In conversation with Theja Meru, advisor, Task Force for Music & Arts
Vishü Rita Krocha
Nagaland, the first ever state in India to have recognized music as an industry, is all set to conquer bigger stage with the rebranding of the Music Task Force (MTF) to Task Force for Music & Arts (TaFMA). The recent appointment of Theja Meru, a recipient of Governor’s Award for excellence in Music (2006) as the advisor has also highly boosted especially the morale of musicians both established and upcoming.
While not everybody may think he is the right fit for the job, he only has this to say- “I have no comments except to say that it has been a long felt need of the music industry and music fraternity”, and expresses his deep thanks to the Chief Minister of Nagaland, Neiphiu Rio, who, he says, “felt the pulse of the industry and for which the music fraternity will be eternally grateful to him.”
Calendar Events: Just two months since he took over and there has been a lot of exciting things in the pipeline as far as music is concerned. Stating that “we have a rich ecosystem of music but in order to convert that ecosystem into economics, we feel that we need to have calendar events,” one of the things that TaFMA is really focused on is calendar events so that every year, for the next many years, on the same date, there is something going on and people can also visit Nagaland throughout the year and not just during Hornbill Festival.
This, he emphasizes will have a huge economic impact on the state. Few events, he says have already taken shape in the recent past such as the Cosplay Fest, August Rush, Dimapur Music Festival, while World Music Day and Beatboxing have become very big now and hopefully with the launch of Novaturient, Nagaland Fashion Week will also become one of the calendar events. Starting this year, he further reveals that “we are going to involve musicians from all the districts in a very big way at the Hornbill Music Festival.”
Open House: One of the first things TaFMA has initiated is the Open House- a mini concert concept to identify talents at the grassroots level, which was formally opened at Mon on August 3, following which Open House in all the other districts of Nagaland has been introduced and will be activated by September. “We are hoping for many surprises from many talents across Nagaland,” he conveys and adds that it is the chief minister and his love for the young people that has really envisioned this concept so that it touches everyone at the district level. With the support of TaFMA there will be one show every month under Open House.
Knowledge Partner: Another focus of TaFMA is to build knowledge while recognizing that “Nagas are very talented, but we do need outside help in terms of exposure, who can provide better platforms and create better connects for us.” In that regard, Theja Meru is very happy that Dr AR Rahman has come forward to personally help in any way possible especially as a Knowledge Partner through KM Music Conservatory based in Chennai. “Dr. AR Rahman has expressed his great love for the North East and we are trying to see how best we can also expose our strengths especially to do with choral music or folk and see how we can do this bigger and larger. It’s in the formative stage but I am sure we are in the right direction with a patron like him,” he puts across.
Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt and Nagaland Ensemble: Also having collaborated with Grammy Award Winner Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, TaFMA is trying to create something called “Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt and Nagaland Ensemble” where TaFMA will design and ensemble with Naga musicians with him. “So, it’s like a product we have to create and create so well so that we can market it to the world outside Nagaland,” he enlightens. This would further mean Naga musicians performing at Corporate Shows, and other countries. “We have a huge task ahead of us, we have talked and signed but the real work starts. We have to identify a lot of talents and see who can be part of this,” he adds.
Hard Rock Café India: Another very positive thing in the pipeline is signing a MoU with Hard Rock Café India (already agreed in principle and currently working on the modalities) wherein they would provide their café venues across India for DJs and bands from Nagaland to perform especially in the genre of pop and rock. With a lot of bands doing both cover and originals in this sector TaFMA is also exploring more avenues for these artists by tying up partnerships with big hotel chains across India and South East Asia. “We are very confident that with the support of the chief minister and the music fraternity, we can achieve this,” Theja Meru states.
THINK Fest: Come September, TaFMA will be launching the first Think Fest ideally for music educators, event managers, band managers, and those who are seriously thinking of getting into merchandising and band and music promotion houses. Elaborating on this, the Advisor says, “We are trying to get industry stalwarts from across India, to come on a regular basis to THINK Fest, which will can be on a regular, bimonthly or once in 3 months so that there will be constant giveaway knowledge to our community.” As the Knowledge Partner, there will also be constant faculty exchange with the KM Music Conservatory where special clinics will be held on guitar, drums, base, piano, etc for both students and educators.
Band Incubation Cell: TaFMA is also in the process of calling bands to empanel with TaFMA so that there is no random selection. “You empanel with us, we will create your quality, give further training, auditioning, scaling up, whatever else is required and then we’ll send you”, Theja Meru explains. Reiterating that “we are ready for a lot of surprises, because in many corners of Nagaland, there are so many artists,” he exudes hope that this kind of transparent selection will also give them a voice and a platform. In line with this, TaFMA will also be calling for an empanelment of all event managers and those running concert logistics companies, so they can get events based on their performance and also what they have and in the scale and size of what they have done and what they possess. “We are trying to make it as transparent as possible,” he restates. TaFMA website will also give access to a single window for all interested musicians to submit their photos, music, music links, video links, numbers and contacts, addresses of their mangers to enable anybody to see what they want, and send direct invitations.
But all said and done, we are not going to make it easy for anybody, he says. “Everybody has to work. There are no rights to just say we know them. Our job is to make it not easy but hard so that everybody works very hard because this business of music is highly competitive and it’s not easy. We are competing with thousands of bands from across India and South East Asia. We want to encourage everyone to work hard.”
Mini Art Gallery at RCEMPA: Things are also underway to launch mini art gallery at RCEMPA. Apart from this, an art camp by the end of this year is in the offing. The rest of the art forms are yet to gain momentum, however with the change of nomenclature from MTF to TaFMA, Theja Meru says, “we are moving with the vision to rehash in line with the vision of our chief minister to include also the other forms of art- Dance, Theater, Art, Literature, Poetry, Fashion, etc which is all coming to the centre stage now with our youth taking all these interests.”
For him, it’s been a very exciting 2 months especially with the breakthrough of collaborating with KM Music Conservatory and Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt while expressing that those are very difficult things to do. “I thank God for everything. He’s been really good, opened many doors and it’s a huge dose of inspiration for the Nagaland Music Industry getting those names”, he pronounces. Driven to take the industry forward, Theja Meru adds, “we are going to drive towards merit because without that, this industry is not going to grow but will be just a hopeless exercise and will be back to square one after 5 years.”