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Battle Of The Bands 2017

Simi Suri

The North-Eastern states are well reputed for their love of western music and for being the hotbed of musical talent.  Meghalaya, in particular, is the cradle for immense talent and musical genius.  This year saw a pioneering effort by the Assam Rifles to host the Meghalaya Talent Hunt Show 2017, to nurture musical initiative and provide a platform for creative talent.

Assam Rifles, proudly carries the banner of being “Friends of the Hill People” and supports numerous activities involving the people of the North-East to help promote a better future for the families and children.  The brain-child of the Director General of Assam Rifles, Lt. Gen Shokin Chauhan, the grand event was hosted at the Indoor Sports Complex at the Head Quarters of the Assam Rifles in Shillong. One couldn’t have asked for a more idyllic location; the Assam Rifles Head-Quarters are beautifully laid out, surrounded by sweeping hills, lush green foliage and occasionally descending mist, from where one can witness some of the most breath-taking sunsets.  Add to this some delightful, lilting music and you have a recipe for what dreams are made of.

Even in its first year, the high standard of music on show was commendable, with the first day being dedicated to school children for performances in various music and dance categories. The second day saw a colorful variety of solo and group performances in music, song and dance.

 The Grand Finale Extravaganza, the most awaited musical battle and the mega event of the finals was the “Battle of the Bands.”  There were 16 bands who fought it out for a presence in the Grand Finale Extravaganza from which the top five bands were selected.  The final performing bands were Freddy Kharmutee, Duck Tape, Soul Groove, Thrive Voyage and Pantocrator, and they enthralled the audience with their genius.  There were power-packed and electrifying performances by all the bands in front of a houseful auditorium. The audience was mesmerized and left longing for more, making it difficult to believe that these were just amateur groups.  Pantocrator was judged the winner with its soulful renditions; Soul Groove got the first runner-up position, followed by Thrive Voyage as the second runner-up.  The awards and prize money were presented by the Director General of Assam Rifles, Lt. Gen Shokin Chauhan. The event was judged by independent jury members comprising of Mrs Suchetra Bhattacharjee, Mr. Sumit Roy, Mr. Tito, Mr. Booma Boomie Hangsing, Mr. Harmeet and Mr. Sayed Rahi Umair.

The highlight of the evening was an impromptu performance by one of the judges, Mr. Booma Boomie Hangsing.  His prowess with the guitar, his pulling on the strings and his jamming with his co-artists, had the audience spellbound.  One wishes such incredible talent, as was on display at the competition, could get opportunities in other parts of the country, to showcase their talent and garner a promising future for them.  This Talent Hunt event was aimed to build and strengthen the relationship between the citizens of Meghalaya and Assam Rifles through the eternal bond of music.

Though most people know little about the Assam Rifles, it has an illustrious history, starting with being the oldest paramilitary force in India, raised originally in 1835 as Cachar Levy.  It got its present name, Assam Rifles in 1917.  Perhaps, it is mostly famously known for helping the 14th Dalai Lama to escape from Tibet in 1959.  During his last visit to Arunachal Pradesh earlier this year, the Dalai Lama was thrilled to meet one of the members from the Assam Rifles (now retired) who had help him cross over into India.  On entering India, he had handed over his pistol to the regiment, saying he did not need it any more.  That pistol is on display at the museum at the Head Quarters of Assam Rifles in Laitkor, Shillong.

Besides being involved in internal security and counter insurgency operations, Assam Rifles also provides medical assistance and education in remote areas, and is involved in supporting and nurturing a number of sports and cultural activities for the “hill people.”