Traditional music and dance of Manipur, Northeast India

Puthem Chaobi sings folksongs from Chakpa Andro village, Manipur.

Puthem Chaobi sings folksongs from Chakpa Andro village, Manipur.

Puthem Chaobi is a folksinger of the Chakpa village of Andro, East Imphal,Manipur. She can recall many of the traditional folksongs of her village which no one else remembers or sings. We were able to record Iche Puthem Chaobi during December of 2013. The recording takes place at the Andro museum.

One of the traditional folk song styles of the Meitei are the Khunung Eshei which means, the songs from inside the village, or the ancient songs of the countryside. These are the traditional folk love songs, work songs, and lullabies. Today it is only the old people who still sing and remember these songs. Changes in popular taste have in one generation seen countless Khunung Eshei disappeared. The many beloved folk songs and dances of the people are sadly being forgotten and lost forever. It is said that with traditional cultures, songs are the first to go. Lyrics and melodies are delicate creations and when not played, are quickly forgotten and then gone forever.

In the villages and towns of Manipur, the elder folks are the last keepers of these cultural treasures. One of these elder folksingers is Puthem Chaobi, of the Chakpa village of Andro. Iche Puthem was a popular singer in her youth. During her teenage years she was in great demand for local functions, such as engagement ceremonies, weddings, and socials. Now retired, she lives in Andro village with her children and grandchildren. Iche Puthem is one of the last singers of many old songs of the Andro valley and is also a great storyteller of regional folk tales.

The first song is the most significant. It is an rare old song specifically from Andro village. 

The second video is an interesting interview with Iche where she talks about dance styles and Lai Haraoba. At around 1:45 Iche gives a short dance demonstration of one of the Lai Haraoba dances of Andro. She constantly talks about how in the old days the dances were performed much slower and that today the people have sped up the rhythm and dance too fast. This is a comment I have heard from many of the older generation.

The second and third songs #2 and #3 is actually a popular modern songs done in the Hindustani style. They are two of Iche’s favorite songs.

The fourth song is a a wonderful old Manipuri folk song. That sings about Pakhangba.

These songs were recorded with the permission of Iche Puthem Chaobi, and copyrights go to her and Byron Aihara of Seven Sisters Music. She was recompensed and given a recording fee, where she agreed whole heartedly to release the recordings and video to the public under the care of Seven Sisters Music project.