Mee Manukhang Will Not Be Televised
(Tapta in comparison and contrast - II)
By Ningombam Captain
Tapta successfully changed the generic taste of music for the regular Manipuri audience. He showed us, with proof, that Manipuri songs need not sound like the conventional radio-friendly hits all the time. He spiced up the diversity of his genres in this process. This include an eclectic fusion of chopping rap (a sub-genre of rap) and hard rock, blended with the finest extravaganza of raga rock; all of these are laden with witty and thought-provoking lyrics. It’ll be hard to mention each and every myriad of styles that he professed in his wide array of discography. One of the most interesting style that he adopted was on this track called, “Mee Manukhang” from the eponymous album released on December 14, 2011. He infused the aged proto-rap style - culminated by the old school rappers in the 60’s from influences like The Last Poets, in a particular section of this song. From a bland viewpoint, the part I’m referring to can be considered as a simple spoken-word delivery, which it actually is. However, the singing style, instrumentation, and lyrical significance, make it undeniably comparable to the legendary spoken-word poem/song, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” by Gil Scott-Heron.
Gil Scott-Heron was an American musician and jazz poet, who rose into prominence in the 60s as a spoken-word artist. He, along with others, shaped the modern day rap music from African and jazz poetry roots. His aforementioned song, released in 1971, is a protest for the mistreated Afro-Americans by warning them against the hindrance of awakening that can be caused by euphemisms and a false sense of wellness on the television. This song is a response to a poem written by The Last Poets during the height of black nationalism in the African-American Civil Rights Movement. A lyrics sample of “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” is given below:
The revolution will not be brought to you by Xerox
In 4 parts without commercial interruption
The revolution will not show you pictures of Nixon
Blowing a bugle and leading a charge by John Mitchell
General Abrams and Spiro Agnew to eat
Hog maws confiscated from a Harlem sanctuary
The revolution will not be televised
Similarly, Tapta’s “Mee Manukhang” was written as a protest song. It stood against on the 120-days long economic blockade by the Sadar Hills District Demand Committee in 2011. His lyrics display strong dissatisfaction against the frequency of unnecessary general strikes and blockades that are called even for the most trivial reasons. Also, the lyrics hilariously hints the senseless quagmire of calling “counter-bandhs” against a bandh. Here’s the complete lyrics of the spoken-word section:
Kangleipak alias Sanaleibak alias Meitrabak alias Meetei Leibak alias Chingleibak alias Mekhladesh alias Jewels of India alias Switzerland of India alias Manipur
Hairiba alias ki lamdam asida leiriba
Hao Meetei Pangal Mayang yaode
Hairiba malemda ani sudraba tanglaba sa makhal ahum asina
Pummut mut pumtum tumdrifaoba
Bandh Blockade General Strike
Amuka Counter Bandh
Counter Blockade Counter General Strike
Amukkasu Counter Counter Bandh
Counter Counter Blockade
Counter Counter General Strike
Touduna adum leiragadaba maramna
Madugi Guarantee pibasu ngamliba oibana
Karan turangi lamdamsida
Farak tana sakliba iseini
Despite the parallel similarities of the two songs in their socio-political signification of the lyrics, and in serving as sermons to reform and ridicule the societal flaws, we can also compare and contrast them musically. “Mee Manukhang” starts with a complex jazz-y drum intro which suddenly cuts to a simple harmonium (melodeon) and tabla riff of a much slower tempo. The change is very unexpected and almost jocular; I believe that this signifies a farce or an unhealthy state of things, and in this case, the Manipuri society. In “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”, the main riff is a funk-y flute melody interwoven with jazz percussions, namely the congas and bongo drums. Tapta’s delivery of the spoken-word lyrics is similar to Scott-Heron’s - considering the intention, timbre, and sarcasm behind them. It is interesting to note that Tapta features chopping rap in his song; and this is something remotely influenced by Gil Scott-Heron as he is one of the true forefathers of Hip-Hop. Sadly, he died in the same year Tapta’s “Mee Manukhang” was released. So, unbeknownst to both of the artists, I privately take this song as an unofficial tribute to Gil Scott-Heron’s works.
(Ningombam Captain is the creator of Blue Bannerman Reviews. The writer is currently pursuing English Hons. in MS University, and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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