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North eastern names of an Indian identity: piano maestro Nise Meruno


nise meruno

With the magic in his fingers well lending to the music that he makes with plays upon the piano, Nise Meruno has lived indeed up to a certain legacy that has been much characteristic of the lineage in which he professes this first love of his life. Naturally then, he isn’t the first from his family to be exploring this charming arena of artistic existence but in living indeed the dream of his own conceiving, Meruno surely has managed to acquire many a distinctions through this path of own charting.

Hailing from a family where music ruled the roost in different mannerisms of expression, with his grandmother having been trained by the American missionaries in the piano and even his great grandmother having been a player of the Accordion. Meruno’s father found his forte in the guitar instead and out of such assimilations in the classical medley of music was born Nise Meruno as a prodigy indeed in his evoking the melody of the piano. At age 5 he ‘took over’- much literally indeed, from his grandmother the skills of keying the instrument on one particular family dinner, much to the delight of course of the Merunos already brimming with pride at the musical character of their child.

And thus gifted already in his inclination, the youngest Meruno would go on to receive the gift of his life on his next birthday when his parents put him under the tutelage of Magarat Shishak. Commencing thus his formal education in music at the Patkai Christian College under Shishak and Nokolo Tsuzü, a young Nise would already make inroads into what would shape up his career and define his identity for life.

Outside his homeland of Nagaland, Meruno ventured out in his formal journey of musical learning first through Singapore and later in London. With Piano as his major, alongside voice, conducting and composition while at the Singapore School of Church Music, Nise did his Grade-8 Pianoforte from the ABRSM, Singapore Centre and receiving also a Performer’s Certificate from the prestigious Trinity College in London. In this tryst with the musical, Nise Meruno would avail for himself distinction also in many a young references.

The youngest Naga pianist to achieve Grade 7, Nise Meruno had also been one of the youngest to receive the Governor’s Award for Excellence in music in his native state in 2007. More accolades followed for the then young and emerging artiste of equal parts flamboyance and artistry as he was recognised by India Today as being among the Top 30 Young Achievers of the Country in 2011, following it up the very next year with a Young Achievers Award while laying claim to the JK Chowdhury National Award in 2015.

The professional route through which the musical sensibilities of Nise Meruno would find unfurling occurred not in his yielding of melodious power upon the piano though. It instead had been his designation as a music lecturer at the Delhi School of Music and a similar such imparting of singing lessons at the American Embassy School wherefrom Meruno found his basis in the larger identity that was to follow.

Parallelly though, his assertion as a pianist would also be finding prominence as he happened to be keying away his off time at the choir group Capital City Minstrels as their rehearsal pianist. Fame followed quick enough for the talented artist who managed to carve a niche for himself even in that buzzing scene of a Delhi of the mid 2000s. That itself speaks for the talent that Meruno has been flairful in since his childhood and one would that would take him to such heights of recognition as a musical magician in which he is today steeped.

The Piano Maestro therefore, Meruno has also had the opportunity to sing inside the Parliament House as well as the Supreme Court while in Delhi, enthralling also the Prime Minister and the President among the many others upon whom he has been spinning the magic of his music. And yet despite basking in the glory of such achievements rather early on in his career at the capital, Meruno decided to return to Nagaland and pursue his passion closer to home. This decision might have been availed out of a rather emotional instance for Meruno, whose mother passed away in 2007 while watching his perform. But the practicality of dedication and purpose in which he has honored this commitment to his north east Indian identity is one much commendable indeed.

And so he has worked extensively across different arenas of what assert as Naga folk music and staying true to his roots of classical arising in music even when continuing to explore the limits of his musical abilities by means of solo performances and band mentor alike, and also in such capacities that sees him dabble in different avenues of the musical while dazzling in his pouring of love through the piano. Equally expansive has been the reach of Nise’s music in terms of the geographical, as he has performed in many a South East Asian countries and even beyond. With widely acclaimed performances in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Hong Kong and Thailand as well impeccable show of musical acumen at the prestigious Fringe Fest at Edinburgh in the UK in 2013, Nise Meruno is an artiste as global in his being as he is local in awareness.

Internationally acclaimed he might be in quite extensive dwelling upon the musical, being also the Ambassador of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, but Nise continues to mentor and head the group Zowe Madrigal that has been dishing out musical wonders one after the another ever since its formation in 2009. Much like Meruno himself, Zowe Madrigal (Beautiful Songs) too has been as global in its standing, having been invited to Bangkok in 2012 and Jakarta in 2013 to perform on the occasion of World Music Day. That itself is validation enough for the true talent of Nise Meruno, for whom music has always been about originality. And yet, his own idea of celebrating music everyday and particularly on its designated day of global applause happens to be a bit different than what he is made to oblige with, but happily still.

For Meruno, his devotion to music is one essentially flowing out of his belief in the divine. As someone who had always dreamt of a life that would let him explore his passion in music to the fullest, as a complete, global performer, and something which he has achieved as well in much exactness, the pianist chooses to stay humble still even in profound esteem. Counting his blessings like he has always done and attributing all of his exemplary experiences in the beauty of music to the Almighty, it is no wonder that Nise’s ideal celebration of the World Music Day involves therefore a visit to the town church.

In fact so devoted is he to this belief of God being the one endowing upon the world the sheer gift that music is that he also wants other musicians to be as perceptive in this profound realisation. Much heartening indeed happens to be Nise Meruno’s musical identity that sees also this inclination in the arts as a perfect opportunity to break down barriers and reside instead in the warmth and gratitude that music necessarily inspires across all melodies of occurrence. Art has been often said to imitate life and for no one else would this ideology in artistic living be truer than for this musician stirringly sensitive to the vagaries of what life essentially happens in.

So immersed is Nise Meruno to the cause of all things that music imbibes and interprets as part of its virtue indeed as art that has led him to also to take on the challenging task of managing artistes himself. His purpose is one as noble as the musical goodness of his identity permits- to nurture musical talent and help them create a space of their own in the musical arena. Encompassing also the required aspects in professionalism and exposure but truer still to the cause of furthering the art of music is this venture by the global mentor who emphasises as well even greatly the case in his Naga calling.

A true ambassador of music indeed in his all rounded leaning within this field of expertise, representing his homeland as well as his country across a plethora of performances, Nise’s musical affinity is one unconventionally ‘bold’. How else would one account for the extraordinary insight of this man who set out forming the only all male Indian choir group Zowe Madrigal and that too in such genuine rooting in the melodious that has made it the world class entity that it today is? No wonder that in such distinction of own residing Meruno therefore has also managed to covet for himself such happenings that tend to be equally exemplary experiences in their own unique right.

As the first ever Indian to be labelled as Yamaha Artist emerging as the Brand Ambassador of Yamaha Pianos, Japan while also representing another global music company AKG Microphones, Austria, Meruno’s tryst with music tramples down indeed the barriers of what have been very inessential human constructs in ‘civilisation’. Equally transcending of the differently classifies realms of art has been this artiste of much generousness in viewing the fascinating expression of the gift of creative originality. Having modelled for NIFT’s Fashionova 2004 while fetching offers from renowned designers Tarun Tahiliani and Vijay Arora in what might emerge as an assertion quite different from what he is ‘capable’ of, Nise Meruno has time and again proved that his isn’t a personality to be occurring in only one dimension of existing.

Excitingly eclectic has been his affair with music as well, that he very often flaunts in notes of the folk fused classical even when helming Zowe Madrigal as a group that belts out music in different genres of exploration. Apart from Zowe Madrigal, Meruno happens to be the director of the Show Choir Group called Voices of Hope. Much like the all male troupe of musicians, the all female identity of Voices of Hope too have been internationally acclaimed, having been invited to perform at the National Theater in 2014 by the Indian Embassy in Yangon. That again is a different representation in alluding to his identity- one that has him writing school anthems and festival songs like the Hornbill theme undertaking and stemming on the other side of the compositional as ‘very melodramatic’ makings in self proclaiming exploring of the pathos of the human arising. Hope however is what is the common theme through every piece of his making, reinstating the belief that he harbours in art of being an entity honoring once again the precious gift of life.

In the beginnings of his musical profession that was rooted in teaching, Meruno’s another current responsibility as being an honorary member of the Nagaland Piano Teachers Association is one that furthers yet again his fame as the piano maestro. In between he has treaded quite interesting paths, of the musical indeed but also in fashion and even one more diversely identifying in his brief stint as a flight steward. But one thing that has continued to be the driving force of his life is doing whatever he desires. Not one to be bogged down by hardships, whether it be the struggle of his Delhi days or the helplessness of a pandemic induced isolation and exploiting instead the opportunity resident in each area of happening, like forging for himself a definite career path while in the capital or fanning the soulful spirit of musical character through the first ever ‘virtual choir’ of Nagaland in more recent times, it is the trademark charisma of his person through which plays out very deftly the nuances of what Nise Meruno indeed is- from being a Naga prodigy of the piano to evolving into the global master of the entire art of music in such perfection that only he can emulate.





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