Seven Sisters Music is producing books, music videos, films, and sound recordings, documenting the traditional performing arts of Northeast India. We have completed the first stage of production (November 2013 to March 2015) focused on Manipur valley and the Meitei and Chakpa communities. The second phase of research planned to begin in October 2017 and will focus on recording the Khamba Thoibi epic troubadour story/song of the Meitei, Recording music in the Tamenglong district of Manipur, and the Upper Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh. All material copyright by Byron Aihara, and shared copyright where noted. If you wish to use any content on this site contact Byron Aihara.
About the author:
Byron Aihara has spent four and a half of the past 11 years living and traveling extensively throughout India and Nepal. He is a graduate of the UCLA School of Film and Television with a degree in production. In 2013 he completed his first feature film documentary Marriage in Chanderi. The film is about the weaving village of Chanderi and was shot rural Madhya Pradesh, India.
Based in California, Byron lives in Santa Cruz. His work has been published in Discover India’s Northeast Magazine, Surfer Magazine, Conde Nast Traveler (India), The Hindu, Mumbai Mirror, and other publications. He has been shortlisted by the Royal Photographic Society for their annual print exhibition. He also has a featured profile and gallery sponsored by LensCulture.com
A recording session of traditional Pena music with Oja Khangembam Mangi, the Padma Shree awardee for traditional music (India’s 4th highest civilian honor). During his stay in Manipur the author lived at the home of Oja Mangi for over four months. During that time he, Oja Mangi, and Mahesh Heikrujam, were able to record over 20 hours of traditional musics and an additional 10 + hours of footage of Oja Mangi performing traditional Meitei rituals and ceremonies. Much of this work has been material and rituals filmed and recorded for the very first time. The research for this book was greatly informed by the expert knowledge of Oja Mangi.
Byron’s current long term research project is multimedia in nature and large in scope. Its mission statement is the live recording and documentation of the traditional dance, music, and rituals of Manipur and the Northeast Indian states. With a focus on those which are endangered or are in need of immediate protection.
The book, Dance Music and Ritual in Manipur, is the first product of this project.
The author at far right with the elders of Chakpa Phayeng village, West Imphal. Oja Hera Singh, Oja Nilchandra, Oja Tomsingh, Khullakpa Toyai, Khullakpa Roton. Byron attended and participated in the Chakpa Phayeng Lai Haraoba festival for two consecutive years. During that time he lived for over one month at the homes of the Khullakpa’s (village leaders). The research for this book was greatly supported and informed by the village elders of Phayeng.
The Author with Manipuri historian Oja M. Gourachandra (wearing hat), of the People’s Museum of Kakching. During his research Byron visited Kakching township in Thoubal district numerous times and lived for nearly two weeks at the home of the Gourachandra Meitei family who offered their expert advise, insight, and knowledge.
The author behind the camera filming and recording Lai Haraoba musics and dances with Ima Dhoni Amabi and Oja Mangi. Ima Dhoni is the head Amaibi priestess and academic teacher at the JN Manipur Dance Academy. The expert knowledge of Ima Dhoni has enriched and informed the research of this book.
The author practicing Pena, at the home of Oja Mangi. In his time in Manipur Byron took lessons in Pena. This indigenous folk instrument is vital for the festival of Lai Haraoba. He was told that to understand the Lai Haraoba one should know the Pena so he took up the instrument.
Byron Aihara at the Moirang Lai Haraoba with the Manipuri folk singer Mangka Mayanglambam. The author was fortunate enough to produce recordings of traditional folk music in the style of Moirang Sai with the popular singer and traditional performing artist Mangka of Laihui Ensemble.