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The Imphal Music Project Lends Voice To Shahbag Protests

Imphal Talkies frontman, Akhu, collaborates with Summit Attempt frontman for a new single

Rolling Stone India Jul 04, 2013
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Ronid “Akhu” Chingangbam may not be comfortable with being tagged as a politically-charged songwriter or a protest musician, but his music continues to look to socio-political issues for inspiration. As the frontman of Manipuri folk rock band Imphal Talkies, Akhu has released tracks such as “Iche,” dedicated to political activist Irom Sharmila and launched The Imphal Music Project earlier this year to work on collaborations with musicians such as Indian Ocean’s Rahul Ram.

The latest single released by The Imphal Music Project, “Song For Bangladesh,” a song he composed with Summit Attempt guitarist Sumit Bhattacharya takes stock of the Shahbag movement, which demanded capital punishment for those convicted for war crimes during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War. Says Akhu, “Since I saw this documentary called Swapnabhumi: The Promised Land, I always wanted to do a song about Bangladesh. It’s based on a community that left India during the partition but still have been denied citizenship there. I had written a poem on these people, but when I started writing a song the Shahbag protests had become a big movement in Bangladesh. It was difficult not to address it, I wanted to show my solidarity with the people,” he says. 

“Song For Bangladesh” took three months to complete, tells us Akhu. “The entire collaboration was online. In fact, I still haven’t met Sumit. He’s a journalist and has been doing music for a long time. He came to Imphal to cover some news and that’s how he was introduced to my music. From then, we started exchanging mails and songs and have been talking of collaborating,” says Akhu. 

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The video, shot in Imphal and Mumbai, features Akhu at a recording studio in Imphal, and guitarist Bhattacharya, who is currently based in Mumbai. Akhu has also included some graphic imagery of war crimes committed during the Bangladesh Liberation War and recent footage of the Shahbag protests in the video. “I never thought the video can be pulled off. There are far more horrible things on YouTube if you search for crimes in Manipur,” says Akhu adding “I’ve already got a couple of emails saying ”˜Why are you doing this kind of song?’ or ”˜Why are you writing a song on Bangladesh and not Manipur?’ and this annoys me but I have to explain to them that I care about people there as much as I care for people around here.”

Watch the video for “Song For Bangladesh” here: 

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