Traditional music and dance of Manipur, Northeast India

Lai Ishei Shakpa of Chakpa Phayeng. Lullaby to the Lai.

Lai Ishei Shakpa of Chakpa Phayeng. Lullaby to the Lai.

The Lai Ishei Shakpa are the unique ritual songs sung at the Chakpa Phayeng Lai Haraoba. They could be said to be Lullaby that sends the Lai deities to sleep at the close of each evening program. The Ishei Shakpa are sung by the Arangbi (young woman ritual helpers), and the songs are in the old ancient language, with words that are both poetic and mysterious, and of a dialect which for the most part is no longer known or spoken. There are different “Lullaby” for each phase of the festival, from beginning, middle, close, and for the Lam Thokpa, and also a special song for the god, Soraren. Traditionally as said before these songs are sung by young woman. The Chakpa Phayeng ritual songs are performed in their particular sing song style which is monotone and simple in style. Some of the songs are accompanied by dance.
These recordings were made during a practice session on the days before the actual Chakpa Phayeng Lai Haraoba started. Some experienced young woman had come to teach the new girls the songs and accompanying dances. In this way these songs are taught and have been handed down from generation to generation. The girls have written down the words which helps them memorize the song, their elder peers then demonstrate the proper presentation and style. I was invited to this practice session by Oja Tom Singh, who was the Elder in charge of music at the Chakpa Phayeng Haraoba of 2014. They are presented with the permission of the Khullakpa Roton of Phayeng village.

Practice session of the Lai Ishei Shakpa songs.

Oja (elder) Tom Singh teaches the new Arangbi girls the special dance steps that accompany the Lai Ishei Shakpa. Then the more experienced girls come to lead the session.

Oja (elder) Tom Singh introduces the Lai Ishei Shakpa. The practice session is in the evening and by the end of the recording the scene it lit by moonlight only.