The versatile Aizawl band that bows to RATM has an album out this year
From the top of the hill near the tourist bungalow, night-time Aizawl looks like a city turned celestial. Monsoon clouds make their way across the sky as on the ground headlights of dawdling cars move like fireflies between the dots of electric lights emerging from Mizo homes. The great gig, it would seem, has descended from the sky, come closer within reach.
Boom, the 19-year-old guitarist of Boomarang, throws his arm across his world, circles the scene with a ring of smoke, and says: “Beautiful huh? There’s everything there. Catholics, Protestants, Presbyterians, Jews”¦”
What Aizawl doesn’t have is what ”˜Rhythm of a Revolution,’ one of the best-known songs from one of the best-known contemporary bands of the Northeast, addresses. In the bustling capital city of Mizoram there are no cinema halls, no nightclubs, no music pubs, no 24-hour coffee shops, no alcohol. No chance, deems vocalist and songwriter PB Lianmawia (Atea), to exercise choice.
Between the wah wah of Boom’s guitar, the strangely haunting Middle Eastern lilt and the persuasive rhythm, the song is a clarion call to young minds to dissent with its lines: “Come away to the sound of rebellion/Take these words and make a song/ To wake the dead enslaved young souls/With the rhythm of a revolution.” “Nobody has tried to change the situation,” continues Atea, 27, the Rastaman in the band for his dreadlocks. “The song is to inspire young people to party, to have the right to live a young life. Elders in Aizawl hear it only as a song; young audiences find meaning. I can’t write on behalf of the world, I write basically for the society I live in.”
For his own inspiration, Atea looks no further than the American rap-metal heavyweights and activist-musicians, Rage Against the Machine. There was a time, he recalls, when Boom and he – childhood bums born to musician parents – spent hours listening and chatting about RATM’s music and philosophy. With Joshua Zoramliana on bass and Rosangliana on drums, by 2004 Boomarang was a natural corollary.
Their dozen-odd originals, including those that appeared in their debut EP released last year, quite often betray the RATM influence in songs like ”˜Rebel,’ an artfully-articulated ditty about not having money, cars, fancy cellphones; nothing but a desire to change, and ”˜What’s Wrong?,’ a riff and rap war cry against the system. “I was a fan of Limp Bizkit, but now think their lyrics are crappy and invective-laden. I want to write lyrics that stir,” adds Atea.
It is with songs like ”˜Who Do You Wanna Be?,’ a gentle jab at those following conventions and not their own calling, that Boomarang uncorks its full versatility. It is a song where jazz melts into rock melts into reggae melts into blues melts into jazz – an effortless meltdown led lithely by Boom’s fretwork and Joshua and Rosangliana’s rhythm interplay.
At their Aizawl home, Boom’s father Makuka, an acclaimed jazz drummer, does some gentle handholding while Boom and Joshua play to his beat. Occasionally, Makuka gives out a rebuking “tsk, tsk” and the young musicians fall in track. RATM, of course; the musical backdrop of his family too, admits Boom, explains his sound.
Erstwhile winners at Independence Rock and Hornbill, and guest performers at Eastwind Music Festival, at Madras Christian College, Opus in Bengaluru, besides Delhi and Kolkata’s rock music stops, Boomarang recently headlined the show at the high-profile Northeast India Music Festival in Guwahati. It was a sweet homecoming of sorts – playing in front of an ecstatic crowd that included many from Mizoram – for a much-travelled band. With an album due this year, according to manager Ramtiama, the Boomarang story is just unfolding.
‘Who Do You Wanna Be’: Great guitar-vocals tie-up, tasty drumming, groovy and wonderfully structured and detailed. High on hummability too.
‘Rhythm of a Revolution’: If the lyrics don’t get you, the guitar hook will. If the guitar solo doesn’t, the mystical mood will. There’s no escaping this one.