If the offshoot of American Idol is Indian Idol, then the offshoot of both these popular reality shows is an unlikely combination called Zomi Idol India. Deep inside Manipur, in Lamka, a small town in Churachandpur (one of the nine districts of the state), where once guitar-strumming youth walked the street after sunset and life was not interrupted by unending curfews and drug menace, a group of young men are working hard helping talented youngsters realise their dreams. By drawing inspiration from national and international television reality shows, this group is giving the unemployed youth a reason to dream.

The effort has paid off as can be gauged by the upbeat and festive mood in Lamka. Since this January hopeful and eager contestants have been lining up to be part of this first-ever reality show in their small town. For the organizers, all this is good news. Their phones haven’t stopped ringing ever since Level 1 auditions held on January 26, went live on local channel and social media. The initial response even prompted them to raise funds by selling tickets for Level 2 which was held on February 7 as well as the just-concluded Level 3, held on February 14. And it turned out to be a good idea. Tickets for Level 2 were sold out within no time, boosting their confidence.

It all began when Myanmar-based artistes association, Zomi Music Upliftment Society (ZOMUS), which is organising Global Zomi Idol 2015 in Oklahoma, USA, this July, sent out invitations to Zogam Artistes’ Association (ZAA), an association of musicians in Lamka, urging them to send two top singers from the Zomi community. Zomi is a confederation of different tribes whose ancestors are scattered across India, Myanmar and Bangladesh. ZAA held a meeting and passed a resolution to organise Zomi Idol India 2015 for the selection of top two Zomi artistes who will be representing Zomi India. Winners from countries such as Malaysia, South Korea, Japan, Myanmar, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Norway and Denmark will also vie for the title at the grand finale.

Thanglalmuan Hauzel, Chairman, Zomi Idol India 2015, organising board, has since been neck deep in work trying to make this event a success. The 34-year-old is a music buff who juggles his time running his family bookstore and organising the Zomi Idol event. For now, he is happy with the response and is hopeful to find new talent that can eventually take part in the next season of Indian Idol. NE Travel and Life chats with him on his new venture.

What made you decide to do Zomi Idol India?

My ambition is to create an opportunity out of music. Under the banner of Zogam Artistes’ Association, I have always been looking out for opportunities for upcoming artistes and ways to get better exposure. Upon receiving an invitation from ZOMUS for the selection of top two Zomi singers from India to compete for the Global Zomi Idol in July 2015, I took up the challenge to organise Zomi Idol India 2015. I want to see our artistes grow and make a career out of their talents.

Are you inspired by American Idol and Indian Idol?

Surely. I am also inspired by X Factor, a British television music competition to find new singing talent, and especially by Simon Cowell (judge of American Idol). He is amazing. He also created the X Factor. Seeing so much talent in our district that was not getting channelized constructively, it dawned on me that we needed an outlet for our talent too. It is my dream to see people from Lamka in particular and Manipur in general to take part in the Indian Idol as well. We have raw talent that needs guidance and harnessing. Once we are able to do that, the sky will be the limit.

Was it easy to get response? Where are the contestants mainly from?

It needed a lot of spade work. We sent out invitations in leading local newspapers, cable networks and social networking sites. We did get response from other states like Meghalaya. Since this is our maiden attempt, we have contestants only from Shillong and Lamka. With time, I am sure we will have more coming in from within the state and neighbouring states as well.

How many applicants do you have and how many have you declined?

We received 56 applicants and they all participated in the first round of audition.

In a place like Lamka, a small town, where there is no scope for any source of entertainment, is this seen as a source of entertainment by people?

Definitely. For the competition process, we maintained three levels (Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3.) of screening or audition. We broadcasted the audition round and Level 1 live on all local cable networks and the event is updated via all social networking sites. For Level 2 rounds, we decided not to telecast live so that we could raise more funds for the Association and it went quite well with all tickets sold out. You’d not believe the number of phone calls and text messages the organising committee received. People love entertainment here and this event is quite a treat for the people and they really appreciate it.

Will it be an annual event? What are your future plans on the event?

We are doing it for the first time and hopefully, it should be an annual event. The Association will have an evaluation after the final event, so the outcome and future plans would be determined by the Association.

What will the winner get ultimately?

The winner would be sent to represent India at the Global Zomi Idol competition to be held fromJuly 5, 2015 at Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA. Besides, Zomi Idol India top three winners will be given cash prizes and citation. The top two winners will get a sponsored trip to Tulsa USA. Apart from these, we will throw in many other benefits like discount coupons for shopping, meal vouchers etc. The principal idea is to find a channel and a platform for the winner who can then move on to something bigger and eventually is able to sustain with his or her talent.

You must be seeing a lot of hidden talent during the audition?

Indeed there is. In fact, so far their performances have gone way much above my expectations. It’s a singing competition; however, it’s not just standing on the stage and singing. We look at every minute detail like how hard they have worked to get it right. Beside, their attitude and presentation skill to be able to pull the crowd is also taken into account. It’s a tough job for the judges as the contestants are incredibly awesome.

Courtesy: (www.netravelandlife,com)