Why, why do you do this er, why do you go around looking for these old guys, like, the old folk singers and how, like, that influences your work? I mean, we’ve spoken to you about it, but we haven’t recorded it on camera so we just wanted you to talk a little bit about, like, how that whole process of work, like, going, listening to their music and then how it influences your work.
Okay. Shall I start?
Yeah. I don’t know. I’m become this folk musicians in my work. Because from childhood I, was very interested to sing songs. So I started from the Church. I learn Church music. Hymn, like gospel…there’s Christian worship in Church. So they sing one particular song for worship music. And later on, yeah, I started playing some guitar. No teacher, no master. I play myself and I don’t know what this chord was, the key, scales of guitar. But I just played those to the village guitar players but they, and they also don’t know about the guitar. But some people they play…So I started to play and I interested as well. I just play guitar. And later on I just singing in the church and the school functions. And later on, I grow up and I go along with my Daddy; father is carpenter’s, so I also carpenter’s, after school, it was my father work, I always have after school. Evening and morning and afternoon, school time, I mean I come back. I am not studying home. I just went to school, come back and went to my daddy workplace. So I help him and he give me some ten - twenty rupees for woodwork. How much I had worked, so I get that money. So I live like that with my father and later on when I am grow old like 17-18-19 years, that times I came down to Imphal for my survival. So at that times I have one guitar, so I play some folk and singing some songs in church music and composing some gospel music, give some special numbers to the church every Sunday or sometimes…And, later on, I , some old guys we think we’ll meet. I met them and they’re talking about the folk, renewing of folk, this important. So, I started like that. But before I come down here to Imphal…Just some folk song in my village. That is in here only one time. We celebrate a week. That time is spring time, so, every village celebrate one cultural festival. It is a big festival, there is a music, dance, songs whatever, village, there were okay? So on that times also, I heard, but I’m not so much interested to learn. But after I ocme down here, only that times, I saw the people, they were all… so they were talking about this culture, folk music, art, like that. So I was so…from that time onwards, I started learning and try to play the folk music on guitar. I met the old guys, sit down to get, start to learn folk music, like that. And lastly, some people told me, when here is, so many functions happen in town life, city life, different different organizations organizing folk festival, folk function. So I sometimes felt helpless, because they don’t allow to play the modern instrument in folk festival. So, I realize okay then, still I want to sing song in folk festival. Then I need to play, need to use folk instrument. So that kind of came from different angles it’s striking to me. So I learn from here and there. But not so much interested that because that folk, …, sound is not good. But my interest is to performing, so I just learn like that. When my most interested is trying to play with guitar, folk music. But this guitar in regular song, regular tune is not possible to play along with the folk songs because different rhythms, different beat, everything’s different. So it’s hard to play, really it’s for me, it’s no way to understand. That’s why I tried to play and later on I got little idea about, so that times no teacher, I try myself, from my heart, from my mind. So slowly I interested in learning folk music, folk songs, folk stories whatever, everything. So today I become like this folk musicians and people recognize after 15 years struggle. No other stories. My life become like this, just for my interest. And this is not only for my interest, I think this is god. God give this kind of talent. I have, I know nothing, it is God want to do, maybe through me in my life. That’s why so far, no one, I’m alone and now slowly, some boys is coming.
I think the position’s not good.
Ishwar, is the position fine? For the light?
Yeah, yeah, absolutely.
I think I want them move
A little bit front, is front better for light?
For who, for both of them? She can come a little in front. She’s in a nice place now.
I just wanted to ask you about your whole experience with English. Why it became important for you.And how that worked it’s way into your music. So how much you sing in English, how much you sing in your own language and also the thing that you were telling us about singing the headlines. We thought that was a really nice story.
Stories, about my music, my songs?
Mainly why English and when you learnt English…
Okay. Yeah. As a artist, not so much popular artist, but started from the villagelevel and to the district and to the town and to the main city obviously. See, in my childhood time, I am not going to school very nicely. Yeah, I am going school, but there is no English making. We learn only some A,B,C and then Manipuri language and that also not the original one, it’s Bengali half-half…like that. So, about the educations, this is very, low class. During my childhood times. I am not going college that life. But in that era, in that time, see our people, we have really, our people, really sing. Not in the modern songs, our folk music also, we are very rich because our people, they, throughout the year, they have celebrations. From New Year to the end of the year. So now, for example, the … there is a festival. So they have their own songs. Evevry festival they have songs and they are not repeat. For example, the new year songs, folk music, aboutfolk music, and after spring time, they won’t sing the new year songs, it’s already past. So they wait next year, the same timing just like a circle of this life. So, after that, the new religions, see in our area, there is, where they arrive in 1896, there one missionaries arrive. In our area, in our place. So every Sunday, they are going for worship and they start singing. So like that, likewise, I just play music and yes, I compose the songs, so many songs. Not lots of songs in the beginning. Every Sunday we worship the church and some people give up special numbers. So I would also want to do that kind of thing so that’s why I also compose my own songs, give up special numbers. And later on some peopleis make a bigger, bigger, functions. During 1992, theer is a one very very big conference, student conference and on that occasions, I want to present, I want to sing a song. There are beautiful songs, but I don’t have. There is English version…Other people, they don’t understand my talent, but I want to sing songs. I don’t have because eI cannot write English lyrics. So I reciev, I got, I have one poetry, maybe in magazine, or I don’t know from where I get – that poetry is very beautiful for me and I just think, ‘Oh, this is really nice poetry. English version. So that poetry is written by Bob Dylan, so powerful lyricist in the world. So I just try to put folk music, my own tunes, so I compose. I put the new song which is a folkmusic. So from that time onwards I hav esoem friends of mine, they give me some lyrics, they give me some lyrics, some English lyrics. So that is 1992. From 1992, I started to compose English lyrics, so that kind of songs. But in my music, I don’t have so many love songs, I don’t interest also. Yeah, why not I, I interested in love songs but I cannot compose, I don’t feel. But my music is only to connections to the environment and to the situations. So that kind of music I interested to compose. So today, many organizations they invite me because everybody don’t have the love songs festival. But every organizations, they organize about the situations. Sometimes, they are environment, sometimes they are I don’t know…these different different. So my music is so relevant for them, for those organizers, because my music is no love songs. For example I sing, environmental song … and then for example, human rights. See, now, in this world, so many bad elements are there. So killing, bombing, guns, shooting, so, many human right organizations they find, different community, they have all human rights organizations. So they have, every time they are having meetings, seminars; so I went there and they request me to sing a song of the human rights. So I sing, for example, …, see so many and some times I sing Bob Dylan songs and Marley’s songs because … human rights singer. Bob Marley, he was from Jamaica, Africa and Bob Dylan from America, in sixties. There is a so, what do you say, so confusion that times, the times were changing, so, so many hippies, they want to change the world so …
…sometimes I sing their songs also, because I don’t have much. So these kind of things I started like that and all my music is very simple. Very simple to give a message, the feelings, the emotions, so that kind of songscompose and I give. I compose and I play and perform here and there. Now, people, are not so much recognize, they thought - yeah, rewben’s music is, ho wto explain I don’t know but, people think on that times, last 15 years, people look at me. I’m a see an abnormal person because I’m doing , what I’m doing they don’t understand.bUt now after ten twenty years, people understand – yeah, Rewben is really learn things. Only this time people understand what I am thinking. But before, people think, our people thinking, I think I have started…
…won’t understand…maybe my English is … but you just try understand, like that. So today I, People recognize me as Rewben singer, artist. Only this time people recognize.
When did you start singing in English?
English, that is 1992. My first composition is not my, it’s popular lyrics, a song called Trust yourselves.So, today I put here, number 8 – Trust Yourself. So I’m not singing Bob Dylan’s songs, I use only his lyrics. ‘Putting my own tunes, folk tunes. You want to hear, this song?
So you’re saying that you used to sing the headlines and that your friend, that’s how he remembered you, someone seeing you in a concert see you singing the headlines. We just wanted to …can you tell us about how you used to sing the headlines and sing a little bit of that ?
See my, when I’m, what I have doen in my past of my life is my, is a god gift, it’s not mine. Not from my heart, but this is god, freely give to me, because for example, this newspaper…same thing same thing. For example if I…
So, sometimes, I sit down and no song So it’s the reason, fun timejust having party whatever, so I just go for one paper for example, or this … any, paper, for example, like this, okay then.
So like that. So this is, I think thi sis not easy.
This is for practice?
Yeah. So sometimes, I sing like that. Wherever I go, I give, I don’t have songs, I just use, any papers lying down on the ground, I just pick up and sing. See and this should be a timing, okay? It should be a tempo. So I cannot, it’s not possible to stop because the music is flow so … it’s easier to sing song… it’s a kind of a entertainment. Yeah, that kind of things.
Was this one of the songs they’ve sung?
No. I composed this songs. It’s a brand new song.
The lyrics also?
Yeah, the lyrics is … dialect…It’s about the feelings of romantic. But I didn’t directly say romantic. I just comparing to the flowers, those blooming and then not on the flower in season, new seasontimes, so many varieties of herbs, the flowers is ocme out from the warm clay, warm land. So different different leaf, different different flowers, colours, so it’s come out. Likewise, the story above , telling the women, these are lovers. The youth of the year with the smiling, say I always remember. So see, saavan, kapaivan – these two flowers very important for our people. There are so many flowers, but comparing the life to flowers and the death to flowers … The new season, the new year is already set. So this is the meaning. That’s why I sing like that. So our people, they understand the meaning. This is a very simple sentence but it has deep long stories. All the throughout the year stories is … so that’s why I say the old guys when they sing the new year songs they use the two birds and the two flowers. Lot of birds, they sing through out the year, from January to December, for example, crow – never change their voice through out the year. But the two special birds, for example, samphero and cogtu… If you don’t go outside, if you slept in your bed and you hear new year has come, like that.
What are the names of the two birds?
One is koktui, k-o-k-t-u-I and
That is the one like cuckoo, or nightingale?
And we use this cuckoo is samphero. I think this samphero you see in the mobile tone. Kok tui, kok tui yeah, that’s some … and another flowers - saavan and kapaivan is two flowers. So this is very significant for, I think not for our people only, but even in Japan, big big poster. Pink and white mix, big flower, big tree, I saw so many in poster. In Korea also, flowers so … pink colour, not white, not red. Saavan is pure white.
Not white, not red, is that the cherry blossom?
Yes! The cherry blossom, yes! Saavan is cherry blossom, that flower, full bloom. Really I want to show the trees, but you see…but that’s true, cherry blossom. That flower is very significant for our people. So I composed that song… yeah I can write. I write so many poetries…I wrote this…See this poetry is, how to see, when I write this poetry, I am not human being I am become a … this flower. So this poetry is been by this flower. I am not appreciate this flower. But he flower request to the people, human beings, because of his fate he’s dying. So he say, I am the Queen of flower, she is queen of flower you know. Till today he is queen of flower since 1947.
The new season has come. So…the birds, I don’t know the English name…one bird, that bird’s singing…mobile phone’s tone is there no? That bird’s singing. The birds are singing. The moon is dead. The moon’s dead, the new moon’s come no? You got?
The moon is old so the moon, after the moon is dead, the new moon come. The cocktui, the bird, the …another bird, this are seasonal birds. So cocktui, that birds, singing in the high branches. So why we heard that bird’s song? We feel love, because, see we are entering new year. It’s a new season. Not actually…because every tree’s new leaves has come out.
Like spring. Not spring.
Spring is usually what they say.
…April- March, this is spring time. Yeah. The new leaf. Everything is the new thing.
This is in … language?
… language. So, the … , it is the festival, new year festival, the first new year… Now is the time to celebrate the new year. And then kapaiwan, is a flower, black thorn flower. Big tree with thorn, the flower is white, it’s just like snow. So that times, all the mountains filled with snow, the white kapaiwan. And sahawan is another flower. There’s a big tree, the flowers are pink. So there is flowers, the two trees, big trees with fruits also. But the two flowers also blooming.So this month is so lovely and soft, for spring time. Lastly, is a love, not actual love song, new year songs…unclear
…Departure, they sing. Maybe a wife for husband. See the lover is gone, no more in this world. So that alive person’s singing with lovers, maybe woman or man. And emotion is, I think not the reason. So this is the meaning. … really far place, far mountains… mountains block, so I can’t see my love…on people’s death…