Imphal Review of Arts and Politics

Veteran Pena performer Khangembam Mangi Singh, receiving an award from President Abdul Kalam
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Veteran Pena Balladeer Khangembam Mangi Singh Who Has Given a Folk Art Form New Life

Khangembam Mangi Singh was born in 1925 at Lanshang in Manipur. He is one of the very few veteran Pena balladeers alive today. He now lives at Thangmeiband Lourung Purel  Leikai, Imphal West, Manipur. He is the son of Khagembam Tomei and Manjuri Devi. His present occupation is Sana Leikham Pena Shanglakpa of Manipur Pandit Loishang and he is a guru of Laihui ( a Manipuri organization that consists of preserving Manipur folk dance and music, Manipuri traditional music and dance and Manipuri theatre too).

Veteran Pena balladeer Khagembam Mangi Singh was trained in the Phamsak style of Pena performance, where the artist (while seated) plays the instrument (Pena) as he renders devotional songs under Khagembam Tomei ( Khagembam Mangi’s father), Phamdon Sanajao and Guru Yumnam Kanhai. He learnt Lai Haraoba performance from Guru Laishram Mohon and Kolom Amu and also he trained in rendering the Moirang Parva which is the epics of Moirang and the courtyard drama Thok Leela. His training in these arts was conductedin accordance with the Oja-khanba system, Manipur’s version of the guru-shishya tradition. He has been performing various Lai-Haraoba occasions in and around the state.

Receiving an award from President Pratibha Patil

He joined the Jawaharlal Nehru Dance Academy of Imphal as a Guru in 1975. There, he is credited with introducing the Phamjei style in Pena performance- a variant of the Phamsak mode with accompanying artists performing with the main musician. He has performed Pena in many venues in and around the world in places such as Mexico, Washington DC, London, Berlin, France and some places in Asia too. He has participated in various seminars and workshops centered in the traditional arts-both at home and abroad. He has also acted in a Manipuri traditional plays of Moirang Parba and Sumang Leela during 1950 to 1970.

His life has been a lifelong dedication to playing the Pena and teaching it to others. One is his students is popular female Pena balladeer’s (Manka) father, Mangangsana. He has been one of the most dedicated students of Khangembam Mangi Singh.

Khangembam Mangi Singh started learning Pena from his father at the age of about seven. He had learned Pena from various Pena Gurus of the state, one of them was Guru Thoubal Kanhai. He has performed both the Laiharaoba and Phamshak at many places in and outside the state and abroad including USA. He is known for Pena Phamjei (phamsit) performance, which only he could do until today. He is one of the two Pena Gurus who has been entrusted to promote female Pena performers in Manipuri society during the late 20th century. Many of his students include female Pena performers have received national and international recognitions in the field of the Pena music. Even one of his daughters is also a Pena performer of Laihui Ensemble.

Khangembam Mangi Singh has been awarded the Padmashree by the Indian government in 2011. He was awarded the Manipuri Sahitya Parishad Shanman in 2010.He was awarded Basanta Bimla Award (2008), the Sangeet Natak Akademy (2006), the Manipur State Kala Akademy Award (2005). He was awarded the Hijam Irabot Memorial Charitable Trust Award for Pena Eshei in 2011. He was awarded the Cultural Forum Manipur Life Time Achievement Award for Pena Eshei in 2013 and 2016 for his immense contribution in the field of Pena.He has also been awarded the Sangeet Bhushan award by Manipuri Sahitya Parishad in 2004 and has been given the responsibility of being Sana Leikham Pena Sanglakpa in 1998 by Pandit Loishang, Sana Konung. He has been honored Lupa Leikham Sanglakpaon 1976 by Pandit Loishang.

Khangembam Mangi Singh’s contributions:

Khangembam Mangi Singh is one of the pioneers among the ten performers of the innovative form in performing group Pena known as Sumang Sheishak. He is among one of the living artists of Manipur’s traditional theatre “Moirang Parva Anouba” ( Heibongpokpi Moirang Parva ) and “Thok Lila”. His role in Mahaprabhu in Mahaprabhu Phita Thaba, Phala in Nongeen Phaba, Chingyai Nganu Leima in Mapa-Macha et cetera are some the unforgettable performance of Khagembam Mangi Singh. He has been the creative director of an innovative Pena Phamsak performance of Lahui’s UKKAIKAPPA in 2001 and LAMJEL in 2002. He was the co-project director of Laihui’s “One Year Project On Traditional Plays of Moirang Parva” (2004-2005). Many of his disciples have achieved national recognition such as National Scholarship and Fellowship given by the Ministry of Culture and Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar given by Sangeet Natak Academy and international recognition too. Khagembam Mangi Singh has also co-authored a book on Pena called “Pena Anoi”.

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