Theithei Luithui’s music complements folk and rock in a distinctive form making her one of the few best folk rock musicians of the Tãngkhul Community. Singer, songwriter and composer, Theithei Luithui comes from a family of musical lineage. This foundation exposed her to a variety of genres of music at a very young age. Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Nazareth, Cinderella, The Travelling Wilburys, Hearts, Bon Jovi, Scorpion, Status Quo, Joan Baez and others are some of the artists and bands she grew up listening to. Theithui Luithui’s music is known for its unique use of the native Tãngkhul language. Hailing from the plum village of Ukhrul district, Lãngdãng and growing up in Ukhrul town, Theithei draw inspirations from the life in community in her songs.
“From time immemorial, our people have been subjected to a lot of discrimination, violence, murder, exploitation. We grew up in terror of the military and their many inhuman and barbaric activities towards our people. Their reign of terror really traumatized us so much that it’s deeply imprinted in my mind. And I wanted to write something and turn it into a song and music. Music heals the mind and soul. In a way, it’s a kind of activism for me”, says the charming Theithei.
Her first album Thingnã Chiphan was released in 2010. Since then, Theithei has released three more albums — Sangchang Nganongra (2014), Thuilu thuilu (2016) and Mayo kachãng (2019). Theithei’s songs are notably about her Tãngkhul roots, stories of tragic past, relationships and tribal culture. Driven by traditional lore, her songs exude emotions of beauty and a story of its own. Moreover, her gentle penetrating voice evokes feelings of bliss and serenity. In one of her song titled Ãchon, she sings about exploitation of women—rape, abuse, physical assault. The history of the forming of the Tãngkhul Women League and the cruelty of militarism in the past inspired her to write this song. Another song which she wrote ‘Chingri Haosa’ is about war which talks about bloodshed and vanity of war. She wishes to use her music as an art of storytelling and reliving the abating Tãngkhul culture and language.
“My aim was to write in our native Tãngkhul dialect and make use of the many fine words which would otherwise be lost soon. At least I want to maintain the literal side of our people. There are so many beautiful words which we haven’t heard of in our entire life. And the invasion of our culture and tradition play a major role in doing away with our language which is very sad and unfortunate. I owe much of my songs to my roots which are one of the reasons why I write in my native language, Tãngkhul mostly. It’s frustrating to see how many of us now speak language which is nowhere close to Tangkhul. It’s like we are getting lost in translation. I really want to revive our language. There are so many interesting terminologies that we’re not even aware of and I mean to explore and employ them as much as I can. I’m glad when people ask me the meaning of the terminologies used in my songs. It’s so encouraging when people ask questions about my songs. When I write, I make sure that I find the vocabulary for my songs. I ask my mother for vocabularies and if she doesn’t know, she asks others for help”, says the enthusiastic singer-songwriter.
While her other songs like Khaminao, Thuilu Thuilu and Ãyisho are relationship songs. In her song, Khaminao, Theithei muses about developing an infatuation with a stranger. In Ãyisho, she intones about the traditional way of courting in the Tangkhul culture. While, Thuilu Thuilu is adapted from a folksong which Theithei developed it in her own version.
The singer added, “My journey as a musician has been quite challenging and interesting as well. I’ve been singing for the past ten years and one thing I notice is that little has changed with the music scenario here at home”. Being a musician in Ukhrul, come with its own ups and downs. Ukhrul, located in the north of Manipur state is inhabited by the Tãngkhul Naga tribe. A hill district with less job opportunities and poor or developing infrastructures, the struggle and the challenge is real for musicians to flourish in Ukhrul.
A little downhearted yet hopeful, Theithei Luithui says, “The biggest obstacle with the music scene is the absence of marketing system. For now, artists have to be content when videos of our songs are produced and heard by others within the community. I’m so glad to have people who are so supportive of my work. I’m also very happy to see the younger generation putting so much effort in their music productions. I feel so proud of them. On the other hand, the little changes that we have seen in recent past in the music industry, if you like, have given me a flicker of hope as I believe the music scene will get better with time. That being said, we also need a lot of support from the community because ours is a society that thrives on social support. Without support from the people, it’s going to be a tough journey ahead for many of us”.
Folk Rock, a different style of music genre is something which is unique and Theithei wanted to pursue it. Her songs and music carry stories of its own which gradually drew people to her music.
“Music is all about expressing ones emotion and passion. It’s my freedom of speech. I can say so much with music. What I feel, I say it out loud with music. There is no boundary when it comes to music and I love it just the way it is. My songs may be inaccessible to many but it’s wonderful to experience how it’s growing on listeners over time”
Singer-songwriter Theithei Luithui has performed in state level festivals like Orange Festival, Shirui Lily Festival and Manipur Tourism Festival. Morever, she’s collaborated with several local artists. Some of them are Imra, an audio visual album which was released in 2014 and an English audio album called Voices (2016) which was co-produced by her. She recently released a cover song Sãkashiva (Source Mashãngva) on her YouTube channel. Meanwhile, she’s working on remaking her song Khaminao and Ãtam ãkhali. She’s also expected to release a new album next year.