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World Music Institute Press Release


FRIDAY, MAY 11, 2007 8:00 PM
Peter Norton Symphony Space, Broadway at 95th Street, NYC

This program provides a rare opportunity to see the music and dance of Manipur ("the land of jewels"), an isolated mountainous region in northeastern India where cultural traditions have been preserved in their purest forms and kept out of reach from much of the Western world. Manipur is located in the foothills of the eastern Himalaya, bordering Burma, and is the cradle of the civilization and culture of the Meiteis, a Tibeto-Burman people. The Laihui ensemble, which will be making its US debut, is composed of singers, musicians on the pena (fiddle) and percussion, and an amaibi (female shaman) from Imphal. Their program, Songs of Love and Creation, marks the first time that a dance and classical music performance devoted to ancient pre-Hindu rituals from the colorful shaman-led Lai Haraoba festival will be performed outside Manipur. This concert is presented in association with Asia Society and produced by L. Somi Roy.

The program will begin with Chuk-Pharol-Anoirol (The Creation of the World), the shaman dance ritual which opens the annual month-long Lai Haraoba festival. This will be followed by Loi Okpa (Princess Thoibi's Return from Exile), which tells the story of Thoibi, the Princess of Moirang, who is accosted by her undesired suitor when she journeys back from exile in Burma to reunite with her true love. Lai Nupi Thiba (The Love-Seeking of the Gods) features two stories from Manipuri mythology expressed through song and dance: "The Bride of Khori Phaba", which tells of the divine polo-player's hunt for his bride, and "Panthoibi's Search for her Lover." The program ends with Thang Katpa (Closing Ritual of the Four Corners) in which the shaman appeases the spirits that she has brought into play during the Lai Haraoba festival.

LAIHUI: The Centre for Research on Traditional and Indigenous Arts has been a leader in the traditional art forms of Manipur in contemporary idioms. Based in Imphal, Laihui was founded by its director M. Mangangsana Meitei, under the guidance of Thongam Thoiba, his Pena Oja (teacher). Laihui conducts research in the traditional Manipuri arts and presents seminars, workshops and performances in India and internationally. To date, it has produced over 40 innovative interpretations of traditional performances and three documentary films.

The Festival of India is funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts; the New York State Music Fund, established by the New York State Attorney General at Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors; the New York State Council on the Arts, a State agency; and the Howard Bayne Fund.



Manipur is in the foothills of the Southeastern Himalaya, bordering Myanmar, and is the cradle of the civilization and culture of the Meiteis, a Tibeto-Burman people.

While the dance and music of the classical form of the Meiteis, known popularly as Manipuri Dance, has been seen throughout the world, Songs of Love and Creation is the first program on the dance, music and ritual of the pre-Hindu traditions of the Meiteis to be presented outside of Manipur. The program is a selection of five episodes from the Lai Haraoba festival in Moirang. The Lai Haraoba is the central festival of creation, fertility and the mythology of the Meiteis, and is led by shaman priestesses called amaibis. The ritual performances of the amaibis at the Lai Haraoba festivals are supported by balladeers that accompany them while playing the traditional stringed pena, as well as other singers and musicians.

CHUK PHAROL - ANOIROL - The Creation of the World

The amaibi, the Meitei shaman priestess, opens the Lai Haraoba festival with this ritual performance of the creation of the earth and of human beings. Water is the all-connecting medium in the creation of the sky, earth and all living beings. The amaibi enacts how the earth is hoisted from the depths of all-connecting Water onto a web of pillars. Land is solidified and the amaibi follows this with the creation of the human being, body part by body part, until the moment of Birth and the growth of the Infant. Performers: Ima Amaibi Tondon. With Leimapokpam Subol on langdel drum and iroi machi horns. Mangangsana on pena.

LOI OKPA - Princess Thoibi's Return from Exile

This is part of the annual Moirang Kangleirol performed at the annual month-long creation-myth festival called the Lai Haraoba. This episode tells the story of Thoibi, the Princess of Moirang, and her journey back from exile in Burma. Expecting to be greeted by Khamba, her lover, she is instead accosted by General Nongban, the grand, older suitor she had spurned, and Soura, his jester friend. A contest of wills and wit follows as Thoibi seeks a way to get past her undesired suitor and re-unite with her true love. Performed by Ahongsangbam Aneshori (Thoibi), Mayanglambam Mangangsana (General Nongban), Heikrujam Mahesh (Soura), Ahongsangbam Priyarani (Thoibi's friend) and Leimapokpam Subol ( old man, narrator)

- Intermission -

LAI NUPI THIBA - The Love-Seeking of the Gods

"The Bride of Khori Phaba", telling of the divine polo-player's hunt for his bride, and "Panthoibi's Search for her Lover" are two stories from Manipuri mythology. Part ritual, part performance, they are performed, led by an amaibi shaman, at the annual month-long creation-myth festival called the Lai Haraoba.

Performers: Ima Amaibi Tondon (also Lord Khori Phaba and Nongpok Ningthou), Ahongsangbam Priyarani (also the Bride of Lord Khori Phaba), Ahongsangbam Aneshori, Mayanglambam Mangangsana, Heikrujam Mahesh. Leimapokpam Subol on the langdel drum.

THANG KATPA - Closing Ritual of the Four Corners

The appeasement of the spirits that the amaibi shaman priestesses have been brought into play during the Lai Haraoba brings the festival to a close. The amaibi performs this ritual with open fires and knives in the four corners of the shrine's performance space. With Ima Amaibi Tondon.