet kept alive the traditions related to eating meat. They found a middle way and created a new way of life. On the riverside they got the name for the commune – Mising. The sound SH doesn’t exist in their language hence one must write and pronounce the name correctly as Mising and not Mishing.”
The etymology goes like – Mi is Man and Sing is Water = Mising
Village folk get together during various festivals and make merry with songs and dances accompanied by Mising Drum Dumdum, Pipe Gogona, Taal etc… Besides their own festivals, Mising also observe the Assamese Bihu festivals..
Assamese language and Bihu festival are the great binding forces which bring together all the tribes from various regions of Assam.
An Example of a Mising Song: Chant
Ato taabinam, Aramme, Tadogme
Kamo taneko4Do:nyi arungemdakkamneko
Ode namti Bo:bi:ne
Keko namonge titone
Bosidadike munggine sinnamko
Nom oneng omangem
Meaning: Oh our ancestors… we offer you today valuable ornaments and gold and silver… With the Sun & Moon as our witnesses.. We are showing our gratitude to you by standing under the sunlight.. We have today sacrificed a tusked boar in honour of the Gods above.. May you keep us all well..
Like many other tribes, Mising is also a dance loving community and hence it is important to study their songs and music within the context of the dances..
The flutes used in the tribal and fold belts of Assam are like any other normal flutes varying in sizes. They mainly carry two names. Smaller one is called Huthuli and the bigger one is called Gogona.
Excerpts from April 2013 report
While interacting with a great scholar, musician and historian from the Mising Community Dr Taburam Taid, I remarked that there are primarily two pentatonic musical scales found in the Music of the Mising, they are:
Major Scale – Bhoop : Sa Re Ga Pa Dha
& Minor Scale – Dhani : Sa Ga Ma Pa Ni
Immediately, Taid Sir said: “My dear, I have already discovered this around sixty years back!”
I then requested him to kindly appreciate the fact that here is a student who actually belongs to the extreme western belt of India and doesn’t know anything about music, language & culture of the Mising ,thus her findings have a special meaning. I also reassured Taid Sir that even if he has discovered the grammar sixty years back, I shall re-interpret it for the sake of the contemporary music of the nation and re-render the melodies by interpreting them with their present context.
Excerpts from May 2013 report
Working Hypothesis: While being with the Misings, I could realize that the tribe which originally was called as Hill Miris came down to the river side to settle in search of a better living. They grew crops, developed small businesses like fishery at the riverside. They developed a culture which grew at the riverside.. Thus Water remained predominantly central to their living… If we examine their Music, their dances, their songs, their body movements, rituals and day to day living – we can easily confirm this observation. Mi is Man and Sing is Water.
Interestingly, this Mongoloid Tribe brought along their music based on pentatonic scale and continued to cherish the traditional Pentatonic Melodies based on this scale.
As per WIKI – ” A pentatonic scale is a musical scale or mode with five notes per octave in contrast to a heptatonic (seven note) scale such as the major scale and minor scale. Pentatonic scales are very common and are found all over the world. ”
Till today, the whole Music of the Mising revolves around Bhoop and Dhani as mentioned in the earlier report.
Excerpts from June 2013 report
Current Phase of the Research:
Month of June was the month of Riyaaz and internalizing the Music of the Mising!
I am a practicing vocalist and hence it is immensely important for me to learn & re-render the songs of the community I am working on thus I have started devoting time to my own Riyaaz that is practicing vocal music in my case. I am sure I will be able to vocalize a few songs of the Mising by explaining the musical structure of the same during the final presentation at NEHU as scheduled (tentatively) by NFSC.