At a recent rally in Mizoram’s Vairengte town, Anggu Lalhmachhuana, the Congress nominee in Serlui constituency for the November 28 Assembly polls, said, “If voted to power, Feli Fanai will perform here again, in this very town.” The crowd of a few thousands cheered. In an election where politicians try their hardest to be heard, it is the artiste’s voice that resounds the loudest. And the campaigners are well aware of that. “People will not come just to listen to what politicians have to say. We need entertainers to gather people,” said Lallianzuala Fanai of Mizo National Front (MNF).
While Lalhmachhuana said he spoke about the performance “in jest”, Lalengkima Colney, editor of local daily Rengkhawpui, said the demand for Feli Fanai — a popular singer from Champhai district — has soared over the past few elections. “Sometimes I have to move from one event to another in a day,” Feli said.
In the Christian-dominated Mizo society, music plays an important role in any function, be it a religious ceremony, a political rally, a condolence meet, or a protest march. “It’s an integral part of Mizo blood. Even if you go to Church, the hymns will move you more than the sermons do,” said Lalbiakdika Nengte, a 28-year-old architect based in Aizawl.
“Election favourite” artistes like Feli, Jerry Lalrinawma (who won reality singing contest Mizo Idol 2018), and Vanlalsailova are paid between Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000 per performance. “The true pull and impact of these singers are in areas outside of Aizawl. In these remote districts, musicians are like gods,” said Nengte.
Vanlalsailova, who “converted from a love song singer to a gospel singer” in 2004, feels that artistes are the reason youngsters attend rallies, if at all. “Many youngsters just turn up to listen to us singing — this gives the candidate a chance to forward their manifesto. That is why singers are offered a lot of money,” said the 39-year-old preacher.
Feli said, “Sometimes people try to link us to political parties. But the truth is I don’t care which political party I am singing for. This year, I’ve sung for Congress, MNF, ZPM, NPP and the BJP, too.” However, parties have their dedicated battalion of loyal singers as well. Lalthlengliani, 26, has been a singer for the Mizoram Congress ever since she was a child. “My family has always supported the Congress and it is my duty to continue that,” she said. “I’ll never attend or perform in another party’s functions or events. I don’t care how big the offer is.”
However, the BJP, the new entrant in Mizoram, has had some trouble in sourcing singers. “Many singers feel the BJP is pro-Hindu. I am not pro-Hindu but I still sing for the BJP —for me, it’s a means of livelihood,” said Melody G Fanai. Since the BJP contacted her in October, she has been travelling with the party and has sung at rallies, including those attended by BJP chief Amit Shah and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh.
Both the Congress and the MNF have special “theme songs”, sung at rallies over the years. This year, the BJP has come up with their own, too. “The theme songs are popular, patriotic and catchy. Everyone knows the lyrics,” said Hminsanga Pa Saw, an MNF supporter. Rochungnunga, general secretary of Kristian Thalai Pawl — the biggest Christian youth organisation in the state — added, “Sometimes it is much easier to deliver words through music and let people feel the emotions. A song can help you deliver a 45-minute-speech in just five minutes!”