BMA Vangpui Kut Cultural Exchange Night 2012 at Baldwin Boys High School, Bangalore

“The recent north east exodus has left us shaken and scared and we hope that this program would help promote a deeper mutual understanding between the people of Karnataka and Mizoram, rebuild confidence among the people of north east and more importantly bring oneness and peace among Indians.” – Ms. Lalrunpuii, President, BMA

Two points I can take out of Ms. Lalrunpuii’s words: Firstly it makes me extremely sad to digest the fact that the North Eastern community, out of personal experience one of the nicest and most peaceful groups of people one can ever meet, was targeted by a few miscreants and driven to such extreme degrees of fear and insecurity. Secondly, it is heartwarming to see things on the road back to normalcy, and to see the Bangalore Mizo Association (BMA) taking steps to help this on its way and keep their faith in Bangalore.

Vangpui Kût is an annual two day festival celebrated by the Mizos living away from home. It has no traditional history, but is a reason for the thousands of Mizo students and working professionals in the city to take a break and celebrate their culture in all its glory- traditional and modern. The festival usually ends with a Cultural Night, though this year the organizers decided to make it a Cultural Exchange Night instead; a night of cultural exchange between the people of Karnataka and Mizoram. It consisted of cultural troupes from both Mizoram and Karnataka showcasing dances, art and music.

The event started with the customary speeches by the various guests followed by a brief explanation about Mizo culture and the festival’s history. The thing that caught my ear was the concept of ‘Tlawmngaihna’, a code of ethics that the Mizos swear by. The word has no English equivalent and is a combination of chivalry, kindness, selflessness and respect. I would say a general sense of Tlawmngaihna was all over the room that day. It is something that effortlessly spreads to everyone around them, Mizo or not and perfectly highlighted the spirit of the night.

The first cultural program of the night was a dance by the Grace Home Girls, a dance group of four dancers from the Grace Home Hostel for Mizo girls. Dressed up in traditional Mizo attire they danced to music that was a combination of North Eastern sounding melodies with techno beats. The sound was a problem for most of the performances, but I decided to not pay attention to it as the point of the event was not the technicalities but an exchange of cultures. The dance team was obviously deeply loved by the Mizo student community considering the cheers and applause they got from the audience for every move of theirs.

The Grace Home Girls stepped off the stage to make way for the Karnataka Cultural Troupe. The entire event saw alternating performances by the Mizo and Karnataka groups. The Karnataka team performed various folk and classical dances including Veergaase, Bharatnatyam and Dollu Kunitha. The funny thing was, even as a Bangalorean, I was as clueless about the South Indian dances as I was about the Mizo ones. The Veergaase troupe performed a scene expressing the fury of a certain Veerabhadra when he vanquished Dakshinabrahma, the bad guy I am guessing. Both the Veergaase and Dollu Kunitha were backed by loud folk drums and were angry and bold and very interesting to watch. The classical dances on the other hand were serenely elegant, as is expected of them.

The Mizoram Cultural Troupe performed few more of their folk dances. They performed the famous Zirodance – the bamboo dance. It was exhilarating to watch the female dancers effortlessly prance around as the men flung around the bamboos under their feet, almost dangerously. The final Mizo folk performance was Cheeih Lam which is an extremely unique dance form. All the dancers sit in a circle and sing a really happy traditional tune, and one of the male dancers starts doing a very simple and playful little jig with his arms spread out. He reaches out and calls forward any of the female dancers of his choice, and follows her around like he’s almost courting her on the makeshift dance floor. She soon reciprocates every move of his as they play around to the beat of everyone’s claps. The dance has a contagious energy to it. This was demonstrated by the fact that each of the dignitaries stepped onto the stage and started dancing along!

The last league of the event was the musical performances. This was the part I was initially looking forward to the most, but it turned out be just a small part of the cultural exchange that was planned.

The BMA band took to the stage first followed by Lr-a Scavenger Project. Both bands played some really catchy covers including ‘It’s my Life’ and ‘Small town girl’ among others. The crowd truly came alive and every single one of them started dancing in front of the stage. The Mizos surely love their music. Boomarang played a few traditional Mizo songs but in their typical funk rock style. They were extremely tight as usual, had a great sound and even though I could not understand the language I had no problem getting into the groove. Also, their songs had Beatlemania-esque effect on the crowd, especially the girls! Clearly their music is very close to the hearts of the Mizo youth.

The event was not the greatest in terms of technical excellence, but it achieved its intended goals. We got to watch two great cultures in all their similarities and differences. As a south Indian I got a glimpse into traditional and modern Mizo life, and strangely, experienced for the first time, aspects of my own cultural heritage. Indian culture is confusing and awesome at the same time and I feel we should encourage events like these that attempt to make some sense out of it.

Abhishek Prakash

Abhishek Prakash is a Bangalore based guitarist and is a third of local act Groove Chutney. He loves jazz, street food, Woody Allen movies and often pretends to be a writer.


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