Lack of sense of direction in our state’s music industry

Levi Longkumer
Agri Colony, Kohima


In a recent article in Forbes Magazine, it was projected that by the year 2017-18, social media platforms like Apple Music, Spotify, Sound Cloud and YouTube were beginning to heavily dominate the music industry world-wide through their streamlining services which stood at 63% of overall industry revenue. Meanwhile, paid downloads and CDs are continuing their slides into irrelevance. Music is general is not a stagnant form of art, it is an ever-changing landscape that evolves and manifests with the change in time and human technology, it keeps reinventing itself time and again since time immemorial. Now this begs the question though, in such a volatile and shifting market trend, “Where does Nagaland’s music industry lie in all of these?” Well, to begin with this is not an easy answer to say or predict by any one person in a direct context. The problems are many and the solutions to them are also quite numerous as well.


To begin with, music has always been a part of our culture and tradition since the time of our ancestors. To say that the Nagas are avid music lovers is an understatement to say the least, simply put we eat, breathe and sleep thinking about music and we just can’t do away with it. And we have a wide range of appetite for all the different forms of genres of music whether it be our own traditional folk songs, Classical music, Rock n Roll, Metal, Jazz, Blues, Country, Hip-hop, Pop, K-Pop, Bollywood music, alternative rock, Gospel, you name it. And with the advent of the internet and streaming services we have become more diluted in our own specific tastes of listening to sub-genres and styles of music which may differ from the mainstream at times, all in all it is fair to say that we consume a lot of different music. In all this underlying cacophony of music, can it be fair to say that the music scene in Nagaland hasn’t really taken off so to say and what I mean by that is that even though there is a lot of potential in many of the Nagas to start their own music career, most of them don’t have the means or resources to earn a decent living through what they create in their music. But that may rub off on some individuals in the wrong way who may be leading a successful career in music at the moment by what I’ve just said. Nonetheless, what I’m trying to imply here is that the music industry is still in a trivial state with not many individuals seeking to gain any kind of risk in going into the profession due to lack of profitability in general, none-existent private investment in terms of sponsorship, high cost of music production, minimal number of studios in the state who would offer to produce music in affordable prices, lack of good number of music stores and many more. Of course it would be unfair not to point out that over the years there has been a number of local artists who have risen beyond their limitations to make it big into the national music scene in terms of exposure and opportunity. And I applaud and admire them for all that they do in their lives and career but what I’m looking for here is consistency in making music and that is the underlying problem which plagues the music industry here in our state. With the exception of a few, most Naga artists don’t seem to have a consistency in making their music reach out to more people and it is not the sole fault of theirs alone but of a general problem in financial constraints and the dogmatic attitude of the general public.


In trying to justify my use of the phrase “lack of sense of direction” to describe the state of affairs of our music industry, let me explain. Most Naga artists are very good in copycatting other artists in terms of the style and the songs they play, originality is hard to come by as the saying goes “jack of all traits but master of none” and I’m not saying that to discourage people from covering the songs of the artists they admire and wish to emulate but what I’m trying to say is that that alone is not going to take you far in the long run so long as you wish to be like one of those typical artists who aren’t bothered to stand out from the rest of the crowd and be original. There are also a lot of one-hit wonders who have come and gone as well over the years and most have faded into obscurity sadly never to be seen or heard from again. And as we tend to follow the trend of the current trendy music rather than being authentic in our own style of music this problem gets all the more exacerbated. It is also true that although the Hornbill Music Festival has garnered a lot of attention all over the world in the recent years, it has failed to produce the same outcome in generating local successful artists through their platform. We were even the first state to create the Music Task Force Nagaland sponsored by the Government to introduce music as an industry in Nagaland but it has consistently failed to live up to its expectations in providing careers for a lot of upcoming Naga artists. One other thing to mention would be the unfriendly or volatile nature of our state’s economy and the market which is laced with corruption, un-lawful taxation, restrictive trade-norms, governmental malpractices, lack of proper infrastructure and connectivity from the mainland and the other parts of the region and also the limited number of platforms available for the youngsters to showcase their music to a general audience has seriously undermined many of them not to pursue a career in music as they see no space available for them to play their songs on a regular basis whether it be in cafés, small outdoor gigs, formal or informal programs and functions, weddings or parties.


In the end, the problems are many and so therefore the solutions to fix them are equally numerous in way which we can take to fix this issue. The internet is the best solution to most of these problems for now as social media platforms like YouTube, Sound cloud, Instagram and Facebook are great exposure tools to reach out to a wider-variety of audiences for artists who lack the financial capital to make their music through expensive studio-session recordings. Computers and laptops with music making tools, which capture the sound of musical instruments in digital format, are the other avenues through which the younger artists can utilize to create their own style of bedroom music (this is but a fairly common practice in most other countries). The Government of the day should also make a highly concerted effort in bringing about a change in the unfair trading practices of a few self-interested groups of people and individuals by abolishing restrictions wherever it’s needed and enforcing the law wherever it’s required. This would inevitably attract private investors and big media companies to our state to do the heavy-lifting of promoting and producing the music of our local artists in a more refined format and in doing so would expose our state to a much wider range of people from across the country.


This may sound a little bit too optimistic but think about it, states like Meghalaya, Arunachal and Mizoram are benefiting a lot through this very same method of attracting private investors to their respective states and in doing so are creating lots of avenues for their own local people to bring out the best of their musical talents. Music festivals like the NH7 Weekender, Ziro Music Festival, Orange Festival and the Sunburn Music Festivals are huge crowd attractions and so if we could also replicate that success here then it would be of a huge benefit to thousands of people of our state for generations to come.


At the end of the day, it all comes down to the individuals themselves and whether or not they’re willing to move out of their comfort zone to explore and experiment with different ideas and methods to bring about a fresh and an authentic approach to their style of music. They also need to let go of the fear of fear of failing and yearning for instant money through a half-baked mediocre music album(self-produced) which no one would one to hear nor want to buy if given the choice but instead learn to accept criticisms and new ideas from people with a different style of their own. And lastly to all the pessimists out there who may think that our indigenous music will never be accepted by the mainstream music industry, think about it, why is Latino/Caribbean Music, K-Pop music or even J-Pop music being extremely popular in the radio-waves of our current trend of music.