Bringing Neighbours Closer One Handshake at a Time

Cultural Diplomacy

Theja Meru recreates the magic of the Handshake Concert 2014 – Myanmar Edition

The Embassy of India in Yangon and Rattle & Hum Music Society of Nagaland, India in cooperation with the Ministry of Culture of the Government of Myanmar presented the Handshake Concert 2014 - Myanmar Edition on July 5 at the National Theatre in Yangon. The chief minister and the highest official of Yangon Region, U Myint Swe and Speaker of Nagaland Legislative Assembly Chotisuh Sazo graced the event as Chief Guest and Guest of Honour respectively.

The event brought together musicians and cultural ambassadors on one stage. The concert was also graced by the speaker of the Yangon Region and Yangon Regional government ministers, and local eminences invited by the Embassy. The Yangon Region CM gave a welcome speech followed by the speaker of the Nagaland Assembly.

The handshake concert showcased the choral and folk traditions of Nagaland. The concert began with a group called ‘Voices of Hope’, Nagaland’s first show choir made up of classically trained singers and musicians from the state. It was led by Nise Meruno, renowned soloist and brand ambassador of AKG Musical Instruments and Yamaha in India. The piano teacher of ex-Foreign Secretary, Nirupama Rao, led the group in presenting the song ‘Music of the Night’ from the ‘Phantom of the Opera’, sung to pre-recorded music that was almost operatic like the original. This was followed by three songs by the choir including A R Rehman’s ‘Jai Ho’ from ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ that went beyond standard repertoire.

The ‘Tetseo Sisters’, Naga songsters and siblings, Mercy, Alune and Kuvelu, who have spent their young lives promoting the nearly forgotten music of the Chakhesang tribe of Nagaland in north-eastern India, sang Chakhesang polyphonic music, which included ‘a cappella’, followed by a rendition accompanied by traditional one-stringed instrument with the head of a hornbill, and finally a fusion piece combining rock music, vocal polyphony and dance.

The evening’s programme also witnessed Grammy Award winning Hindustani Classical Instrumentalist, Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt playing the Mohan Veena (Slide Guitar) and artistes from Ministry of Culture, Govt of Myanmar, who presented recitals on Myanmar Traditional Orchestra, including compositions on Myanmar Harp and Drums.

The event was an incomparable learning experience for all participants, where each one was introduced to something new. It also provided an impetus to enhancing direct people-to-people contacts.

In his speech, Chotisuh Sazo, the Speaker of the Nagaland Assembly, echoed the sentiments expressed by participants representing both countries on the continuation of such friendly meetings, and invited the Myanmar delegation to participate in the Nagaland state annual Hornbill festival. Both the guests of honour acknowledged the length of the shared borders and stressed the importance of such cultural exchange programmes.

G Mukhopadhaya, Ambassador of India to Myanmar said, “The Rattle and Hum Society performed the Handshake Concert at the National Theatre of Yangon to a pretty much full audience. The event was a grand success. The artistes were superb. I felt proud to be their ambassador. In one word, the event was fantastic”.

Organised as part of the cultural exchange between India and Myanmar, the Handshake Concert Myanmar edition went a long way in showcasing the unique music and culture of Nagaland, enhancing mutual understanding and strengthening the strong and friendly relations between the people of India and Myanmar.

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Theja Meru
Theja Meru is a singer and entrepreneur and the President of the Rattle & Hum Music Society. He is also the recipient of the Governor’s Award for excellence in music and alumni of the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP).

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