The Melody Queen Of Manipur - Laishram Memma.
It was early in the morning of Sajibu Cheiraoba, the beginning of a New Year in Meitei Calendar. Far away from home, in Mumbai, with an English daily at hand, I was wondering what I could do my best to have an eventful day on this day. Then suddenly a call came. It was Ichemma. I was excited, not because of the invitation I got to celebrate Cheiraoba at her house, but it was rather of the green signal she gave to an appointment I sought. Soon I reached her nice and cute flat at Mira Road, a Mumbai suburb. It was amazing to see a Meitei woman managing all alone herself right from paying telephone bills to travelling to many place for several crowd pulling programs. Three Cheers to Ichemma!
Our Ichemma is none other than Smt. Laishram Mema, a pioneer of Hindusthani Sugam Sangeet in Manipur. Not knowing how to address appropriately, I follow the standard thing to address a Meitei lady as Ichemma with respect -often heard in Moiranghtem Inao's radio plays. Let's explore a little more about her....
Holding a couple of degrees namely Sangeet and Nritya Visharad from Bhatkhande College of Hindusthani Music, Lucknow, Ichemma is equally adept in Kathak Dance, Classical and Light Music. She has performed in various music concerts all over India and given programs in various languages besides Hindi and Manipuri at several All India Radio Stations like Imphal, Kohima, Silchar, Guwahati, Dibrugarh, Calcutta, Lucknow, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Rajkot, Bhoj, Bombay etc. During her fellowship course deputed by the Manipur State Kala Academy, she took special gharana lessons from Pandit Ratan Jhakar J.N. Natu, Sideswari Devi, Dr. K.G. Ginde, Pandit Jasraj and dance lessons from Vikram Singjee of Lukcnow. Besides giving programs in AIR and DD, she is also a play back singer of Manipur and Hindi Films. Her duet songs with celebrated Lata Mangeshkar for a Manipuri Film are highly acclaimed. Known as the 'Melody Queen' of Manipur --a title given in the All Manipur Light Music Conference, 1978-- Laishram Mema is the first artiste of Manipur who has been assigned for Hindi Films. In 1982, Sur Singar Samsad, Bombay, declared her the best playback singer and awarded S.D. Burman Award in the 7th Film Sangeet Sammelan. She also got the credit of giving music direction and playback of first Nepali Film produced in Manipur "Tyo Hanso -Yo Aansu". She was conferred the 'Surmani' Award in the 21st Kal-Ke-Kalakar Sangeet Sammelan held at Bombay, 1983. And in the same year, Digamber Jain Samaj Jain Samaj of Manipur conferred her the title 'Sur Sagar' for her dedication towards the Lord and the Perfection in Jain Bhajan. In recognition of her meritorious work, dedication and sacrifices for music, the government of Manipur honoured her by giving the prestigious 'Manipur State Award' during the Republic Day Celebration 1983.
Smt. Laishram Mema is not only a performer endowed with rich and mellifluent voice but also a dedicated worker for the promotion of music. She established the Jhafirband Sangeet Kala Academy in Assam and the Cultural Training Institute, Imphal in Manipur, with its branches at Lamphel, Khongjom, Ningthoukhong and Kalapahar. She has written a book 'Sur Vigyan' which is now a textbook for music in Manipur recognised by the Govt. She is also an external examiner of Bhatkhande Sangeet Vidyapith Lucknow. In the year 9186, she gave classical and light classical programme at Assam Sanskriti Sammelan held at Guwahati and at Lucknow Mohatsav at Uttar Pradesh. In 1988, under the Indo-British Cultural Programme, she gave programmes at various cities of U.K. She also visited many African nations for the cultural programme sponsored by Giants Groups of Nairobi. An advocate of music as an important role in bringing a change in the society, she writes, "To take full benefit of the music and to keep the youngsters away from the intoxicated drinks and unruly activities, it is the right time for the government to look after the music institutions by giving necessary aids and introducing music classes in every schools and Colleges for the popularisation of the music. It will be of great help in building the nation with an aura of peace and integrity. Hence, Music can be treated as an unavoidable subject of teaching for the welfare and unity of a nation" (in Sur Singar , a magazine of the famous music organisation the Sur-Singar Samsad, Mumbai).
Once we were all set for a Meitei Cheriaoba luncheon, I let loose my curiosity of knowing her. With a warm smile and with much enthusiasm, she attended to my volley of queries. If necessary she modestly gave a few illustratory examples. Excerpts from Ichemma's exclusive interview for E-Pao and Laishram Memma's Interview With TheManipurPage