In Conversation with Mangka Mayanglambam

I came across Mangka back in 2016, when I was sifting through music channels from the Northeast on YouTube, and I have been hooked ever since. There is something enchanting about her performances and vocal ability; something that keeps people coming back to her music time and again.

Mangka was only eighteen when she released her debut album, ‘Chingda Satpi’, meaning, ‘The one that grows in the hills’. The album which took about a year to complete was a collection of ten tracks that were sourced from some of the finest folk melodies of Manipur – melodies imprinted in the hearts of many. Mangka’s father Mangangsana, who is also the artistic director of Laihui, an Imphal based traditional music ensemble composed the music for the album. Designed by Design Stash, a premium design house from Nagaland, the album stood gracefully on stands, Giskaa.com, and was spread worldwide. Folk music is so tangible in the Northeast and Oinam Doren, the music producer felt it too when he had seen the dedication from these designers. “Folk music is generally not composed. They are a spontaneous reaction to our environment and our work culture. We have tried to resonate a feeling of nostalgia through the imageries and illustrations. I was surprised when these talented young Naga designers brought three books on Manipuri traditional textiles for reference,” said the venerated producer.

Mangka is quite unlike any singer I have interviewed before – she is delicate, idealistic, and so attuned to folk music and in complete contrast to the introversion, we also witness a mighty performer whose stage presence radiates the entire area. Her use of gestures and pure dramatic expressions are as though she is navigating us through stories of people and places of the region. It’s inspiring when you see an artist of her age, so utterly comfortable in her skin and aware of her own artistry. Our frail subconscious minds, even at their best, can’t conjure up the kind of fantastical storytelling that’s evident in her songs. They bring to our minds, the mountains, the lakes, the greens, the birds and our rich heritage and anyone who feels the soul behind folk music will know that the songs touch you so deeply, they whisk you away. Mangka proves to be an already skilled tailor of Manipuri folk music and I for one most certainly hope she is heard by the masses because her music and performance is truly magical.

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