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Khasi Folk Legend Kerios Wahlang no more

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The Khasi folk legend, H Kerios Wahlang is no more amongst us but his hoarse, muffled and melodious voice shall echoed in the memory of every people in the State of Meghalaya. He passed away peacefully at around 3 PM early 11th January, 2020 leaving behind a legacy to cherish through generations. He is survived by four children comprising two sons and two daughters, apart from another son who passed away in 1998; and blessed by around sixteen grandchildren. He was an ardent footballer during his youth days, particularly while he studied at Ram Krishna Mission, Sohra; even as occasionally sang during the various local functions. He couldn’t complete his schooling and initially became the bus driver and later engaged in coal trade with late K M Diengdoh, a renowned local entrepreneur. After he married, he was occupied with transportation and trading on market days all over the Khasi Jaintia territories. However, he always kept abreast with his passion for music and when he settled at Mawngap, Kerios Wahlang was fascinated with theatre and some of his songs were featured in the drama performances. It was in 1978-79 that he ventured in to proper singing career through All India Radio, Shillong. Kerios Wahlang reminisced his childhood days when he admired a prolific duitara player, Haridon Lyngdoh Mawphlang on several entertainment functions, and reminded ‘Parad Haridon is my icon for many years, and I learned and refined my singing skill in the All India Radio, and for the first time I was introduced to playing the Duitara by Berrywell Kyndiah’.

Since his school days, he had composed and sung his own songs, but All India Radio had provided enormous opportunities for furtherance of his singing career and later performed in the Doordarshan television programmes throughout his life. He was also invited to perform on many prestigious events in the country, even as he complied with few persuasions due to certain personal limitations. Kerios Wahlang is also known to have made his own musical instruments including Duitara, Marynthing and other accompanying instruments. He stated with confidence, ‘I made the instruments and performed them my way, because I am not educated in music and does not acquaint with other folk musicians’. He claimed that he had only one friend who played for him and later his son Kynsai Manik Syiem, but both of them died early and subsequently taught his grandchildren as well. Kerios Wahlang had composed hundreds of songs and few of them were featured on certain films by some reputed filmmakers; although around sixty lyrics were discovered from his hand written manuscript. Almost all of his songs are based on nature and culture of the people, though few love songs and philosophical compositions were also found.

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H Kerios Wahlang was one of the respected elders of Seng Khasi and nature is always surrounded around his aura, when till recent years he would roamed around the Mawphlang sacred grove and he also walked up on foot to the summit of Sohpetbneng peak during the annual pilgrimage. For his spectacular contribution to Khasi folk music and to the community, he was felicitated by the Raj Bhavan, Doordarshan, Seng Khasi Seng Kmie, National Institute of Technology and Riti Academy of Visual Arts. His mortal remain will be cremated on Tuesday, the 14th January, 2020 at the Seng Khasi Mawngap Crematorium.

Sketches by RAPHAEL WARJRI and TAKEME DKHAR

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