Why Methaneilie rocks
As the chill set in on December 1, Naga legend, Methaneilie Solo Jütakhrie, set up his four-member band at the Dimapur District Sports Complex (DDSC). He was seated in the middle of the stage when it lit up. White suit, white shoes and a white guitar with three stripes on its top corner typified his belonging. He was the first one to make a joke of the whites. Swigging from an orange transparent plastic flap-open bottle, similar to what many of us may have at home, he began his four-song journey into the evening.
Contextual as usual, he switched Kohima to Dimapur for his most popular number.
Dimapur te thakya khan thunga rasta, gari jam!
[If this is what he sang—accents can be tricky—it could be translated to: for people living in Dimapur, dusty roads and traffic jam]
The audience went berserk.
Methaneilie composed ‘Nagaland City Kuribole’ in the 1970s as a satire on the absurd, and often violent, modernization of Nagaland. People living in Nagaland cut their own throats, he sang—the song brought both politicians and people to spotlight. Methaneilie appealed to god to set things straight. The song washed dirty laundry in open air. Words muttered around the kitchen fire became public. In every party hence, the song became a fixture.
The musician has composed 187 songs to date. If the prickly matter of ‘tribalism’ forced people to look inward, and have a laugh, the yodeling of ‘Whisky Whisky’ exposed the difficult relationship Naga people forged with liquids of gold to deep brown and red. Methaneilie is not punishing about these facts of daily life—he takes the musical opportunity to recognize reality, laugh at it and forgive.
Why do such uncomfortable truths become important for Naga society? Built over years of violent conflict, Naga nationalism makes it necessary to construct a political, and public, image that reflects the future Naga citizen. To the outsider eye, it seems like it is important for the Naga citizen to come across as a good Christian, have respect for elders, play their roles right, be a son who takes great care of property or a daughter who is a devoted wife and mother.
This is, however, not always possible. Given the extent of haphazard development, people falter, values are diluted and poverty brings harsh realities. Some cope with values, some turn to the spiritual while others get by with a glass in hand. Methaneilie does not indict anyone.
This is why he rocks—the inane, to him, is as important as the intelligent.
This is why he is a counterculture icon. He can sit on stage singing a Hindi song without taking away from his Naga core. Methaneilie retains the Naga character and its national counterpart by singing the joke that everyone is already making.
This takes pride and courage. Courage, to call a lady darling even as she calls him dustbin; then to yodel away through the mess.
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