On the phone with Snow White. They haltingly try talking of the album. We are Rangdajied… Confused, frustrated, angry… modern tribal youth caught between tradition and modernity… rock expresses confusion and counterpoints Ksing and all the traditional instruments… our music is not for or about the polished classes (I like the phrase)…it is a sandwich with ktung rymbai…
U Rangdajied by Snow White is one of the most thoughtful, challenging and subversive albums Shillong has heard. Its brilliance and subversion lies not in its music (it is original enough to thump your head in) or its lyrics (they are complex enough to think your head in) but in its cultural significance. It is one of the first sustained conceptual musical intervention in the cultural politics of our land. Its epic ambition are not just about an album of original songs, but songs which speak of and speak to our times, in a voice which belongs to all of dissenting us. Along with, Scary Truth by that Mythical band The Ceremony and Shillong by Soulmate, U Rangdajied, will be remembered for a long time for its audacious re-invigoration of cultural practice of Shillong and that too in the language of the People- Khasi.
The photocopy mode of Shillong’s cultural practice, whether they are variants of Rock or what cons itself as classical, Shillong seems to have become comfortable in its inbred elite snobbery of ignorance. We take stupid pride in our pitch perfect nth time rendition of pop Mozart, Kal Ho Na Ho or RATM. Culture, which is about creativity and meaning in a living way, not as it has been in Shillong- a ritual celebrating the privilege of the dead and boring. The situation is not surprising. In every society, the elites or the guardians of faith and taste, have always tried to brainwash the masses into thinking that there is only one culture, one taste, one jaitbynriew and anyone or anything which escapes the limits imposed by the guardians of faith and taste is by definition troublesome and inauthentic.
A Khasi album which shatters U Blei / Pyrthei cliché of contemporary Khasi music (ignoring the linguistic genius of E. Sun), Snow White deconstructs the rhythms of the contemporary and the traditional with an incisive political wit. This innovation is not limited to a narrow linguistic domain but brings the raucous energies and despairing frustrations of the streets onto our Audio systems. They speak of history and they speak of biographies. They contemporise the myths and they mythologise the contemporary. Maybe the rock quartet of Donboklang Ryntathiang, Jimmy Massar, Manfulson Lyngdoh and Timmy Kharhujon (With Balajied Sing Marbaniang on Ksing Thap and Qualbetus Blah on Bom ) have hurled a musical petrol bomb through the smug cultural stupor of our city. A cultural stupor, which stupidly mistakes the number of cars parked in front of an auditorium (and Burom sitting inside) with the quality of Music.
But maybe, petrol bomb is a banal metaphor for what or who is U Rangdajied. U Rangdajied is an epic narrative in both structure and description. It is an epic, not in an ancient way, but in the way it particularizes a universal situation. Its epic intentions lie in the way Snow White signposts a living myth for us to live and struggle by. The songs act as clues in the life and times of U Rangdajied. He is nobody and by his very situation of anonymous angst becomes chosen as everybody. Being forced to the margins as only the underclasses of our times can feel, he can either live the life of meaningless journeys in one way street or exercise the freedom he has been condemned to. His life, not of Platinums or Cloud Nine or Cloistered Choirs can only take significance in an active struggle against the absurdity which the guardians of faith and taste, fate him to. This struggle is not pop romantic struggle within himself or his love but traverses both private and political and doing so liberates itself from the confines of the mundane and obvious. He profanes Ki ‘Lei San Snem (Gods of Five Years) with Ka Um Ksiar Um Rupa (Gold & Silver Water). It is the ease with which they invoke the language of tradition to critique the present that endows U Rangdajied with a cult status, cult not in a minor way but in a way shamans chant their spirits.
Go on, buy the album, you will be conversing/communing with our times.