DR. KSH. IMOKANTA SINGH
Probably a new era was ushered in by DJ Soda in the recent past. She became the game changer. Soda, in fact, shook the whole system, both sub and super structures, of the Pepsi, Coke generation of Manipur, if not of those Fruti, Appy generation. One may love or hate her but cannot ignore her since she impacted all alike, especially the netizens. Let alone others, I am compelled to drag myself out of the years long literary slumber and voice some of my comments on this phenomenon called Soda. The ‘euphoria’ (for the devotees) or ‘Noise’ (for the non-believers) was hiked, probably, more so because she was Ms. Soda not Mr. Soda. Had it been Mr. Soda, he would have just done the DJ thing bare-chested and in Khudei and flown away without any trailing smoke. But Ms. Soda will remain as ‘the talk of the town’ not just at the restaurant of the same name but in the entire land, for long. Is this what they call the feminine power of soft power?
Manipuri society ‘was’ on cross-road until Soda came. Cross-road between Laiharaoba and DJ; Phanek and Jeans for quite some time. But slowly but steadily our cultural truck is inching towards DJ and Jeans Highway. The culture brake is slowly failing to contain the move, construed as forward or backward, depending on who you are and how you see the journey. The traffic signal is blipping between Orange and Green while Red has suffered senile malfunction.
One intriguing aspect of Soda Tsunami, of course, is the discourse on her outfit. More intriguing is the fact that she was guarded by some local elderly ladies escorting her as Liaison Officer (LO), just diametrically opposite to one of the not so old incidents of DJ event. Sincerely Soda looks so adorable in those Meitei outfit, especially with Kajenglei. But then she is the embodiment of that cross-road with that certain bleached hair. And also she is also the pied-piper marching on the Highway of Jeans followed by ever modified Phanek.
Was Soda in Meitei dress a part of a well calculated image management? Is any foreign import acceptable if it adopts, even if superficially, a pinch of local element? Is it what they call fusion or confusion? Does traditional DJing not involve wining and whining? Is packaging what is all important than the contents? Is the text divorced from the context? These are some of the interesting questions which Soda made us ask, in fact she opened our Chinky eyes (if non-Chinky calls us Chinky it becomes racist but when we call ourselves Chinky it becomes pun and hence fun. That is the difference between laughing at others and laughing at oneself). These questions yearn for answers which may not be easy to come forth.
Soda, herself, is a package of what they call Hallyu or Korean Wave (Don’t be surprised, the term is not Korean but Chinese). As I understand it, Hallyu, particularly K-Pop is the repackaging of what is already in existence, say, Western pop culture. Koreans must have felt why to reinvent the wheel but be ingenious and capitalise on the design of the wheel itself. It means the form is western and contents (read broadly as language) are local. It is basically the East striking the West with the recycled and improved cultural ammunitions of the West itself. And the rest of the world is receiving the collateral impact. They must have decided why they should always remain as receivers but givers too. The maxim of ‘Music is universal’ is well defined by K-Pop when the non-Koreans with no knowledge of the language can celebrate the ‘beauty’ of their music. Is it just the beauty of their music? Doubtable. There is this tenacity of engaging the economics of soft power through the sociology of culture. This is peculiar and Korean specialty which even the non-English European cultures like French, German etc. have not been able to learn and execute till date. If Westernisation is sold as globalisation and the rest of the world succumb to this opium, then why should not they (the Koreans) harvest this cultural crop with its own repackaging job in which they excel. Yes, it is another matter that they also are trying to instil the concept in the minds of the devotees that effeminate males are manly too just deconstructing the millennia old rigid concept of masculinity and femininity. And also that ‘beauty’ is not natural when they can become Europeans, at least with their fake blond hair.
There is the dilemma amongst the Manipuris between taking the Korean path of globalisation and localisation of the local itself. What about taking an alternative path of globalising our own local cultural products? Why should only ‘they’ globalise theirs? But then do we have the dexterity to devise our brand of globalisation? Are we equipped to invest on the economy of a Manipuri cultural revolution world-wide? If not the latter alternative, will our society be able to withstand the onslaught of the foreign culture, even Korean one? The reality is we are exposed and cornered. Some amongst us have even taken the path of declaring themselves as Global citizens beforehand to save their faces.
Hard core ‘traditionalists’ might still stick to the maxim of ‘one moment’s mistake and generations of regrets’ and educate others on the impact of the eternal loss of our own culture but without much success rate. This is probably because what they call soft power is not that soft anymore. Hard power may strike you and harm your physicality but it may not be able to buy one’s soul, rather hard power drives you to the realm of vengeance against that very power itself. On the other hand, when the sting of culture bee bites your soul it makes you its lover. When it is away you are love sick. It may change not just your eating habit, hair style, make-up paraphernalia but your entire existentiality, numbing the faculty of rationalisation. And they still call it soft power. Is there some kind of conspiracy in this categorisation itself? Yes, suspicion becomes the tool of the minority.
This tussle between global and local; ‘they’ and ‘us’ is visible mostly in public space with many civil bodies hard-pressed to preserve the local which are about to be devoured by ‘global village’. However what happens in the private space, inside the serenity of the mind can hardly be monitored. This is where the cultural import is ignited and practised. The change is happening quietly but firmly, surfacing whenever the opportunity arises. Monitoring such ‘intrusion’ becomes taxing and takes the shape of everybody’s business amounting to nobody’s business. The rope is slowly slipping away from the grips like the sand clasped inside the palm. This way DJ culture has landed, hip-hop moves are enthralling our youth, KFC has claimed its delightful place in the indigenous palate and the list goes on and on. Our cultural RADAR detected some but many slipped in unannounced even without the knowledge of the receivers.
Imagine a DJ night with the tune of Pena and revellers grooving slowly in phanek mayek naibi, leson phurit, khamen chatpa pheijom with head gears. And Sekmai, Andro or any local one to boost the spirit (spirit of DJing is incomplete without spirit, I suppose). That is easily possible too. But this is just in the realm of possibility. The question is who is going to muster the courage to materialise such innovative strike. Will this new possibility be able to tickle the instinctive nerve of the new generation who are swaying and drooling in the mind blowing sounds and lightening fast beats of DJ Soda? If not, go the Korean way and sweep the world with a new Manipuri Wave. If Soda can become Korean Made Foreign DJ why not we have our own Manipuri Made Foreign DJ. Think about it Soda devotees. Yes you need talent and of course brain for economics, commerce and many more.