A woman defiant with Pena

A woman defiant with Pena

Synonymous with Manipur, Pena is the oldest musical instrument of the Meitei group

When the common belief that the musical Pena is supposed to be played only by men hit her, she decided to be a Pena performer. Now Mangka Mayanglambam carries it wherever she performs.

Synonymous with Manipur, it is the oldest musical instrument of the Meitei group of people which is played in folk music, solo, group or as the accompanying instrument for the Manipuri dance and at Lai Haraoba festivals.

Mayanglambam, a Manipuri folk, classical and contemporary singer-performer and Pena player smiles that music entered her life as soon as she started talking. "And I would dance every time listening to the sounds of drums, and when my father, a senior Pena player would bring alive the instrument. In fact, he is my first guru and has been a great inspiration."

The artist, who has performed nationally and internationally extensively and collaborated with several musicians abroad (British, Japanese, Singaporean and Hawaiian) says that the experience is always enriching. "It is not just about the music but also an insight into an alien culture. What emerges from the union of different ways of life through music can be enigmatic," she tells.

In fact, she will be performing live with UK artist Eadyth during the upcoming 'Ziro Metaverse', a part of the Season of Culture with partners Focus Wales during the Zero Festival to be organised in Arunachal Pradesh from September 29 to October 02, 2022. "I had one of the best collaborations with Eadyth even before we met. Now I am looking forward to the event. I am hosting her in Manipur on September 27, after our live performance during our UK tour. Now that is some real cultural exchange too."

For someone who continues to be fascinated by folk, she says the same makes her feel alive. "I connect deeply with myths, folklores and ancient riddles, something one can witness when I perform."

The artist, who also teaches at Laihui - A centre for research on traditional and indigenous performing arts (established in 1895) feels that one of the major reasons that the Northeast continues to be a strong hub for music is the fact "that we are culturally rooted".

Attributing the fact that her performances are a full house across the country, to her music's originality and uniqueness, Mayanglambam is currently researching old music from different communities, doing classes for children, and aims to work with multiple artists from diverse regions. "Also, I am working on having my own Academy of Manipuri Folk music and culture," she concludes.

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