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Urbanity in Snow Whites Album U Rangdajied

In this paper, I discuss some of the reasons why someone like me would find it valuable to study popular music. I illustrate the value of such an endeavor by focusing on a particular case study. I focus on how music with Khasi language text, which is written, produced and performed by a band from Shillong , conveys a sense of place and reflect a distinctively Khasi spirit and identity. Most of the world's population now lives in the urban area. The question of how to understand urban politics and the emerging forms of urban culture is perhaps the most pressing issue for the new Millennium . A singer, whether folk or contemporary, is influenced by his environment and his work is very largely a reflection of it (but this should not be taken as a historical analysis of a people). The attitude towards traditional Khasi music has undergone a significant change in the recent past, where musicians were influenced by the forms and instrumental mixes of the west like R & B, Blues, Jazz and Rock,so what they have come up with is this new strain of western/ Khasi music, all the while maintaining a distinctiveness and uniqueness of their own.

Music and Nature: Khasi musicians are bound together by the love for the land and everything that it signifies. The overwhelming presence of nature in many of the songs is a contemporary consciousness which shows this deeper longing for spirituality. Maxter Warjri echoes the same sentiment in the song Synnia: Shwa ba bnai un ngen ban pynkut ia ka miet Ki sur jong ka mariang ia jingshai ki kyrsiew Jingkyrmen ki ai ba step kan wan phai Mei ngi sa shi sien kan ai jingshai. English translation: Before the moon sets to end the night The songs of nature awaken the dawn With hope of yet another morning Once more the sun brings light.

This return to nature is not a way to get saved but to get connected. This is an essential part of the Khasi experience of living. In the recent past, a critical change in the history of Contemporary Khasi Music began. Folk material came to be adopted by popular bands, which have felt a need for a reaffirmation of cultural roots as Desmond. L. Kharmawphlang in a poem entitled Letter from Pahambir describes; We have suckled for so long on a wisdom of falsehood- we are ourselves our own worst enemies. (Letter from Pahambir) (21) Voices in their song Synnia (a metaphor of Ka krem lamet krem latang) and Soulmate in their song Shillong (where they speak of U Sier Lapalang), uses the rich folk tales of the Khasi Hills to bring to life this presentness of the past. The main focus of this paper is the album U Rangdajied by Snow White. The uniqueness of this album is the journey of self-discovery, the typical hero figure Rangdajied undertakes as he tries to bring wisdom and insight back to his people. The album has to be listened in its entirety to understand its meaning, as the whole album is a story being told. Each song in the album corresponds to a chapter in Rangdajieds life. Rangdajieds quest is a process of discovery, grieving, searching, and discovering his own strength (as well as his identity) in the process. It is interesting to note that while the album draws inspiration from city life itself, folk metaphors like U Thlen, Suidnoh Thawlang, Iawbei, Um ksiar,Um Rupa reaffirms their longing to connect with traditional roots and wisdom. U Rangdajied traces the life of the fictional protagonist from his boyhood days, right through his youth where he falls in love. But this love is short lived and the love of his life ultimately dies. Finally disenchanted with life, he lashes out at the Lei san snem. For Rangdajied th e only way to survive is to sacrifice himself for a cause. Rangdajied is a contemporary hero, a modern everyman struggling to find self and meaning in a world that seems to have lost all values. Ha iing I Pa evokes childhood memories, which juxtaposes the lyrical vision of childhood with the dark shadows of the adult world. The

childlike innocence of Rangdajied is underscored by his solitude. The song is steeped with the ideas of anticipation and disappointment. There is a void in little Rangdajieds life, and the main root of this abyss is the absent father. Ha jinglong khynnah rit ha kyndong ha kamra u iai ap, Ha syndah ka dur kpa U shna la pyrthei, Ha ki dienjat u kpa ia la jing duwai U khlei u pyrta, Ha khmat samrkhie u kpa U lap ia jingim. The relationship between Rangdajied and his father provides the basis for the exploration of the sensibilities of childhood. One can only understand the album if one realises what motivates Rangdajieds actions. Rangdajied now discontent with life (after his beloved dies) wages war against the Lei San Snem , championing a defenseless mankind. In his rage he cries out: Kin lympat ki khlieh Kin lamwir ha ktieh Kin iap hala krem Ngan pyrta jam ia ka tien-blei Ngan shim u kwai na dwar u blei Ngan pan jasong na ka Iawbei Ngan mih ialeh Ngan theh umkoi ia lei-san snem Ngan teh ia ki da niuh Iawbei Ngan mait ia ki da wait Thawlang Ryngkew ngan long. English translation: Their heads whipping in frenzy A madness in the slush Death sweeps their caves I will plead for the words of God I will pluck death from its threshold

For jasong(1) and blessings I will ask from Iawbei(2) I will then venture To sprinkle umkoi(3) on the Lei san snem(4) To remind them of their roots I will use the sword of Thawlang(5) I will be the earth.
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Rice wrapped in plantain Original mother of the clan Water used to sprinkle the dead Five year deity a reference to the five year term of politicians First uncle

Iaid ko mynsiem haunts us because we can identify with Rangdajieds grief. It might sound sadistic to say that this song takes a turn for the better when it goes from sounding like an indifferent writer imagining pain, to a wounded writer remembering it. That is how art works. Like many, if not all, protagonists, Rangdajied is someone who doesnt fit in. His sense of self is uncertain, as is his place in his community. It takes the tragedy of his mothers death, the lack of intimacy and emotional bonding between him and his father and finally the death of the love of his life, to propel him into a search for himself. If one were to read the album like a novel, Rangdajied would be a Tragic Hero, because in tragic literature the actions of the protagonist, no matter how well-intentioned, lead to disaster. So the sense of futility is heightened when the Gods or Lei triumph and Rangdajied is slain. The loss in the battle is ephemeral and can easily be forgotten. Therefore the focus shifts from Rangdajied to his Sword in Wait Rangdajied. It now becomes a permanent symbol of the continuation of the war against the corrupt practices within the society. How does the band see itself in the urban jungle? U Rangdajied explores the predicaments that a modern youth finds himself in. The song Ki Mawlynnai reflects the impersonal nature of modern living and the obsession with amassing power and wealth at the expense of personal fulfillment. The songwriter muses: Balei ngam tip nga mareh stet? Jingim kan kut ngam tip syndet La syep nga theh khlem kut..

English translation: I question my headlong run For life will end a sudden death Though my sweat endlessly runs. In the race for material gain and personal power, there will inevitably be people who are left behind, and these people are increasingly dissatisfied with their lot in life, whether one is successful or not, one stands to lose. Modern life and the pursuit of wealth are portrayed as losing games. You're obliged to pretend respect for people and institutions you think absurd. You live attached in a cowardly fashion to moral and social conventions you despise, condemn, and know lack all foundation ..That's the poisoned and mortal wound of the civilized world. ~Octave Mirbeau, Torture Garden, "The Mission," Chapter 8 The song Lei San Snem, berates political leaders for being powerhungry and being interested only in their own well-being. The so-called leaders are just gluttons with a huge appetite for power, like the Thlen. This song hits out at the power-hungry nature of political leaders who are supposed to serve society but who are interested only in serving their own interests. For all this, the album does not end in despair; Ki Mawlynnai is an artistic comment on the central theme of the song that mans pursuits are insignificant, and the only thing certain, is that life rolls relentlessly on. The uniqueness of the album What is unique about this album from other concept albums is its explicit use of folk metaphors. The story of Snow white is folk in origin .There is one very interesting aspect of the fairytale that I would like to dwell on. All of us would remember the oft quoted Mirror mirror on the wall, Whos the fairest of us all? Perhaps what the band is telling us is that music is a direct reflection of the values of our culture. So, in conclusion I would like to say that I am glad the band has left the album so open ended, or more appropriately, so circular. As we listen to the

album, the question of what happens to Rangdajied should become less important as we begin to apply the albums themes to our own lives. Snow white has taken it upon them to convey this timeless story of the survival of the human spirit despite all odds.