A deep sigh, a tune for future

The North East India Archive, an audio-visual archiving initiative by the Department of Mass Media at St Anthony’s College, took on board 32 creative youths to document the pandemic. In the process, Khlam stories of distress, survival and sustainable measures were unearthed and presented in the form of poems, essays, paintings, photography and audio-visuals. Sunday Chimes, in collaboration with NE Archive, will publish one presentation from Archive Khlam every week to draw a holistic picture of the pandemic. This is the fourteenth edition of pandemic stories, this time expressed through the mellifluous music of Anon Cheran Momin.

Musician Anon Cheran Momin captured the despondency during last year’s lockdown and the ongoing pandemic in his compositions. He composed two musical pieces for the NE Archive project, one a song called Ambinna Saki (Witness for the Future) and the other an instrumental piece called Rang’spea (Sigh) with violin, piano and flute.

“With the pandemic, everyone has suffered, people lost their loved ones, there was nothing we could do but helplessly watch the things unfold. From this helplessness grew a heavy sigh out of my heart, that’s how Rang’spea came about,” says the 25-year-old keyboardist of the city-based band Rum and Monkeys that plays experimental Indie rock.

Though Momin’s parents are from Garo Hills, he grew up in Shillong. After completing high school from St Anthony’s Higher Secondary School, he acquired diploma in Computer Engineering from Shillong Polytechnic. But his heart beat at the rhythm of music and he did what he liked the most. He got his graduation degree in music and fine arts from Martin Luther Christian University.

Before the pandemic, Momin taught and composed music. The band performances were also on. The talented youth has also worked with award-winning director Dominic Megam Sangma. “One of the greatest experiences as a composer was composing a background score for Dominic Sangma’s film Ma.ama. It pushes my perspective about music to a new horizon,” he says.

Once more, the musician has tied up with Sangma for the music video of Ambinna Saki. According to the musician, Sangma liked the song and decided to come on board as director. They have co-produced the music video.

“It is about we as a human being becoming a mere spectator and witness to this whole unprecedented event… We’re currently working on the music video for this song, I’m excited and hopefully we can release by the first or second week of March,” he says about the song.

Following in his brother’s footsteps, Momin started playing guitar at the age of six, and by 12, he was playing bass guitar in church. He is also a trained pianist. “I went to Arnest Memorial Music School (Shillong) for at least five years and learned mostly from YouTube and online tutorial.”

In an interview with Sunday Chimes, Momin talks about the Archive project, his musical inspiration and life after the pandemic.

How did NE Archive happen?
At first, I did not know about it. So one day during the pandemic, I visited my cousin’s (Dominic Megam Sangma’s) place and he was the one who told me about the NE Archive, and then it caught my attention. I was waiting
for such an opportunity because I
wanted to express what I was going through and experiencing during the pandemic. So, I am very thankful to NE Archive for initiating this project. I got to contribute my work as an artiste and be part of it.

Who composed the song and who were the other singers?
I composed the whole piece and arranged the music and Dominic Sangma helped me with the lyrics. There are two vocalists, Gabriel G Momin and Winselana D Momin.  

Can you please tell us more about the song and the project?
Ambinna Saki in Garo language means ‘Witness for the Future’. This song is written from the perspective of a man who is in the future singing about the past at the present moment, exploring the experience of the pandemic in the form of past, present and future with larger philosophical ideas of Ying and Yang, Alpha and Omega of human existence and suffering and I think the only way out of such uncertainty is love.
It’s been amazing working with talented and gifted artistes who have helped me in this project and lots of good people have contributed to this song and I am really grateful to all of them. We were supposed to release the music video last year but due to unavoidable circumstances, we could not release it.

How much is your music inspired by your land and its people and their tradition?
As I grew up in Shillong, I was influence by western music, which is a common thing here. As I grew older I started to ask questions about my roots and started thinking about it. For me, it was a discovery and I realised how rich we are culturally and traditionally. This led me to explore traditional musical instruments of the Garos. That’s how I started incorporating (traditional music) in my composition. In Ma.ama, apart from using western musical instrument, I used many Garo traditional instruments like olongma, dama and nagra.

How do you think the pandemic will change the music scene in the state and how young musicians like you can benefit/lose from it?
The pandemic has truly changed the music scene in the state. For some musicians, it might be beneficial as they got a lot of time to develop themselves through the whole lockdown, and for some as performers, things might have gotten slow due to the situation.

What is music to you? Do instrumental pieces give you more pleasure?
For me, music is like an ocean, the deeper you get into it, the more beauty you see and hear. Music has made me a different person in terms of thinking and knowing more about life. Music is a blessing that God has given me.
Well, both songs and instrumental pieces give me pleasure if it has deep meaning or story behind it.

What project are you currently working on?
I am currently working on my solo instrumental piece called On.ani, which means ‘Gift’. Basically, it is about life and we all know that life is a gift, there’s a saying we only live once and with that we should enjoy every moment and cherish the days that we had and also never forget to thank God for the blessing that He has given us.

How was your experience of working with NE Archive?
It was an amazing experience working with NE Archive. I am grateful to be part of this project, to contribute my work to the society. It gives me a lot of different experiences where I definitely came out of my comfort zone. There has always been a lot of ups and downs during this project but overall it was a great experience working with NE Archive. I just want to thank everyone who’s involved in this project and I couldn’t have done without them.

(Photos sourced)