Nestled high amongst the lush valleys in the heart of Sikkim lies the remote city of Gangyap, where colourful prayer flags flutter in snow-kissed winds. Within the City of Clouds burns a glowing flame of ambition unbounded, and a story to be told. Join us, as we follow the Girls of Gangyap on their astounding journey to becoming 11-time National winners in the sport of basketball. The NBA and Uber Present: Hoop Nation, tales of courage and determination from the basketball courts of India.
The quiet mountain village of Gangyap, which when translated to English means ‘Behind the Hills,’ is known for its picturesque landscapes and simple way of life. A land of solitude, the village is hidden away amongst the sloping valleys and high-reaching peaks of Sikkim’s mountain ranges. Amongst the settlers of this quiet little mountain village are the extraordinary Girls of Gangyap, who, with a legacy of 2 consecutive CBSE National wins, and 8 consecutive North East National titles, are shining a spotlight upon this little-known mountain village. Follow us into the mountains, as we tell the story of a quiet revolution amongst the tribal girls of Sikkim, ushered by the sport of basketball, in the hands of a committed coach.
“It’s a different thing, when it comes to educating tribal students- the don’t have a proper learning environment at home.” Explains Principal and Coach, Siddharth Yonzone, of Eklvya Model Residential School. “What I always thought of was putting some life into their learning, through music, through sports, and of course, basketball.”
Amongst the yak-herder population of this quaint mountain town, was a man with a vision, and the ambition for bigger and better things for his young students. Principal and Coach of EMRS, Siddharth Yonzone, was never the typical mould of a Gangyap native. A die-hard Beatles fan, Coach Yonzone breathed new life into the girls’ mundane curriculum, through the medium of music and extra-curricular activity. It was this spark that lit the fire that has today become known as the Girls of Gangyap, as well as the newer generation of baller-girls, The Rising Stars.
“I had never seen a game like basketball. Even the ball, the orange colour itself, was something I had never seen.”Explains Pem C, Assistant Coach, Physical Education Teacher and All-Star Girls of Gangyap player. “I knew that if I would play this game, it would change me.”
In a culture where young girls drop out of school after reaching the 6th grade, turning in ambition for marriage, these girls are pioneers of a new era of determination, achievement and moreover, excellence. In the year 2013, the Girls built a basketball court with their own bare hands, after their first CBSE National win. The girls have come a long way from their humble beginnings, with a powerful legacy of 11 national wins credited to their name.
A Nurturing Nature
“At times, I get scared- have I painted an unreal picture for these children?” Coach Yonzone says. “There were times when even the best players struggled on the court.”
Living in a society where the primary source of income was yak-herding and related activities, Coach Yonzone planted the seeds of dreams into the mind of the young girls. However, fear of failure still remained. Employing the Disney movie, Glory Road, as a medium for teaching, the aspirational coach would make the girls watch and re-watch the movie, in hopes that its message of strength and unity through adversities and external prejudices would serve to inspire them. From their success on the national playing field, it’s safe to say that he accomplished this goal.
“My main objective was to be a team” The Coach explains, “Together, as a team, we overcame these fears. We could move forward with our game, and with everything in front of us.”
A Symphonic Movement
The historical bond between hip-hop and basketball is one that has passed the test of time and has evolved today into a relationship of almost inseparable nature. Their mutual message of rising above prejudice and adversities is one that is both uplifting and an important element of both spheres.
“We took up music for a cause, we do not make music for entertainment. Our story is meant to offer a different perspective” Explain the 4-person Khasi youth group, Symphonic Movement, who lend their unique voice to this episode. “The people of Gangyap have seen their share of struggle, but their resistance to giving in is an inspiration to many, the hard work and dedication to be among the best in the country will inspire generations to come, and push the youth in the right direction.”
Hailing from the ‘Abode of the Clouds’, Shillong, Symphonic Movement hope to bring about change in their lives, communities, and society as a whole, via the medium of art and music. Together, Iarilang Shanpru, Mejied Kyrpang, George War, and Praiselyson Lyngskor have begun a movement that aims to help the world move on from negative influences, making music for the souls lost to the chaos of modern society.
“We live in an age of advanced technology, where most of our time is spent on our mobile phones, and in a state where the influx of drugs is massive- our people, especially the youth, are heavily influenced by it. It has taken many of our people’s lives.” They elaborate. “A creative activity like Basketball can be an escape from the darkness of this world, and can move one to dwell in the light.”
Inspired by their interactions with the locals, and with the players of Gangyap, Symphonic Movement explains that the lyrics to this track came from a place of deep emotional and spiritual connect. “As human beings, we tend to observe life from our perspective, but when we connect with another soul, we get to see the world through their lens.” They explain. “It was an awe-inspiring experience, different from the environment that we work in- from our home studio to a remote village in Sikkim, where gifted people come from.”
It was so that the title track for Gangyap Rising, the inspirational and symbolic ‘Glory Road’ was born, written and recorded in just 4 days since the beginning of filming. Watch the music video featuring Symphonic Movement, the Girls of Gangyap and the Rising Stars here!
The drive and determination of these young tribal girls, guided by the watchful eye of their coach, has carried them to the highest extents of success and achievement. Their story is an inspiration to those around the nation who dream of a brighter future, with the youth of our country being the torchbearers of better times. As Symphonic Movement so fittingly says “Let every child be a beacon of light, spreading the light of love, hope, and unity.”
Watch Episode 2 of Hoop Nation – Gangyap Rising Ft. Symphonic Movement here!
Stay tuned for the next episode of the NBA x Uber Presents: Hoop Nation, as we travel to the monasteries of Dharamshala, to meet with the ever-smiling, basketball-playing, Tibetan monks.
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