Northeast India – The New Echo Chamber of World Music
A largely dreamy part of India that has till recently been a pale shadow of the other Indian states, Northeast India is in the news for its stupendous musical culture. Mind you, it is not that this tenor of the times has surprised the locals, but the fact that the whole of India is now plugged in to this potent musical culture certainly has. Music brewed in the Northeast today also has found global takers who are readily lapping up sounds from the region.
Long after being pilloried as a poor echo of the white-man’s music the new Northeastern Musician has found a distinctive identity all his own. Gone is the unsavoury flunkey-of-the-west tag. The Northeastern music play-sheet today is dripping with a multitude of talented artists, songwriters and bands out to make a splash.
Being language agnostic is also one of the pivots for the eclectic mix of music emerging from the region. It is here that the local shop owner may spring a surprise on the uninitiated when he grooves to a current Nepali favourite then gives in to an Arunachali ditty followed by a mushy Manipuri rural love song.
With the musical fabric getting wider there’s a rapid profusion of musical dynamos vying for centre stage glory.
Consummate musicians hogging the limelight for their virtuosity include Takar Nabam from Arunachal Pradesh who began his musical sojourn carving a niche on the Delhi music scene before being decorated as the opening act for Metallica in Bengaluru in 2011. His mix of Mellow alt-rock with Indian riffs has struck a chord with music enthusiasts who are readily eating out of his hands.
Another redoubtable talent is the ever-evolving David Angu. His early influences, colouring his musical cosmos to this day, include Guns N Roses, Iron Maiden among others. ”Soul of Phoenix” his original band phased into ”David Angu and The Tribe”, a clique that explores the folk songs of the Tani tribe with intent to rekindle the cultural ethos of the tribe.
Striving toward forging a signature identity for their band is the 2014 Tripura Folk fusion band “Koloma”.The trio-band, writing their music in their native language Kokborok is looking eagerly to transport the Tripuri folklore and melodies to the new-age teeny-bopper.
At 23 Abdon Mech, is a star presence at all the music festivals in the Indie music scene of Nagaland. Known for his serenading vocals and direct to the heart song writing, Abdon is constantly upgrading his musical technicalities while wrestling with the practical challenge of monetizing his craft.
Brimming with the essence of life in Northeast India, Dr. Declan Oppenheimer’s Polyphonic Experience, DOPE a four-piece band has multiple influences ranging from British Rock to Jazz to Pop to every phrase that the eclectic musical world offers. For tapping talent and survival of the music fraternity, the band would like to see school children with musical itch trained from an early age.
Mizoram is home to the hugely talented experimental band Origami who combine their influences to dish out potent dose of positivism through their 6-member band.
If stage presence along with power packed performances was an acknowledgement for virtuosity Meewakching Silheiba, from Manipur, the insanely accomplished new psychedelic post Punk band would emerge hands down winners. Keen to spread their influence outside the state, they are chuffed about their song “Ekhenglakta” finding space on a Brooklyn based internet Radio Station.
Trying out new sounds through their Electro-Pop band, Street Stories, brothers Riko and Pezo from Meghalaya, have brought the house down on many occasions, having soaked themselves in every trending sound around them. As they stretch at the seams, trying to expand their sphere of influence , Meghalaya is readying itself for a veritable musical treat.
One of the stunning solo talents emerging from Manipur, Mangka, has touched music aficionados across India and abroad. Her redoubtable mastery over Manipuri folk and traditional music is rooted in the early training received from her father. Mangka, today is being celebrated across State Youth Forums, Music Festivals and single-handed has carried the Manipuri folk song form Pena to an international audience.
Experimental Post-Rock bands like Sky Level, Khasi music, and its matrilineal philosophy influenced tradition forms the bedrock on which is founded the collectives Da Minot. Along with these major heads that punctuate the musical space of North East India today, comes Kalimpong based singer-songwriter Bipul Chhetri, carrying with him the nostalgia of Himalayan melodies while touring with his band of exquisitely talented musicians.
The redoubtable culture of music festivals has also begun showing encouraging outcomes for the headbangers who are upbeat about the exposure they are readily raking in.
The Majuli Music Festival, Indian Dirt Fest, Bass Camp Festival, Wayhum Festival are a magnificent source of aural gratification for artists and travelling fans.
That the 7th version of the recently held India’s biggest outdoor major musical festival Ziro Festival of Music Arunachal had managed to attract international talent from Far East Japan to Finland and the USA augurs well for the star-studded music cauldron of the Northeast.
With its astounding variety of cultural influences emanating from its languages, dialects, tribes, North East India, is a mélange of folkloric myths and legends that permeate its vast musical repository. The musical palette of the region has begun to discover an ever-expanding audience who are anyways starved for an alternate listening experience.
“If music be the food of love play on”, prophesied the great Shakespeare. Was he hinting at the current Northeastern musical resurgence? Well, sounds like.