Manipur: Award-winning drum maker seeks to protect ailing craft

  • | Sunday | 27th November, 2022

Imphal, Nov 27 (PTI) Shaikhom Surchandra Singh, who became the first traditional drum maker from Manipur to have been selected for the Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar 2019, said unless attention is given to those making the musical instrument, its popularity is likely to decrease in the coming days.The 41-year-old would be given the award, instituted by the Sangeet Natak Akademi, for his contributions to "Pung" (traditional drum) making.Shaikhom laments that the art form has been "neglected" in the sphere of recognition and assistance provided by the authorities concerned.Pung (drum) is the heart and soul of almost all traditional Manipuri arts, particularly ‘Nat Sankirtan’. But several gurus and those involved in making the musical instrument have not received much recognition due to "lack of exposure and assistance", he said."It is very rare for a drum maker to receive these awards and other recognition as many of those in the field had been generally bypassed in the past. The state government"s Art and Culture department has made an exception by acknowledging the importance of drums in almost all traditional Manipuri art forms and recommending our names for the award," he said.The craftsmanship associated with making the percussion instrument has received less recognition as compared to other performing arts even though it provides the necessary sound, beat and rhythm to dance and music, the drum maker said."We want to preserve this art form as it is our cultural heritage. Accordingly, recognition and assistance from the government, including the establishment of drum shops, and the provision of loans for purchase of materials, would go a long way to help preserve it."I started following the art of making Pung from my childhood days as my grandfather and elder brother were involved in it after having inherited the know-how from our forefathers," Shaikhom told PTI.Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar is awarded to artistes below 40 years of age to encourage and identify outstanding young talents in diverse fields of performing arts and give them national recognition early in their life."Drum making is a complex and lengthy process requiring meticulous examination and skill during production" and it generally takes three to four days to complete a traditional pung,” Shaikhom said.Originally from Heirok in Kakching district, Shaikhom has been residing in Bamon locality in the state capital town since 2005 where he has been making traditional drums as well as training apprentices in the craft."Locally available jackfruit, Indian cedar (Tairen) and Wang trees are used for making the drums while leather, preferably those of buffaloes and Mithun, are procured from certain Muslim traders and people belonging to the Marring tribe," he said.Lamenting that a bleak future awaits the craftspeople, he said that the number of those taking up the art form has declined rapidly thereby affecting the demand for traditional drums."Currently, four to five of us work together in making drums in our work shed from early morning till late night and each instrument fetches around Rs 15,000," Shaikhom said."We make traditional drums mostly after receiving orders from artistes and students of Jawaharlal Nehru Dance Academy Manipur as we do not have a particular shop where we can display our works," Shaikhom, who has repaired the drums (Pungs) of noted artiste R K Singhajit Singh said. PTI COR MM BDC BDC

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