BENGALURU:Gearing up for their performance at the Hardrock Cafe on April 19, the Tetseo sisters from Nagaland speak to City Express about their band and the experiences they have had so far in their travel and performances. Here's an excerpt of the conversation we had with the sisters:
Tell me about your performance on April 19 at hard rock and what are you looking forward to?
We will be performing our trademark music - a mixture of traditional Naga folk, folk fusion and a few of our mash ups. We look forward to an exciting evening of good music, stories and a meaningful exchange of culture.
Have you performed in Bengaluru before? How did you find the city and the crowd here? What's your favourite memory here?
We first performed in Bengaluru for the first time in 2013 at a Yoga Wellness Festival and then at Counter Culture the same year followed by Storm Festival in 2014. We love the vibrant city and respect the discerning audience the city is. We look forward to reconnecting with the lovely people of Bengaluru and celebrating the pride the people here have for their culture, creativity and roots as we do in Nagaland.
When and why did you start feeling the need to share and spread your culture?
It was a long journey of learning, getting aware, taking pride in our culture and defending it and feeling the need to share it. We love what we do and not because we feel the need to do it. We take pride in who we are as a culture and we celebrate the colours of our people and land. The best part is that this love has been reciprocated greatly wherever we have taken our songs. Our music has taken us on a journey we never imagined could happen. It’s also a great way to connect with people and share the ways of our people and enlighten people about where we come from and who we are in a positive way. Music connects like no other thing can.
Tell me a bit about your background and about Li.
We are a family of four sisters and one brother from Kohima, Nagaland. We belong to one of the 16 tribes of Nagaland called Chakhesang and we sing folksongs of our tribe in the Chokri dialect. Li means folksongs in Chokri and it literally translates as songs of the people or the land. Li is a community thing. It brings people together to work, to celebrate and to commemorate our existence and to encourage each other to live well.
Which was your most memorable performance and experience so far and why?
Every performance is memorable and important in its own way. Some of the gigs have been special in the way it opened up doors for us to take our journey forward while some have given us immense joy and validation. Performing at the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo 2014 with Team Nagaland in Scotland for a full month was a proud moment. Pronouncing the National Anthem at the Pro Kabaddi League Game opening in Kolkata in 2015 was another first. And finally performing our set of songs including the happy song O Rhosi at the Lakme Fashion Week Mumbai earlier this year was another high!
How do you intend to break the barriers of language and culture across different states?
Our songs and music speak for us and do the tough job of connecting hearts and souls in spite of us all speaking different languages. The colours that we wear and vibes that we bring help to break the ice and we always end up making great new bonds and memories.
What was your biggest challenge you faced in promoting your culture?
To represent the diversity of our culture correctly and do justice to it is a challenge. We are 16 tribes with many layers and colours and diverse variations. To be able to completely represent a tribe or a people is a mammoth task and we don’t even try. What we do is a combination of our art and a faithful rendition, as well as some reinterpretation or adaptation of what our culture and tradition is.
Tell me about your first performance. While you were raised listening to music through your mother, was this journey decided by you or were you encouraged by your family?
Our first performance was as school girls and we had a few other girls joining us for our folk dance and song routine at the first Annual Dance Festival followed by our first TV recording session at Doordarshan. Along the years, we have continued in different combos of 2-3-4 and even performing solo at certain events. In 2005, when all four of us took to the stage together at an event, it was an exciting moment.
Our parents have always supported us right from teaching us our first songs to teaching us new ones even now, and working on our lyrics together. But the decision to take up music professionally was our own to make and keep.
What is it that you intend to convey through your music? Which is your favourite song?
Our music is meant to take our listeners to a happy place they haven’t been to. We hope to inspire curiosity in the people, so they visit our land and enable us to understand and appreciate each other better. We have many favourites and it is hard to pin point one.
Which are the states you have performed in so far? Was travelling between places something you thought about?
We have performed in cities of the Indian States of Delhi (NCR), West Bengal, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Chandigarh(UT), Rajasthan and Bihar.
What are you looking forward to in the future together? Will you be going on your own individual journeys? How do you get the time to come together to perform regardless of your own individual interests?
Music is one thing that has kept our family together. We hope to play as many shows together as we can in the time to come, God willing, and travel to as many new destinations as we can.We follow our own journeys and chase personal dreams as well as the group's, it is a complex mechanism. Music is our passion and our lifeline and we make the effort to make it happen every time. Travelling from wherever we are to our next destination to come together in song and trying our best at touching more lives with our art, while learning to be a better version of ourselves each day - that’s it for now. We have always taken life one day at a time and we are happy to count our blessings everyday and work at/hope for a better day. We make the time and the effort to be there and deliver our best