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CEMPA: Nagaland’s New Cultural Hub


CEMPA: Nagaland’s New Cultural Hub


Gugs: "The government has built the infrastructure that cost more than 17.8 crores. "

Gugs: “The government has built the infrastructure that cost more than 17.8 crores. “

CEMPA: Nagaland’s New Cultural Hub


By Amaan Khan



An institute that not only gives upcoming musicians a grade of certification depending on their skills, but also encourages the public to stage creative ideas at its premises – be it visual or performing arts. SoundTree speaks to Gukhato “Gugs” Chisi, Director of Nagaland’s Music Task Force, the government body whose sole purpose is to promote music in the state, on what went into setting up the institute and the opportunities it presents for artistes. 


Employment for Naga musicians and an abject lack of infrastructure of music institutes prevalent in the North East was bit of a conundrum for the Music Task Force (MTF), Nagaland’s government body dedicated to promoting music in the state. To overcome the issue, it decided to start an institute – ‘Centre of Excellence for Performance Arts and Music’ (CEMPA) that aims to build a system through which Nagaland’s musicians can get an accreditation for their musical prowess. With CEMPA’s super-speciality musicians conducting courses for amateurs, skill building is its top priority.


Director of MTF Gukhato “Gugs” Chisi, who has been organizing the International Rock Contest at the Hornbill Festival year after year, states why the institute was a crying need of the hour. “This space was created so that special focus could be given to music and (we could thus) promote it as an industry because there is an absolute lack of infrastructure in the North East. There may be little workable infrastructure in Assam, but in North East (largely), capital investment and infrastructure in the music industry has been negligible or not available at all.”


The institute threw its doors open on December 1, 2013 in the town of Jotsoma, a few kilometres off the border of the culturally rich city of Kohima.  The ceremony saw a “We Will Rock You Concert” performed by local talent that featured songs by legendary band Queen. The institute will try to push musicians through narrower loops of training to attain a professional flair. The specifics of the programs offered at the ‘school’ will be chalked out by February. Gugs corrected us every time we referred to the institute as a ‘music school’. “What we are looking at is, if this space that we have generated in Nagaland, could become a place where we have professionals coming in to conduct seminars, workshops or diploma courses for three, six or nine months, that are outside the normal academic courses. We would like to have this for those who are already trained and need an upgrade to their skills.” The ‘upgrade’ was the hook, because various institutions already impart pedantic music at fundamental levels in Nagaland. There was a need for a professional branding iron.


A view of the serene town of Jotsoma

A view of the serene town of Jotsoma

There was a reason Gugs avoided the reference to it as a school. As upgrading musical skills is only one facet of CEMPA. The other, of course, is a benevolent aspect, through which visual and performing artists can coalesce their creative thoughts. In Gugs’ words, “It is like the India Habitat Centre in Delhi – a hub for creative activity. This is infrastructure that has been specifically designed for that type of activity.” CEMPA will play a similar role in promoting liberal arts with music being its favourite student.


For one, Gugs is expectant to see operas, which have been indigestible even as an idea until this centre came into being. “We don’t have operas like you would in the city but those are viable opportunities for musicians to get together. Now that this facility (CEMPA) is created, a lot of people can begin thinking that we can have a week of opera shows at an exclusive location like ours. (Even) the ‘We Will Rock You’ concert that we had was an opportunity that was difficult to think of because of the cost for rehearsal, space, and getting crowds together. We’re (trying to) cover all aspects of music, fashion shows, pure art exhibitions and crowd interactions.”


The emphasis to push local Naga talent through the bottleneck into a breezy garden of music is paramount to CEMPA. However, the institute is open to students and teachers alike from areas other than Nagaland. In fact, with outsiders coming in, he feels it will benefit Naga musicians to learn and engage in newer styles of music. “Looking at musicians coming in from India or anywhere else in the world, they will come in with their expertise which they can share with our musicians.”


To erect this mighty structure, the Naga government (through the MTF) earmarked handsome funds. When MTF was incepted in 2006, they neither had the funds, nor the investors, nor the musical talent, which has recently started to overflow. Therefore, harnessing was in order. “The government has built the infrastructure that cost more than 17.8 crores. Now, we have a huge talent pool that can sustain that requirement in terms of efficiency, talent and skill.” As for investors, the MTF brought on musically inclined businessmen who today know how to run the show. They know what they want, so they’ve created the centre as per their know-how.


Currently, CEMPA is still in talks with professionals to tie up and block their dates to give seminars at the institute. Let’s hope CEMPA can replace the stamp of a Trinity or Berkley in the time to come. Well, that may be wishful thinking but things are definitely starting to look up for musicians in Nagaland and, as Gugs says, “It was like a gift from the government to the musicians of Nagaland.” It’s time to untie that ribbon, open the box, and…



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