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Arts

Dance & Music - Khal Lam | Chai | Sawlakin | Chhilam | Traditional songs & dances | Musical Instruments


The dances of the Lushais, pawis and Lakhers are mostly common.  Most popular of the Mizo dances now is the cheraw or the bamboo dance.  Six girls wearing colourful, ceremonial dresses and flower crowns as head gears squat on the ground holding bamboo poles which are rhythmically shifted and struck against one another.  Six other girls dance, moving between the shifting bamboos.  The dance has a fast rythm and symbolises the pulsating youth.  Bamboo dance, exactly in this forms, is found in some south-east Asian countries, notably in the phillipines.  

Khal Lam is another popular dance of Mizos in which a group of boys wearing specially made shawls dance to the beat of drums and gongs. The dancers wear one type of striped loin cloth (puan) and a uniform striped shawl (puandum).  While one beats a gong, the dancers in a row more gradually forward, with small forward-backward steps, keeping with the time.  The arms would be flayed, along with the steps. 

On occasions of Chapchar Kut festival the boys and girls would dance chaithe whole night.  The boys would sit with their backs to the wall. Each boy would have a girl sitting in front of  him, in between his knees, with her back towards him.  Individual dancers would perform in the clearing in the middle, all the others joining in the music.  The young folk would perform another type of dance in the open courtyard.  They would make a circle with a  girl in between two boys with their arms over the  shoulders of the girls.  In the midst of the circle, one would beat a drum or gong and all in the circle would move forward and backward and would also progress slowly along the circle.  The person in the middle would chant a song and the refrain would be taken up by all.  All the time the dancers would get rounds of Zu and the dance would last as long as the supply of Zu could be kept up. 

Another popular dance is Sawlakin.  This was originally a Lakher dance, but now it has been adopted by all the Mizas.  Sawlakia means spirit of the slain.  The dance was led by the warrior  who had hunted a big game or killed a man.  He would wear his best clothes and a plume of red feather.  He would wield a gun or dao and a shield.  He would be followed by other dancers in a row, who would also carry weapons, or cymbals or gongs. Some boys would stand in a group beating drums or blowing bugles.  The dancers would move forward and slowly go round the head.  While dancing weapons and shields would be wielded keeping time with drum or gong beats.  All the time dancers would be plied with Zu by the women.  This dance is a popular dance now.  The modifications now are that there is no head in the circle and no Zu.

The Chhilam was the dance performed in beer parties.  But this dance still continues in a modified form, particularly in gatherings at homes.  This is danced by elderly people and mostly by men, but sometimes women also join in.  The men and women sit in a circle, beating the drum, and sing anecdotes and each takes a turn to dance in the centre of the circle.

Mizo traditional songs and dances were the common amusements of the people.  A Zu party would always be an occasion for songs and dances.  The songs were slow and generally sounded mournful.  Songs would be accompanied by beat of drums or gongs.  The theme would mostly be narration of some events or praise of some hero or former villages, description of some hunt or simply of love.  In a gathering of Zu party or on the occasion of marriage or after a successful hunt, one would start the music by reciting a verse and it would be followed by singing of the verse by all others and this would continue in the same sequence for a long time sometimes even throughout the night.

The young Mizos have, in the recent past, taken up western music and dances with great aplomb.  In all the villages, groups of young men and women gather in the evening and sing and dance, sometimes the whole night.  The only musical instrument used is the Spanish guitar, called ting tang by the Mizo. The young Mizos, both boys and girls, have a very lilting musical voice and they have a natural flair for music.  A very recent  development is pop music with a composite band which is popular in towns and big villages.

Musical Instruments

The traditional musical instruments of the Mizos had been mostly the drum, gong and flute.  The drum are made from hollowed out tree trunks two sides of which are covered by fine hides.  It is about a foot in diameter and two feet in length.  The drums is used in all feasts and festivals and it keeps beat in songs and dances.  The gongs are made of brass and come in various sizes.  These have always been imported from Burma and are rather costly.  Gongs are sometimes played in a combination of three: each gong having a separate note  the three gongs would together produce a tune.  Another instrument used was made of gourds in which hollow reeds were inserted.  The player would  blow through one reed and would produce a tune by opening and closing holes in the other reeds.  Flute was made from bamboo pieces.  Now-a-days however, only the drum and gong are used.

 

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