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Assam’s tiny Mising community finds its voice on YouTube

Artists are posting music videos in the Mising language on a unique channel called Miriwood that’s racked up 38,000 subscribers

Dipanjan Sinha

When Binod Pegu was recording his self-composed song, ‘Bersa Bersala’ for MiriWood, in April 2018, he did not expect much. The work, a romantic ghazal about the first glimpses of love, was his first song for the new YouTube musical web series. It was in the Mising language, spoken by the indigenous Mising community scattered across of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh and numbered fewer than seven lakh. He just wanted to give it a shot.

The video did better than anyone could have expected. “It went viral in the community and among Assamese people all over,” Pegu says. “The phone would just not stop ringing with people congratulating me.” The musician from Dhemaji in Assam, who had returned from Mumbai after a couple of years of struggle, is now regularly invited to perform at events across Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. He also went on to win the first-runner-up title at a reality singing show in Itanagar in Arunachal Pradesh in October.

It’s vindication from the most unexpected quarter.

Linked by Tunes

For both Pegu and the channel the journey has been a good one. The song has over 2,89,000 thousand views, and the channel has 38,000 subscribers. Its popularity comes largely by word of mouth and it has become as essential link, a kind of musical mothership for the
Mising people.

Celebrations of the community festival Kanking Kebang, organised by the Mising Students’ Union in different parts of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, now see lot of demand for performers like Pegu who get discovered on MiriWood. “I too came to know about it from a friend when I was studying management in Bengaluru,” says Thomas Pegu, a marketing professional based in Kolkata. “Since then I have followed all their updates and look forward to more. Our community is small. Not too many people outside know about us so this channel helps us share our culture with them. Even if they don’t follow the language, they can appreciate the music.”

The final of episode of the first season was uploaded in June. The next season will focus on a fusion of modern and traditional songs from the tribe, says Miro Migom Pegu, the founder of the channel. Miro Migom Pegu, 31, returned to Guwahati after a filmmaking course
in Bengaluru in 2014 and was
working on several film and television
projects.

“I returned because I wanted to do something in my language and with my community. I felt stuck with the kind of work I was getting. That is when I had thought about the
channel,” he says.

They started with a near-zero budget. For the first video, he got together three friends who worked on the music, camera and set design. Though the money they make from YouTube is negligible, Miro says that their popularity has helped them create merchandise to raise money. Soon after the success of the first video, they started selling T-shirts in four styles. “These are quite popular across the community,” he says.

The channel has become a platform for struggling artistes who earlier little scope to be known beyond their locality or at most their district. For some like Bachelors in Education student Dalimi Kuli, 24, uploading a video on YouTube is a much easier way to reach an audience than travelling alone to other districts. For others like James Doley, a Mising rock singer, this is the only place where he can put his music out as there are hardly any takers for Mising rock.

“The idea was always to make it more than just music. In future, we can host short sketches, discussions and even films,” says Miro.

(HT Media)

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