Jun 21, 2010

Asin Shurhozelie: Aria Probable

Asin Shurhozelie is the new girl in town. While I have yet to sit in an exclusive performance by her, Asin’s collaborations have been interesting. Her work with the Dimapur-based music and arts institution, Hope Centre for Excellence, is commendable. I recall the Night at The Broadway which was performed in Dimapur recently.

The girl has got a thing or two stashed way in her voice and verve. If from just few performances she has skeptics and unforgiving critics anticipating something more, she’s certainly on the right track. My only concern is her voice being ‘commercialized’ to suit contemporary hypes (I was a tad disturbed that a recent Ad campaign for the Handshake Concert attributed her talent to even singing what was called “Italian Arias”. We music reviewers are yet to even learn that there might actually be anything called stipulate genres going by terms in the like of ‘American Arias’ or ‘European Arias’ either!). I hope she stays focused; she has so much to give.

Asin Shurhozelie was part of the Handshake Concert in Delhi on June 2010. I think she’s 23 (or 24?), a good age I’d say – that’s exactly the phase the voice starts to fortify into a more tonal, mature timbre (no offense, no patronization here; just an observation). But the point I need to make is totally different: she holds much promise, if her recent shows in Dimapur are anything to go by. The Kohima native is appended with a credit from Trinity Guildhall of London. She also has a credit of Advanced Singing Certificate from Trinity.

(Photo credit: Rattle & Hum Media handout)

The Tetseo Sisters: Native Tunes

Alright, here is a bunch of terrifyingly gorgeous Naga girls the Tetseo Sisters. Azi Tetseo Mercy Tetseo, Kuvelii Tetseo and Aliine Tetseo (I’m still trying wrap my intelligence around the profuse ‘I’s in their names.) To be very frank they are a total distraction: You have four eye-poppers in front of you and you believe it is their folk music you are listening to? Go find a job, you unprincipled creep.

Yet, their looks – for all possible purpose – will most probably distract you from the inspiring folk (sometimes adapted to suit the contemporary) music they play. But one brownie I’ll hand them is their dedication to an art few Naga youth can actually carry off without sweating buckets (or flashing an embarrassed blush or two) – that they actually play Chakhesang folk music (or so-called “local” tunes). In a state as Nagaland where anything Japanese, this American or that Korean is a byword to survive with, you really won’t come across many Naga musicians who sing in native tongues – leave alone proper folk music. Or in this case, in Chakhesang /Tenyidie dialect.

(International readers, please note: In Nagaland, anything “local” (also Bosti or Bostiness ) usually denotes something which, for instance, Americans would naturally see as indigenous but to the average Naga it means you are, well, totally not cool and totally not happening and totally Bosti).

I simply wonder why in Nagaland there are only a few modern, urbane, suave and chic persons plucky enough to not get lost in the Korean or American traffic (Bad hairstyling and burgers are bad enough, for goodness sake).

Anyway, the Tetseo Sisters are familiar faces in Nagaland’s music circuit. Dressed in traditional Chakhesang finery, armed with what-do-you-call-those-strange-guitarlike- things (anyone familiar with the instrument, please do leave me a comment), the group is a delight (no, dingbat, I don’t mean their looks this time). I have seen some of their performances and a few on TV. What they sang about or in what tongue, I can only endure my ignorance and haplessness in not knowing. But the sisters have some of the most dulcet voices I’d ever heard. While, I have yet to come across an album from them, I do know with the kind of voice they have, these chicks can offer good competition. Azi Tetsoe also seems to be some sort of a rock chick (read Hornbill Rock Concert or Music Safari) when not with her sisters.

Anyway, I am told the four have been playing folk music since childhood. The experience shows, naturally: the poise, easy confidence and spontaneous expression and connection with the songs they sing. You can tell the vibe that the Tetseo Sisters are in command of their stuff. The major time Handshake Concert in Delhi on June 21, 2010, was just one city in the extensive list of places they have played in. Considering their presence in the Media, I have a faint idea they have played in every place in between Kohima and Bangkok on the Map.

(Photo credit: Rattle & Hum Media handout)

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Personality: Naga classical guitar pioneer Ren Merry 
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Personality: Soulmate's guitarist Rudy Wallang
Personality: Operatic performer Asin Shurhozelie 
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Personalities: Nagaland Rock band OFF (Original Fire Factor)
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Events: Nagaland bands in RockKnock fest edition 

Jun 20, 2010

The Handshake Concert: Delhi

On June 21, in New Delhi, cultures will weld the kinder aesthetics in a convergence of candid rock and sublime opera, of regal native musings with electronic inspirations all a-shine under a single spotlight. ‘The Handshake Concert’ on Monday will soak the venue of the event, the India Habitat Centre in New Delhi, with the likes of Grammy winner Vishwa Mohan, Meghalaya’s veteran jivers Soulmate, Nagaland’s own crunchers OFF, opera singer Nise Meruno and even a rising star in the state’s classical circuit, Asin Shurhozelie. That was just a few of them, actually.

But more than another major music PR exercise to please armchair peacemakers, the Handshake Concert  is a magnitude of its own in purpose: ‘It is one handshake at a time; we need more handshakes in this world’ explained the indefatigable Theja Meru, chief of Rattle& Hum Society.

The drift on what the Handshake concert envisages to achieve is not lost considering the weighty support and partners heaving the June 21 event. When you have a publication such as the Rolling Stone (yes, Rolling Stone) or a stage production that costs Rs. 28 Lakhs “only” for the riggings alone, the significance of the objective the concert hopes to attain is not lost in the breeze.

Theja Meru implied that the Handshake concert essentially bears on its shoulders the aspiration to connect the peoples of Nagaland and greater India. The isolation and the sense of own alienation can be breached through musical ‘dialogue.’ ‘Friendship; we all need each other; we cannot alienate ourselves from all the good things outside. A handshake at a time; we need more handshakes,” Meru said. Yet, the creative ambition could well be two-pronged. Meru said the event is also an opportunity for Nagaland to show to the world (or at least to India for now) the incredible musical capital Naga youths are so much attributed with. Through events such as Handshake Concert, the organizers are hoping that the featured Naga musicians ‘make best use of this platform’ to show what they are best at – music.

Meru’s hope cannot be far-fetched: One of the several Naga musicians billed for Handshake is the Cultural Vibrants. Guess which Naga musical group caught Nazeruddin Shah’s eye for a Bollywood flick recently.

The expectations are all too justified. The weight of the event itself says so: Grammy winner Vishwa Mohan Bhatt needs no introduction a lot less Grammy nominee Lama Tashi, the ‘Singing Monk.’ One of Mumbai’s biggest noise-mongers and India’s better elemental rock bands Medusa and Meghalaya’s Soulmate will paint the evening with the legends. The spotlight will (however) be on the thicker crème of Nagaland’s musicians: Cultural Vibrants and the Tetsoes – two groups of “ethnic” singers whose performances have spanned every place in between Kohima and Thailand; two classical performers Asin Shurhozelie and Nise Meruno. 23 year old Asin Shurhozelie is widely regarded as one of the most promising classical performers to emerge from the state in the recent years. Then there is Nise Meruno, Nagaland’s own classical-Opera totem; and OFF, one of the most sublime rock bands in the state led by the Rastafarian-ish renegade Lui Tzudir.

Rattle & Hum’s ambassadorship is not unknown: The Kohima Band Fest in 2004 was one of the earliest and one of several major musical events organized in Nagaland by the group. The break came in 2008 with the North East India Music Festival in Guwahati. The Handshake concert is set to precede a dream to go international “with God’s grace”. A Bangalore date is also being envisaged.

Rolling Stone writes
When Rolling Stone and Rattle & Hum rigged up the Mumbai Handshake edition, its success wasn’t so much the number of eager music fans as was for the reverberation that rippled across Delhi and Bangalore. Publisher & Editor of Rolling Stone Radhakrishnan Nair wrote: “…most of the musicians told me that they wanted to play more concerts of this kind in the city again.” The diplomacy in exchanging melodic handshakes look promising.