Behind the concept of the “indigenous rendition” of the national anthem was Meghalaya Assembly Speaker Metbah Lyngdoh, who felt that a “local twist” would reflect the “true diversity” of the country.

The ongoing session of the Meghalaya Assembly began on Tuesday on a predictable note, with the rendition of the national anthem. Except it was not the usual version of ‘Jana Mana Gana’ one hears every day, but markedly different because of innovative musical arrangement infused with the sounds of traditional Khasi and Garo instruments.

Behind the concept of the “indigenous rendition” of the national anthem was Meghalaya Assembly Speaker Metbah Lyngdoh, who felt that a “local twist” would reflect the “true diversity” of the country.

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“India is a vast and diverse country. I thought doing a rendition of the anthem, keeping its original tune and lyrics intact, would help showcase the rich diversity of our country. It will also provide a platform to showcase talent from the tribal communities,” said 54-year-old Lyngdoh, who is a passionate musician himself.

“All the legislators present in the House were surprised…but also very happy,” he said, speaking about the reception of the anthem, which will also be played on September 17, which is the last day of the session.

For the project, Lyngdoh roped in Shillong-based artiste Lamphang Syiemlieh, who specialises in Khasi folk music. Syiemlieh said his brief was to come up with a version of the anthem which everyone could “understand, relate to and appreciate.”

“It was a huge responsibility. So, the first thing I did was research all rules and legalities related to improvising the anthem. I went through documents with the help of a friend in Delhi, and learned that as long as the lyrics and tune do not change, different vocalisations and instruments could be used,” Syiemlieh, 34, said.

Over two months, and after much back and forth with Lyngdoh’s team, the final rendition was ready earlier this month. Apart from Syiemlieh, nine other vocalists from the state, as well as his own troupe of instrumentalists, were part of the project.

Syiemlieh said that instruments of the Khasi, Jaintia and Garo tribes of Meghalaya were used — including the ‘Bom’ and ‘Ksing’ (Khasi percussion instruments), the Chigring, (Garo stringed instrument) as well as the guitar and Indian classical instruments such as the sitar and cymbals.

Syiemlieh, who also specialises in jazz and soul music, said that he realised how special the project was only when it played in the Assembly. “While on one hand, we upheld the sanctity of the national anthem, on the other, our love and respect for our own local instruments was also reflected in the composition. The result, I think, was beautiful,” he said.

 

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