April 14, 2021

ABC Salai Tawna’s “Beautiful World”: Interview with Salai Tawna

Zurich: February 14 , 2005 [Chinland Guardian’s Note: Our editor Salai Bawi Lian Mang had  interview Salai Tawna, an outstanding musician and former leader of popular Rock music band ABC who has now turned into a musicologist focusing on the traditional Chin music. Salai Tawna’s aim is to preserve the Chin heritage. At present, he is doing research on the traditional music of the Chin/Mizo people for his PhD dissertation at the Zurich University of Switzerland. According to the “Academic ranking of world universities 2003” Zurich University is among the top 50 universities in the world, and it is among the top 10 universities in Europe. In commemoration of the 25th anniversary of his career as an artist, Salai Tawna has released a new CD album called “Heart Museum” Vol.1 late last year with his songs from the 80s. Chinland Guardian had the chance to interview him and present this interview on the auspicious occasion of the Chin National Day February 2005. This interview is published at San Francisco Indy Media at: http://sf.indymedia.org/news/2005/02/1711029.php]

Chinland Guardian: Pu Salai Tawna, thank you very much for giving us your time to talk with us. It would be great to get to know more about you. Where have you were born etc.

Salai Tawna: Thank you very much too. I really appreciate your concern for me and the aim to publish the interview in the Chindland Guardian. Well, since we only have limited time, let me tell you right away how “young” I am o.k?

I was born in 1957 September 10 at Satawm village, Falam Township, Chin State, Burma.
My father was one of the first Chin pioneer Baptist Pastors, Rev. Bawka (late) and my mother was Pi Bualthangi (late). I am the 11th of 12 brother and sisters. I grew up in the Chin State.

Chinland Guardian: I have learned that you started your musical career with the VULMAWI Band. I am sure that the Chinland Guardian readers must be interested to hear from you about the VULMAWI, the best Chin/Mizo rock music band at the time, and the first band to produce albums among the Chins both Mizoram State and in Burma

Salai Tawna: The VULMAWI Rock Music Group was formed in 1976 with the following members:
Lalruanga, Siama, Rihlipui Nghaka, Lalhmingmawii (Gospel Music only): Vocals
Lalbuta (Buta): Lead Guita, Vocal
Hmingliana: Rhythm Guitar, Vocal
Salai Tawna Bass: Guitar & Vocal (1st, 2nd Album & Gospel Album)
After the Second Album, Gospel Album & the Third Album
Thawngnova: Bass Guitar
Zothana: Drums & Vocal

The Vulmawi band reaches its peak in terms of popularity between 1976 and 1983. In that period we have performed about 150 concerts in Upper Burma and the Mizoram State of India. We were also requested by the government (of Burma) to perform on the country’s special events and festivals a number of occasions.

The VULMAWI recorded three albums and one Gospel album:

“Raldawna leh Tumchhingi”, 1st Album (1976 November)
Myo Thant Studio, Mandalay
Produced: Lalruanga

“Parmawi Rimtui”, 2nd Album (1980 September)
Oasis Studio, Rangoon
Produced: Lalruanga & Lalhmingmawii.

“AGAPE” Hlamawi, VULMAWI GOSPEL Album (1980 September)
U Ba Thein Studio, Rangoon.
Produced:by Lalruanga & Lalhmingmawii (Vulmawi Recording)

“Kawl a eng tanta”, 3rd Album (1982 March)
May Studio, Rangoon
Produced: Lalruanga & Lalhming Mawii

Chinland Guardian: Knowing that you are a gifted song writer, I would like to know when you started to compose songs?

Salai Tawna: When I was 6th standard I composed my first Mizo song. However, it was never recorded. Later on, 6 of my Burmese songs were chosen for the albums of the VULMAWI. The lyrics were written by Lalruanga, Rihlipui Nghaka and by me in Mizo.
1. Kuat Cia Mu (Leng zawng ten hlim zai i rel nang aw Lalruanga) 1st Album
2. A te sa Ba yin ma (I hring nun reng hi: Lalruanga) 1st Album
3. Kyawng pik chhing (Rihlipui: Rihlipui Nghaka) 1st Album
4. Hna lung ta Album (Zomawi Rihlipui: Lalruanga) 2nd Album
5. Suh tawng pi de (Ka phal lo: Lalruanga) Gospel Album
6. Chhit tu Nu Nu (min phal lul lo ve: Salai Tawna) Gospel Album

Chinland Guardian: During the 80s, ABC was so popular in Burma. The Chins, especially young people and University students including myself, were really proud of the ABC band. Can you please tell us what “ABC” stands for? Tell us about ABC?
Salai Tawna: The band ABC was formed in 1979
The meaning: “A.B.C.” is: Amawi Ber Chinram = (Most Beautiful Chinland)

The former members were:
Kyaw Shwe Htoo: Vocal, Guitar
Hmuaka: Lead guitar
Salai Tawna: Bass guitar, Vocal, Songwriter, Musical arranger
Wyine Khin: Keyboard, Guitar
Lawma: Drums, Guitar
Thanga: Acoustic guitar

Symbol of the ABC:
On our symbol you can see the head of the hornbill and three guitar tuners. I chose the hornbill head to stand for faithfulness and honesty whereas the three guitar tuners are symbolizing Peace, Love and Joy as well as to give and adjust to the right tone and ways whenever needed.

Chinland Guardian: How many Albums has the ABC recorded?

Salai Tawna: We produced three Burmese Albums and one Mizo Album:
“Kuat Cia Mu” 1982, Lynn studio, Rangoon
“A hla kaba nging si ta” 1984, May studio, Rangoon
“Cui Mah” 1989, May studio, Rangoon
Mizo Album “Ral Tiang Ram” Zosangliani & ABC 1984, May studio, Rangoon

Chinland Guardian: We have heard that the fans of the ABC from the States, Canada, some European Countries and Japan were already able to buy the CD of the ABC’s “Heart Museum Vol.1.” last year. Are you planning further projects?

Salai Tawna: Yes, we do. The ABC’s “Heart Museum Vol.2” will be out sometime later this year. The album will contain the most popular Gospel songs which I composed. Just now we are working on Heart Museum Vol.3. This time it will come in the form of a VCD. It will be full of amazing pictures backed with two newly composed songs as well as some well known songs from the 80’s. All songs have been written by me.

Chinland Guardian: Who will be the singer/s on Heart Museum Volume 2, will you be performing?

Salai Tawna: This time, we chose famous singers to perform on behalf of me. The signers are Sung Tin Par, Bawi Min Lian, Salai Paul Ngiu, Salai Simon, Mai Nan Da Aung, Zamno, Lun, Robert (Matupi), La Phaw Set, Rebecca Win, Ta Ra Phyi Khin (sister of Chaw Su Khin) and Myat Nu (daughter of Salai Khin Maung Thant- Iron Cross).

Chinland Guardian: Among many beautiful songs you have composed, let us pick one of them and please tell us about this. “AHLA KABA” (Beautiful World) is much about peace. People sing this song in Churches and social gathering with great contentment. This song is so peaceful and so beautiful. Will you mind telling us about the birth of this song?

Salai Tawna: Thank you very much for your kind comment! Actually, there were two versions recorded “Ahla Kaba” by Mai Margaret Ciang Uap (Uap pi) in 1979, produced by Burma Baptist Convention Cassette Ministry. For the second version the text was slightly changed. It was recorded by the ABC in 1984.

At the time the Gospel of John 3, 16-21 with its strong message inspired me. There the Lord talks about his love to the world and the evils of man. It touched my heart and I tried to draw links to today’s world around us. Everywhere in the world there is much hatred and are many conflicts. There the Lord gives us an explanation and ways to overcome.

Chinland Guardian: A number of your songs crossed the border and were sung by top celebrity singers in Mizoram state, India. For instance, “Tlaithlaeng”, “Tlawmngiahna”, and “Zawlkhaw Di Tleitir” are now well known and popular among our brothers/sisters in Mizoram. This fact truly shows that we the Mizo in India and Chin in Burma are brothers/sisters. When did you write these songs and who recorded them?

Salai Tawna: I wrote these Mizo songs:
1. “Tlaitlaeng” (1977), recorded: (1) Tawna with Lelthang (1978) (2) C. Luri (1984)
2. “Tlawmngaihna”(1984), recorded: (1) ABC (1984) (2) Lalrindiki Khiangte (Daduhi)
3. “Zawlkhaw Di Tleitir” (1983), recorded: (1) ABC (1984) (2) Rebecca Saimawii

Chinland Guardian: We heard that you married a beautiful Swiss lady. And, on your wedding at the Chin Baptist Church in Rangoon, you performed one of the oldest Chin traditional song, the hunter victory song known as “Hla do” (Va hla, Min sial na). How did it come about?

Salai Tawna: Since I have put my attention on the Chin traditional music I got the idea of singing the hunter victorious song on that occasion. I composed the following lyrics spontaneously as is required by this kind of song:

Verse 1: People who arrived at the dead village first
Please tell my parents
Their beloving son is lovingly holding
a Swiss lady, he’s tying her to him
I am sharing one cloth with her

Verse 2: My family from my village, please don’t cry anymore
Open up your cloth of mourning
Forget your sorrow memories of the dead
A very nice and polite Swiss lady is coming home

In Chin/Mizo:
(1) Zingpul ih e, thleng hmai sa in e,
ka chun leh zua vung sim auh law!
A chawi e, an hrin hniang in e,
Switzerland leng nu e, puan bang a thit awk e!
Switzerland leng nu e, za tial ka zawn awk e…!

(2). Lairawn i e, ka sempite le, tap tap hlah uh law,
Bilh puan khuh lai rak awng auh law,
Thla fam e philh nak ah e,
Switzerland leng nu, an vel thiam a tlung e…!

Chinland Guardian: Thank you very much for your time. I hope we may hear more of you soon.

Salai Tawna: It was a pleasure!

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