One cannot help but marvel at the creativity and aesthetic sense of our forefathers. Just take a look at the complex bead patterns in our jewelry, our crafts, the beautiful motifs on our traditional shawls/body clothes, and the exquisite poetry of our Li.
Music, Dance and festivities were an integral part of the life fabric and they all served a deeper purpose- that of creating bonds and helping to maintain order and discipline.
Getting into the culture of Li and being associated with folk music for a long time has made us sisters so much more appreciative of our roots and the things that make us who we are as a people today.
We grew up listening to tales of our grandparents' struggles during the Wars that ravaged and transformed our worlds, how the coming of Christianity changed lives and perspectives and how in a stretch of two decades, life was never to be the same for any Naga.
Grandma would regale us with tales of her youth and the adventures she embarked on. In between narratives came folktales and folksongs. Mother would add her bit and there would be lots of laughter and ohs and ahs and even tears as we soaked up the stories with rapt attention; while in our heads, our imagination went haywire conjuring wild and vibrant images. A beautiful memory etched in time is spending Christmas in the village with Grandma and sipping sweet rice beer from her tall bamboo mug when mother was not looking.
Life was definitely simpler but the daily hassles were equal I am sure, if not more. They however reveled in the simple joys of life and were completely in tune with nature and undoubtedly happier for it. They also enjoyed a strong sense of community and familial ties were strong. They had music in their bones and heart. Music even ran in their bloodstreams one could say.
Life in olden times was dictated by nature and living habits were based on the agricultural cycle and Li was the common thread that ran through everything and tied them all together. Back then, every body sang Li and there was not a time which wasn't appropriate for Li. It was a mode of self-expression as much as it was a bonding exercise. Li is omnipresent in all situations and places. It is the one thing that pervades class, gender, age and renders all equal. Li has been and continues to be a community activity, much like the church singing or praise and worship we do today.
Let's just say Li is the life force that binds. There are so many types of Li. It is hard to classify Li into specific types but in broad terms, they can be thematically organized. There is classical Li (Kü pra ti Li-solos/duets/trio), Tati Li (Li accompanied by Tati, the traditional one stringed instrument), Group Li (sung ad lib), Pheta/Mülophe Li (Li to accompany dancing and foot work) and Chants (involving the entire village). Li can also be thematically organized.
There are Li for all seasons (every season has a corresponding Li) and occasions - deaths, births, sacred rituals, festivals (every festival has specific Li), work themed Li (different Li for different tasks), romantic love songs, tragedies, war themes, wedding themes, special occasions call for special Li, odes, songs of praises to spirits and nature and in the christian era, gospel folk praising the creator.
The sheer variety of Li is mind boggling and there is no doubt a good number of Lis have been lost through the passage of time. Hopefully, we can preserve the few we still have. Our Naga tradition of orally passing down our culture from generation to generation is unique but has its own demerits. And the adoption of Christianity and subsequent westernization also played a significant role in almost wiping out the tradition of folk singing and dancing. But old habits die hard and with traditional festivals giving way to celebration of Jubilees and other events, a recent surge of cultural revivalism erupted. And with the blessing of the Church the enthusiasm of young people broke through and we are adapting the unique practices and music of our forefathers to our times and new beliefs. What was once sung to appease spirits are now sung in praise of the Holiest of Spirits.
We Nagas are a lucky lot. We have been so blessed with bountiful nature, beautiful people and a vibrant and rich cultural heritage; it is only right that we use our talents and blessings to enrich the lives of our people and inspire those around us. It is heartening to see many young talented Nagas trying to strike out new pathways in music and creative arts. And with the world getting smaller day by day, we only stand to gain much.
All in a day's work!
We should never forget where we come from but we should never let the circumstances of our origins hold us back from greater and higher things. And as the age old adage goes, only the fittest will survive so, let us gear up and be the fittest.
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Aveyi says:
at: 19 August 2011 at 16:11 said...

Yes, "Old Habits die Hard"..we have to preserve our culture and traditions...
Waiting to read more....:-)

Tetseo Sisters says:
at: 1 September 2011 at 03:02 said...

Hey Aveyi,
Very true indeed, Glad you share those sentiments. Thank you and do drop by again for more posts.

Ashikho says:
at: 5 September 2011 at 16:23 said...

Naga culture will never die cause Tetseo sisters are there to guide us.I'm so (Li) after seeing your work