By Prasanta Phukon
If the name Mikhail Marak does not ring a bell then let’s just call him Nokpante. If that too sounds unfamiliar, then here is a brief introduction of the single pop artiste from Tura — his latest single Hai Chena caught the attention of Chief Minister Conrad Sangma who shared the YouTube video link on his official Facebook page and Twitter handle saying, “Beautiful composition with such amazing cinematography! Congratulations to the band and all the best to our #YouthIcons.”
The song featuring four prominent faces — director Dominic Sangma, BMX cyclist Winward Sangma, sports climber Chea Amelia Marak and marathon runner Batsrang Sangma — is making quite a wave on social media and is a “humble tribute” to the four young achievers who never stop inspiring the youth of the state. For 30-year-old Marak, it all started with the Garo song Jakgitel (Freedom) that featured in MTV Indies in 2014. The young singer has worked in several creative projects since then and those include films, advertisement, documentaries and sound design mixing. Last January, Marak’s single Walnam Ka•osara Pring (An ode to life) was nominated for VIMA Music Awards, Malaysia, becoming the first Garo song to be recognised on the global stage. VIMA is an international platform for promoting talented musicians from around the world.
“Yes, it was lovely hearing about the nomination. The song is really close to me… The song did not win but the mere fact that people outside (the country) heard it was of tremendous pleasure for an upcoming songwriter like me. It made me believe even strongly that language is no barrier when it comes to music and people understand the emotion,” said Marak, who works as freelance music composer-songwriter, sound designer and mixer and shuttles between Tura and Mumbai. He spoke to Sunday Shillong on phone from Tura. The latest song, Hai Chena, which literally means ‘let’s win’, is an ovation to the determination and perseverance that the four achievers have shown in the face of adversities. “Every person goes through ups and downs. It was at those times that I came up with this song. It is about not giving up in spite of the pain and hurdles that might come along,” said the composer and singer. The music video is well-scripted and the locations of the shooting are precise. The four youth icons who made headlines last year represent “perfection and achievement”.
When asked about his choice of the youth icons, Marak explained, “I have known Dominic Sangma for around a decade now and have seen how hard he works… To be the only Indian filmmaker representing at La Fabrique Cinema, Cannes, and being from my tribe and state made me want to do something as a lovely tribute. So is the story of Batsrang Sangma who comes from a small village. He has a sharp mind and that should lead him to greater heights in future. “Chea Amelia Marak is the unsung hero. She represented the nation at international level at the age of 13 and has been a national champion for a very long time. It is time she gets her due recognition. And the fact that sport climbing is unknown in this part of the world, it might encourage young enthusiasts to take interest in the sport and the authorities concerned to promote it. Winward Sangma is a young BMX cyclist and a man with a mission. Last year, he did a record of sorts by travelling on his BMX cycle to Lake Tilicho, one of the highest lakes in the world, in Nepal. He carried the message of green and clean environment on the way. He is the brand ambassador of the West Garo Hills District Election Commission.”
Marak said he had the music video in mind and knew that the ethos of the song would transcend a greater emotional boundary if portrayed on screen. “I was working on a web series in Mumbai last year and had just finished around August. I immediately came back to Tura and started mobilising funds for the project. I pitched the idea and many people responded positively and even beyond expectation, with love and warmth,” he recollected.
The musician said he is especially grateful to Gunme Marak, Kartush Marak, Bhuto Marak, Dylan Minty Sangma, Subhash Ch Das, Dimserita Sangma, Daryl Marak, the Tura Badminton Association (TBA), Ram Singh and Swapnil Tembe, deputy commissioners of West and East Garo Hills respectively, “for believing in my vision and supporting the project unconditionally”.
Marak runs Nokpante Productions, a film and audio production house, in Tura. He also performs at musical concerts with his assembled band. Nokpante is also Marak’s stage name. The Garo word means a bachelor’s dormitory (‘Nok’ means house and ‘pante’ means bachelor). When he was in college, Marak would call his room ‘Nokpante’ and it became synonymous with his name. “Nokpante is an institution in Garo culture. It’s the place where a young boy, once he attains adolescence, is sent in to learn various ways of life, ranging from crafting, warfare, art, education and every aspect of life, music being one of them. Now, this practice does not exist and is a mere structure in few villages,” he elaborated. From a bachelor’s den to the world stage has been a challenging task for Marak but he is ever ready to face any hurdle. Currently, Marak is working on his next song, Branggipa Depante, based on the fable ‘Prodigal Son’. The song is the lamentation of a woman for her dead lover. Besides, a few musicals are lined up and Marak is hopeful to release them soon.