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What is 'phawar' that Meghalaya sings during the FIFA World Cup?

Football fans use traditional Khasi folk music to revere and ridicule opposing camps during FIFA World Cup and ISL matches.

December 02, 2022 / 03:28 PM IST
'Hoikiw', the ISL song by the band Summersalt blending Khasi folk music, borrows from the hill community's rallying call to buckle up before the action.

'Hoikiw', the ISL song by the band Summersalt blending Khasi folk music, borrows from the hill community's rallying call to buckle up before the action.

It takes only a phawar to enjoy a world cup match in Meghalaya. In the traditional Khasi folk music tradition, phawar is a chant often employed by rival football fans to tease the other. Sung for decades in the Khasi villages during matches between local clubs, phawar is now heard again in the hills with the FIFA World Cup spawning divided loyalties among the football-crazy in the Northeast.

'The world cup. too. is fun for our people,' says Khasi musician Mebanlamphang Lyngdoh, who teaches traditional music at Shillong's Martin Luther Christian University. 'The world cup. too. is fun for our people,' says Khasi musician Mebanlamphang Lyngdoh, who teaches traditional music at Shillong's Martin Luther Christian University.

"Phawar is spontaneous like the blues," says Kit Shangpliang, the frontman of Shillong's folk-fusion band Summersalt. "It is a combination of wit, humour and sarcasm. It's very creative," says the Meghalaya musician, singing praises of the power of traditional music that is making a comeback in the North-East through bands like Kit's.

Respect for the other