Sampaa is the short form of Soraren Performers in Meitei Mayek “sam as in S and paa as in P of Meitei Mayek. The was formed in 2014 and had Satyajit BK, Tenao HD (drums, vocal, wind instrument & Pena) and Milan (strings and bows /fiddle ) in the band line-up
Sampaa is a Kangleipak folk fusion band from Manipur and is one of the most different and unique bands that I have ever come across to date.
I was introduced to the band during a random telephonic conversation with my elder brother in the month of February this year.
"Have you listened to Sampaa?" he had asked me.
"What? No? Well, you are missing out on something extraordinary," he said when I replied I haven't listened to Sampaa's music.
"Sampaa, probably, is one of those rare music bands that have been trying to keep their native language and culture alive through music," he further said.
As we kept on talking as to how Sampaa is better than most of the other bands and artists from the northeast, I opened YouTube and searched for the band.
Even though I did not understand a single word of the language in which they sang, but I could instantly connect with their music as it was strongly rooted in the tradition and folk of Manipur.
The band is unique on many fronts.
Firstly, they are trying to preserve the age old lyrics of the Manipuri songs as they use the old language in composing their new songs.
Secondly, the instruments they use are different and are mostly created by them using bamboo. Well, sometimes they also use locally made instruments.
One of the most striking instruments that Sampaa uses is their drums- which is made out of bamboo and has been created by their drummer.
Apart from bamboo drums, Sampaa also uses string instruments that have been developed from the original model into an advanced one like more strings, electrification etc.
The band will soon introduce a bass guitar made of bamboo.
Sampaa was formed in 2014 and had Satyajit BK, Tenao HD (drums, vocal, wind instrument & Pena) and Milan (strings and bows /fiddle ) in the initial line-up.
"Sampaa is the short form of Soraren Performers in Meitei Mayek “sam as in S and paa as in P of Meitei Mayek," Satyajit said when asked to explain the meaning of the band's name.
Like several other bands, Sampaa has also witnessed the change in its line-up as people join and leave owing to personal reasons, however, the three founding members are still going strong.
The other members are- Naoba (guitar), Johnson ( flute & effects), and Jamuna (vocal & effects).
"We also plan to provide a platform for youths mainly folk music lover and they are open to join us as a musician or singer," he further said.
In 2017, the band produced their debut music videos- Mitsna Leikai and Engellei and since then there has been no looking back.
"We always sing in our mother tongue and attempt to sing in our folk tunes like Pena Seisak, Khunnung Esei Seisak, Khullang Esei Seisak, Khongjom Parva Seisak etc," Satyajit further said.
"Our aim has always been to promote and spread Manipur's indigenous folk tunes and music across the world," he added.
On being asked as to how would they describe their music, Satyajit said, "We would like to describe our music as experimental music or folk fusion."
The songs are mostly written by Satyajit and they are mostly composed during random jamming sessions.
"Well, a few songs have also been composed by Tenao HD," Satyajit was quick to add.
The band, over the years, has toured extensively and has played in several music festivals.
Speaking about it, Satyajit said, "Playing at the Ziro Festival in 2018 has been the most memorable tour for us. First, we faced a lot of difficulties to reach the spot and after we reached and performed, we did not want to return home."
They were also invited to play at the Orange Festival in Dambuk, Arunachal Pradesh, in 2019 but the festival got postponed- first due to the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Bill movement and later due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2018 the band also worked with the British Council on a project called Mix The City and they call the experience profoundly enriching.
Each member of the band is multi-faceted and multi-talented and most of them has worked in theatres and has been to several distinguished theatre festivals like Bharat Rang Mahotsav, Theatre Olympics etc.
"Our vocalist Nganthoi won the prestigious Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards (META) in 2018 as the Best Supporting Actor (Female)," Satyajit said while speaking about the band members.
"Tenao HD and Milan were also awarded the Best Music Director award in 2018. Even I am closely associated with theatre as playwright and director and I also make movies," Satyajit further added.
It may be mentioned here that Satyajit is a Manipur State Film Award winner.
On being asked about the best piece of advice another musician ever gave them, Satyajit wittily said, "Don’t play for free."
Sampaa- the band, and Satyajit- the artist- love to do things differently and different things at a time and when asked what would he advise the budding musician, Satyajit said, "Do different."
Don't wait, open YouTube and listen to Sampaa now and thank me later!
Partha Prawal (Goswami) is a Guwahati-based journalist who loves to write about entertainment, sports, and social and civic issues among others. He is also a published author.