Music, one of the purest forms of art, has no boundaries. It is a known fact that there is no dearth of talented musicians in the Northeast; many musical legends such as Dr Bhupen Hazarika, SD Barman, RD Barman and Lou Majaw hail from this part of the country. The best thing about the Northeast music scene is that bands and musicians from the region are influenced by and play a variety of genres. No matter what your preferences are, you are bound to find something that suits your taste.
However, it must be said that the true voice of the Northeast, known for its rich cultural heritage, can be heard best in the folk music of the region. It carries the essence of the diverse tribes and communities of the Northeast. Although countless talented musicians have made tremendous contributions to the folk music of the region, there have been a few who have been able to take things to the next level altogether. Here is a list that you should keep your eyes and ears peeled for this year:
Guru Rewben Mashangva also known as the Bob Dylan of the Nagas is a renowned name in Northeast’s folk music scene. His Naga folk songs are influenced by blues and ballad rhythms. He has played an important role in reviving the rich folk traditions of the Tangkhuls by incorporating the sounds of traditional musical instruments in his music. He was awarded the National Tribal Award 2011-12 by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India. He is most known for his collaboration with ‘The Raghu Dixit Project’ as part of ‘The Dewarists’.
Tetseo Sisters from Nagaland are taking Naga folk music to the world. The unique thing about their music is that they sing ‘Li’, which are folk songs of the Chakhesang Naga tribe. Very often, their songs are accompanied by unique sounds of thetati, a single stringed Naga traditional musical instrument. They are popular not only within the Northeast but also across the country and beyond. Their song ‘O Rhosi’ is a huge hit and worth listening to.
Warklung is a band from Assam’s Diphudistrict and was founded by Phuning Ding, a folk singer and musician from Karbi Anglong. The title track of their recent album ‘Iron Age’ struck a chord with the locals as it threw light on the unfortunate killings and riots between the Karbi and Dimasa tribes which had led to much bloodshed. The songs mostly talk about peace and harmony, and incorporate different sounds from the tranquil hills of the region.
Taba Chake is a singer/songwriter from Itanagar, Arunachal Pradesh. Though he grew up in a place where there was little scope to pursue music professionally, he took an active interest in music and started playing musical instruments by the age of 11. In the end, his efforts paid off as he was selected for a guitar scholarship at ‘Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music’, India’s renowned music academy. His music doesn’t stick to any specific genre but he calls it a mix of indie, acoustic, folk and pop music.
Rida and The Musical Folks from Meghalaya comprises of RidaGatphoh, Bah Rojet Buhphang, Bah S Malngiang, Baduh Risingbor, Peter Marbaniang, Amarnath Hazarika, Sean Menzies Nongrum and Benedict Hynniewta.Their music is influenced by acoustic, experimental folk and world genres. The exceptional trailer of their debut album ‘Musical Nature’on Youtube has garnered much appreciation from music aficionados across the Northeast.
Abiogenesis is a folk-fusion band from Nagaland and their last album ‘Legacy of the Mountains’ was nominated in the Best Rock Album category at the Global Indian Music Awards (GIMA) 2013. One rare feat of this band is that their band member Mao Subong invented a wind musical instrument called ‘Bamhum’. They blend Naga folk elements with modern music which gives an exotic feel to their music.
Papon and The East India Company is a band that everyone in India has heard of because of the popularity of their front-man, Papon who is also a Bollywood playback singer. But do not think for one moment that this is the only ace up their sleeves. Comprising of Papon, Brin, Jeenti, Kirti, Aakash, Tanmayand Birinchi, this band puts together the best electric folk fusion that you can find in the region. Their live performances are energetic, soulful and extremely memorable.
Words: Jadeed Hussain