Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Songs & Poems - Jeremy Zobiaka (JBa)

 

Hope

In time
I shall find
peace sublime
of a kind that won’t melt
away.

When the night
and the shadows
and the sight
of tomorrows
fade away.

Now I’m here
and I shelter
my fear
in laughter
and song.

I’ll bide
my time
till the tide
carries me
home.
(2.9.1974)

 

Queen of the Universe

Hate to leave you now
you gave me so much joy
A thousand years of loneliness
is crammed inside my brain
And you
shall remain in the twilight of my vision
and the universe will sing
and babies
in crazy crayon cradles
will sing in harmony
for you.

Undertaker, make me
as pretty as you can
A million times I’ll pay you
in stardust and moonglow
Don’t be sad ‘cause I’m dead
And you
shall remain in the twilight of my vision,
and the universe will sing
and babies
in crazy crayon cradles
will sing in harmony
for you.

Far beyond the future,
I’ll save a place for you
‘cause no one can replace you
and no one else will do.
I’ll form
a constellation and you shall be the Queen.
Queen of the universe
and the universe will sing
and babies
in crazy crayon cradles
will sing in harmony
for you.
(18.10.1977)

 

Transparent Sea

You make me think
of forbidden things,
of hidden desires,
undying fires,
and deep down yearnings
that need releasing.

So come with me
to the transparent sea
There’s only me on the transparent sea
(that's right, baby)
So come with me
to the transparent sea
Come share with me
My transparent sea.

I’d like to take you
without a crew
on a  sailing ship
We’d make a trip
around the world
and let love unfold.

A thousand nights
of sweet delights
we’d share together
maybe forever
and let all reason
blow with the wind.
(20. 5. 1979)

 

Do It Again

Every day the past grows dimmer
Dreams of yesterday fill the mind
and the future makes you shiver
Creeping up to you from behind
and the nights of neon glory
get you thinking about the same old story
Desperation gets you to do it again
You find a reason to do it again.

And you race towards the glitter
Screening fantasies in your head
Soon you will find the taste is bitter
But you’ve got to carry on or you’re dead
when you reach the end of the line
But desperation gets you to do it again
You find yourself a reason to do it again.

When everything is over
You’re back to where it started
You dream of friends and lovers
and desperation gets you to do it again
You find yourself a reason and do it again.
(20.2.1981)

 

Endless Journey

Loneliness
is a never-ending road
The carpet in the middle
keeps leading me on.
I see a rainbow in the horizon
it never seems to fade
And the wind whispers softly
of a long dead serenade.

Silence
is an engine
a thousand years old.
Friends are so far away
Lovers dead and gone.
Roses by the roadside
turn their faces away
as the beams of sunset
turn to pieces of gold.

Happiness
is a million miles away.
Even the fastest horses
won’t ever get me there.
But to stop is an aimless notion
For the carpet in the middle
of the road and my emotions
won’t set me free.
And this lonely endless journey
will last an eternity.
(5.3 1984)

 

One in Jesus

Crossed the night
Driving free
On highway fifty three
Morning light
came at four
with pedals to the floor.

Thirty nine souls
heading for home
one in the body of Jesus
Happy to be
Servants of God
one in the Church of God.

Dear Father
which art in heaven
Hallowed be thy name
Thy kingdom come
Thy will be done
On earth as it is heaven.

Weeping sky
Through the day
I close my eyes to pray
Cool and dry
Through the door
To highway fifty four.
Overdrive
to the hill
At the wheel was Buffalo Bill
Praise the Lord
We’re still alive
on highway fifty four!
(8.5.1993)


Jeremy Zobiaka, or JB, as he was better known, is legendary as Mizoram’s most iconic rock music performer. As an influential early figure in contemporary Mizo pop culture, I believe it necessary here to establish his place in history.

Life and Music: Born on the 18th April 1953,  JB received a solid school education at Dr. Graham’s Homes in Kalimpong where he picked up a fluency in English that was to give him a distinct edge later in life. He then began studying medicine in Ahmednagar as his family wanted but, as he later put it in a letter to an old school friend, “the Flower Children had reached India and the Hippie movement had started. I got caught up in the initial love and drugs culture of the movement and my studies were shot to pieces.” He continues, “I was lucky. I came back to Shillong, converted to Arts classes, swallowed my remaining pills and switched over to drinks.”  

In 1972, he joined a local band the Young Generation and jumped headlong into the rock and roll scene in Aizawl which was just starting out. It was an especially good time for the Mizo rock music scene because in the early to mid-70s, government authorities were very keen to divert the attention of young people away from the ongoing insurgency movement of the Mizo National Front which had started in the mid-60s and lured many young men into going underground. In an all-out effort to woo the younger generation, in December 1975 the Mizoram government organized a Winter Festival whose main attraction was a Beat and Music Contest. The event was taken up by the Information and Publicity department, fronted by the indefatigable Pu R.L. Thanzawna who shared a wonderful rapport with young people. And in as much as was possible in those pre-social media, pre-television days, the Beat Contest was extensively hyped in the double-sided, one-paged print media. It was at this event that JB with his rock star stage presence, gifted voice, long hair and imposing height, really exploded into celebrityhood as he and his new band Creation Flame rocked the young milling crowd with Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog,” The Who’s “See Me, Feel Me” etc. A star was born, the likes not seen or heard since in these parts.

Besides his passion for music, JB had good writing skills as well, writing and singing his own songs with his later bands, Crimson Dust, Exodus, Otto Band, JB & Friends etc. After several years of hard living in the way of all rock bands, and subsequently plagued by health issues, JB found God and salvation in 1991.  The experience led him to write twenty three deeply personal gospel songs in English and seven in Mizo. He recorded a number of these songs in a studio album titled Salvation to Everyone which is both a blessing and something of a bane, because it is the only audio documentation available today of his singing voice, and something of a bane because most 30 to 40 somethings today remember him as a mellow gospel singer with his easy listening, country-inflected English songs while the older generation remembers him as a rock performer par excellence who enthralled Northeast audiences with rock standards like Satisfaction, Honky Tonk Women etc.

On the 16th August 1999, this multi-talented man passed away at the young age of 46.

Songs and Poetry: JB is featured on this blog thanks to his song writing skills. In 2000, his wife Pi Ngurthankhumi published his songs in a book called JBa Damlai Sulhnu (Selected Songs & Sketches) with 151 songs, 14 in Mizo and the rest in English. I am deeply thankful to her for graciously presenting me with a copy of the book and would love to see the book reprinted as many people have expressed interest in getting hold of it.

What blew my mind as I began reading it is the realization that JB started writing his songs and poetry in 1969 which effectively makes him one of the, if not the, earliest Mizo writers in English. His writing career spanned 28 years (1969 to 1997) and while the melodies of some of these compositions are perhaps now forgotten, it must be noted that JB essentially wrote them as songs, composing them with his guitar which he always had by his bedside. His wife speaks of how he would sometimes wake from deep sleep in the middle of the night, reach for the pen and paper tucked under his pillow, and write. His writings seem effortless and come straight from the heart. I have included six song poems here in chronological order and hope they evoke an interest among the younger generation in re-discovering this authentic homegrown cultural icon.

 




Some YouTube links -
1. Glory to the Father - JBa
2. Salvation to Everyone - JBa
3. Free at Last - JBa
4. Transparent Sea - Daphne London
5. Interview with Pi Nguri
6. Queen of the Universe - F. Sanglura

How to Enter a New Year - Ben Zongte

To begin a new year, you must first be empty.
So when you enter, your feet will be light.
Then, you must plant your feet, on the soil where the Chrysanthemum once flourished.
Allow yourself to marvel there — at the thought
that come autumn, they will flower again.

This is how you draw fresh hope. That while your dreams from last year slowly decay, there are new ones buried beneath the ground.
And come autumn, they will all be yours.


Ben Zongte is a writer who has been featured here a number of times before. In this new poem here, his trademark elegance of style and thought has a cadence that is both dignified and stately.

 

Monday, September 6, 2021

Poems - Bazik Thlana

 

An Eye-Identity

the human eyes are the windows to his soul
a window for looking in, looking out and illumination
the windows to my soul are framed by small and narrow panes;
polite passers-by in Delhi have sometimes asked me if I could see clearly through them
i stare at the mirror and fake a smile:
my eyes tell a different tale.
i wonder if anyone would notice,
i’m hoping someone would
i hope they’d take a peek and see what’s inside

 
i make my way outside
i’m called a Chink- a reference to my eyes i suppose
i take it in stride
i’m still faking that smile but i’m tearing up again
damn these eyes!
did anyone see?
they never do.
nobody peers through the window when they judge it by the panes

 they gaze,
they stare,
they pre-suppose
yet again my entity has been summed up by my eye-dentity

 
a Chink- a flaw in the armour of unified India?
a chink in the chain of uniformity?
i’m taking it back
a Chink- it’s narrow and slanted: it’ll do to let the light in
if only they’d look in.


Presence in Absence

Presence in absence
Absence in Presence
Remnants of old and new
Some lost, some given away
Some abandoned and some outgrown
An attempt to capture and preserve them
In jars and photographs and marks
With brushes and ink
Memories hanging by a thread
The void is not always empty
The missing are not always missed
The missed are not always missing.

 

Bazik Thlana is a Mizo artist who describes himself as "a socially conscious eccentric - owning a conscious refusal of a centrally-defined axis as well as an unconventionality to his practice." He is currently doing his Ph.D. in visual arts at JNU in New Delhi. For further insight into his art and writings, check out his blog here. An Eye-Identity was co-written with a Mizo friend of his, Sallie Chianghnuna, who also lives and works in Delhi. Deep gratitude to Thlana for allowing me to post these here, particularly An Eye-Identity which all North-Easterners can completely relate to.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

The Weight - Sanga Says

 

There are two presences
The tangible and the intangible
And the weight of either vary
Upon those caught in its gravity
Here in hospitals rooms and corridors
Spilling out to the wailing, breathless streets
To the crematoriums of fire and water
Ashes dissolve into holy rivers
My country, in crimson ember,
Flickers between two presences
And the weight
The weight...

Sanga Says or Lalnunsanga Ralte, has been regularly featured here being one of our most well-known Mizo poets in English. This is his take on the Covid situation in India, the disaster of apocalyptic proportions that has left us all reeling.



Wednesday, May 12, 2021

7 a.m. – Lalrinsangi Nghinglova

7 a.m. 
it has become
a habit of sorts
to wait
with bated breath
for 7 a.m.
The hour that tells you
the number.
Every day at 7 a.m,
DIPR gives out
the statistics
of new positive cases.
As the numbers increase,
I pray every morning,
at 7 a.m.
that very soon,
the hour will tell us
that we have defeated
the virus
with prayers and obedience
and that
7 a.m. will show us
the answer to our
prayers and obedience.



Lalrinsangi Nghinglova is an Assistant Professor in English at Govt. Zirtiri Residential Science College in Aizawl. Married with three children, she is also currently pursuing a Ph.D. at Mizoram University. While she says she's no poet, these lines are a brilliant snapshot of the apprehension and anxiety that accompany the dreaded hour of 7 in the morning when the latest updates on the Covid situation in Mizoram are announced on social media platforms by the Directorate of Information & Public Relations.