Meet Marmenla M Pongen aka Amenla who has created a niche for herself as a musician not only in Nagaland but also in Hyderabad. Pongen works as a Karaoke Jockey and performs with her band at various events in Hyderabad. But as an artist she had her own share of challenges to survive and to prove her talent as an artist.
In today’s Rhythm of Love, Pongen, whose career started off as a finalist of Naga Idol Season 4 in 2009, gets candid with Eastern Mirror as she opens up about her journey.
EASTERN MIRROR: Tell us about your entry into the music industry. How would you describe your music?
Marmenla M Pongen: I am a late bloomer! I started singing at the age of 6, but professionally I took up music as a career just 5 years back after shifting to Hyderabad. It was not an easy entry. I had to go through my own share of struggles. There are lot of professional artists in Hyderabad and I had to start from zero. I had to work really hard to establish my name and create my own brand in the market. I had to learn the hard way. I am very passionate about singing, had strong belief that I can have a singing career, am focused and willing to work very hard. I sacrificed a lot of things to establish myself and I am glad that it was worth it!
I am a very expressive person. My music is a reflection of who I am. It is based mostly on my experiences. I would say it’s mostly soulful & R&B. However, I like experimenting with different genres. I am still evolving as a musician. I connect with my audience through music. I bring out the struggles, pains & gains I have gone through so people can enjoy, heal or challenge themselves to be better. I also bring a North East touch to my music and try to promote our beautiful place and music!
EASTERN MIRROR: Does music run in your family? Who has been your inspiration?
Marmenla M Pongen: My Mom was both my mentor and my inspiration; she was in fact the one who taught me how to sing and helped me compose songs. Not only her but almost all my family members sing so yes Music had always been there in the family bloodline. However, none of us had any background in making music as our career.
EASTERN MIRROR: You are one of the few female musicians who have boarded this profession with a singing contest and still surviving in the music scenario with stage shows. How challenging was that for you?
Marmenla M Pongen: Right from the start it was really hard and challenging because I had to make a name in the Music industry in Hyderabad. I had to know and learn not only to sing professionally but adapt to performing in small bars to restaurants to 5/7 hotels to events. I had to learn how to carry myself, groom myself and become flexible and adapt to different kind of venues I performed at. More importantly I learnt to love and enjoy the music I was playing. I also had to build my brand, network, fan following and learn to run a business as I do this full time.
As a female artist, sometimes people would take advantage to approach me in many different ways, but I had to learn and maintain my profession in a professional way and use my talent wisely.
EASTERN MIRROR: Talk us through your early phase with Music before people came to recognise you as a semi-finalist of the Naga Idol Season 4 in 2009.
Marmenla M Pongen: I always loved music although I did not see myself as having a career in music. Music is my passion and I was always looking for opportunities to express myself through music whenever I got a chance. Before being recognised as a semi-finalist of the Naga Idol Season 4 in 2009 I was very active in my school and church activities, so whenever I got the opportunity I wouldn’t miss a chance to perform. I grew up singing for weddings and school functions etc. which helped me improve and prepare for the contest
EASTERN MIRROR: You are currently based in Hyderabad working as a KJ and singer. Tell us what your job is like How do you handle your music profession and a job?
Marmenla M Pongen: Yes I am presently working as a Karaoke Jockey and singer. My work profile is to go around 7/8pm in the evening along with my Band and perform for different venues in and around Hyderabad. Karaoke Jockey is more about leading others and helping them boost their confidence with the way I introduce them and make them sing and have a good time with or without a great voice. Since I am a full time musician now, it’s kind of easier for me to manage my time for practise and other social activities, at first I had to work two different jobs to survive. But now since I have to go to perform mostly for a max of ¾ hours and I have the rest of the time on my own, I utilise it for other activities like practise or promote myself on different social media platforms or anywhere I get a chance.
EASTERN MIRROR: What are the challenges and rewards that come from working as a musician?
Marmenla M Pongen: As a Female artist, getting into this Industry was full of risk and challenges to survive. It was more like survival of the fittest. At first some event management, organisers & the venues cheated us a lot, I have so many pending payments but those things taught me to be smarter & clever and have a written contract with the details that needs to be recorded. Some would come to me with eye-catching offers, but I learned how to be smart and carry myself professionally in this industry and not to be carried away. I have learned to be humble, hard working, patient and most importantly be wise enough to differentiate professional and personal life.
EASTERN MIRROR: What are some common opinions Naga people have about the music profession or a female venturing into this profession?
Marmenla M Pongen: Most Naga’s have the opinion that a female should not be venturing into this profession because to be very honest, most female artists from Nagaland not only have beautiful voices but also have physical beauty and charm. The only thing is that some lack professionalism which is why society gets a chance to point fingers at them and most people give up.
EASTERN MIRROR: Talk us through your debut song “Shitty Luv” and “Broken Tune”.
Marmenla M Pongen: Shitty Luv was my first ever original released worldwide, I wanted to experiment with it and relate with the age group of this present generation. The song talks about how a lover was true but got cheated and betrayed and is now sorry but the other person has moved on. It attracted many of the youngsters’ ears and I received good response. The song was composed and written with the help of renowned musician Oren Mozhui & recorded at clef ensemble Kohima, Nagaland.
Broken Tune is something that is really close to my heart and it was originally written by me. The music was composed with the help of my nephew Imtisunep Kichu and was recorded at Jam studio Dimapur.
The song speaks about me, what I had gone through in my life. I just wanted to share my pain, gains and struggles & spread emotion through my song.
EASTERN MIRROR: As an artist who has made a mark in the industry with reality singing competitions, do you think singing competitions are providing better opportunities to aspiring artists?
Marmenla M Pongen: Back to those years, the scope of Music in Nagaland was not as massive as it is now so I had to venture out alone and take the risk to try out my luck in this profession. There were many better musicians who deserved to be in the limelight and I was just starting but those competitions/platforms helped me gain many opportunities and taught me a lot for which I am grateful today.
Presently the state Government through the MTF is bringing up better opportunities and platforms for all kind of genres to expose the young upcoming artists through different competitions. I am positive towards it & hope and pray that a lot of upcoming Musicians will be exposed to a better future.
Right Now I’m tied up with the Band,”The LateComers” which we formed for world Music Day 2019. We will be releasing our original single titled, ‘Secrets’ this month. The 4 of us are Marmen on the vocals, Jupito Swu on the bass, Thepfelliu on the guitars, Langshen on the drums. Our genre will be mostly based on Unique Folk Funk as we would like to show cast our beautiful and rich Naga Culture through our Music.
I am also working on another 2 originals as a Solo artist. I have ventured as a solo artist for quite a long time but after meeting this bunch of musicians on world Music Day I would like to expose not only myself but even my entire team outside Nagaland. Maybe it’s too early to say this but yes we’re working hard on promoting us and hopefully we will be touring some places by the end of October this year.
Lastly I would like to thank the Eastern Mirror Nagaland for giving me this chance and taking this time to encourage the young upcoming artists of Nagaland to explore and participate in every activity whenever they get the opportunity. Remember to work hard, be patient, smart, and humble, be open to change, be versatile and believe in yourself. I might sound a bit unpleasant but yes if we throw away that Naga pride from our gene we will succeed and go far.