Apr 19, 2014

Bangkok rocker Kilang Pongen out with Good Friday single

I'm all too privileged to 'announce' Kilang Pongen's Good Friday Single 'Beautiful Love' (YouTube) released on Friday, April 18. Yeah, Jesus rocks!

Most of you know the former Faith (Patkai Christian College fame), and former Heritage frontman who is now based in Bangkok as a worship leader, a philanthropist, and of course being the good old rocker he has always been.

Kilang Pongen – the Naga rock dude thing from Mokokchunghas been busy running through Bangkok’s rock scene for several years now.

Before better winds flew him to one of Asia’s most vibrant music industries, Kilang was this geeky looking front man of a rock band called Faith. And then, singer of a popular Dimapur rock group called Heritage. Kilang Pongen decided he wasn’t going to do much of the noisy things anymore.

So he went ahead solo and released his debut solo album ‘Breakthrough’ (2004) – arguably one of the first and finest examples of original, professional rock music production in NorthEast India.

Two tracks from Breakthrough were selected to be on ‘Think Again,’ India's first ever Christian Rock compilation released around 2005. Another track, the classic metal anthem ‘Miracle’ was featured on another all-India compilation ‘Awake & Arise - A Musical Tribute to Life.’ After ‘Breakthrough,’ Kilang went on a tour across the state, and the Northeast region and the mainland as well as in Nepal and Thailand. 

Divine Connection and Alobo Naga & The Band owe their hallowed noise-making run to Kilang Pongen. It is the economics here, and the market a popular musician could contribute to creating.  

Today, Pongen is based in Bangkok in Thailand racking up good dust. And he is digging up gold: A guy called Brett Clarke – who has produced and worked with some musicians called Amy Grant, Metallica, U2, Jewel, Rascal Flatts, Keith Urban or even a girl called Carrie Underwood –  produced and played in Kilang’s second album ‘Kilang.’ Another heavy puller Paul Hudson (oh, not Mr. Die Hard himself) is helping Brett Clarke and Kilang crank up the shindig.

Write to the man at:
kilang2011@gmail.com. Just don't spam him. You can support our musicians by sharing the video and spreading the word. 

PS: Kilang, thank you for giving me the first peek. You're now on my wedding card list. All the best. Keep rocking and go give 'em heaven.    

Apr 15, 2014

Tetseo Sisters: One Pretty Up for Naga Music

And why the group has started beating Alobo Naga & The Band and Divine Connection’s stats

The Tetseo Sisters are truly a talented bunch – they can make you pant and drool by the buckets simultaneously with engendering into your empty rock head a healthy appreciation for folk music.

Eastern Panorama, the news and lifestyle publication from North East India was surely felled too, when it handed out an award to the four musicians recently.  

900 million years ago, in 2011, a group of terrifyingly pretty females from Kohima released an album called “Li Chapter One: The Beginning”.

The girls handed me a CD. I was with The Morung Express that time playing this star journalist thing, and too busy to fall for any feminine weapons of lass distractions.

I spun the CD. 

I wasn’t impressed; the album was nothing more than just another shrilly village-feminist-muscle-flexing ethos-pretending, folklore-exploiting steaming pile of bullkitsch.

In fact, I would call the sisters’ debut the original Alobo Naga & The Band album – full of Hey-Heyos, but empty in musical Brios.   

The meeting at Jumping Bean

Tetseo Sisters, Nagaland Music
The Tetseo Sisters (© 2014 Image)
Later in 2012, I met the four girls during a Jumping Bean event. We sat down over a cup of coffee. So there you have the Tetseo sisters: full of legs, full of red lipsticks (or what do you call it?), full of short skirts, and full of pretty. I sat; they sat down surrounding me.

So, I was like “Thank you, I hope you do not have the IQ of a cabbage like most pretty heads do, because I normally like to pretend to be a genius and focus on something else more important and do stuff my way like, staring at the wall.”

But, holy goat, they were nice. I mean they were quite unassuming. Like, they did not project themselves to be warriors of a new folk revolution.

Note: There are some deluded scallywags in the local music scene in Nagaland who believe their selves to be saviors of the recession-stricken music world.
In return for that courtesy, I use their CDs as coasters, or scrappers to clean the sink whenever I do the dishes at home (Yep dude, real men also know how to cook and do the fudging dishes).

Let me hand you this. Alobo Naga, singer of Alobo Naga and The Band, is one of the humblest persons I know. Many of his songs are nothing but septic tank material of the purest kind. But, he is one person you will love – and you’d even buy his CDs for his humility.  But Alobo is one of the bare naked exceptions. Many local singers walk on the stratosphere.

Mercifully, the sisters were unassuming and were not throwing around some diva gobbledygook. (I am glad they didn’t, because I enjoy giving major sorrow to pompous people who spoil my days). 

Anyhow, unlike the curry-headed musicians, the sisters seemed OK. In fact, they were humble, perhaps even a little embarrassed? Anyhow, as I peered at the four female species before me in Jumping Bean who quietly offered me their perspectives about the music they create.

I thought, ‘Hmm maybe I ought to give em a break’ or sumthin.

So here were the members of TS: big sister Mercy Mütsevelü Tetseo, former rock chick Azi Tetseo, baby sister Kuvelü Tetseo and babier sister Lulu Tetseo.

They were an eyeful, trust me. No wonder people never really gave a flying beep about their debut. You have four eye-poppers in front of you and you think you have time to appreciate music? Go find a job, you sleazy psycho creep.

We sat and chatted. We conversed about the conventions of traditional Chakhesang folk music. We exchanged ideas about contemporary interpretations of folk traditions, the poetry in them and how the group tries to apply the ideas of folklore musically.

It was a good conversation. These female of the species had brains. Hallelujah.

Back at my desk at home, I salvaged ‘Li Chapter One: The Beginning’ from somewhere under a mountain of shoes, clothes, old underwear, cassettes, old tooth brush, hair gel tubes, and ancient unwashed dishes. I played the album again. Their music didn’t sound too bad now that my perception about folk music made in studios had no longer played on aesthetic presumptions.    

I reviewed one of their entries for the Nagaland Music Awards for the category folk music in 2012 too. They deserved a push for the entry, of course. Folk music, or in this case, the sisters themselves, all makes sense now. Why and how they create what they create sounds quite sensible no matter what opinions people may have about “local culture” music.  

Certainly, I’ll go for their second album when they pitch it. I only hope the next album would be a better production.

What makes them different?  

Tetseo Sisters, Nagaland Music, Al Ngullie
The sisters are slowly making their presence felt in the media  

The Tetseo Sisters are probably one of the few musicians in Nagaland who don’t really shout at the world about the state of the music industry (ugh. I hate that pompous, audacious, deluded, misplaced term) in Nagaland. I have been observing that. They don’t gather up their skirts and run for the nearest cover when people start shooting barbs. Far less, they do not take criticism seriously.  

They sisters do not gripe all the time. They do what they can. They blog and write or attend events, and socialize to increase their visibility; they promote their music through social networking sites such as Facebook, YouTube, and music stream websites et al. That’s hard work when you don’t have a company promoting you.    

Neiphiu Rio Vs Alobo Vs Tetseo Sisters: Fame Statistics

All right, Keep reading, we will come to the ‘What makes them different’ section again. Hold on to your dear skirts, it is my Bragging Brag Rights time now:

During 2006-2009, Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio, novelist Easterine Iralu, and I were the only three Nagas enjoying the biggest search on the internet particularly on Google Keyword index and Yahoo, than any other Naga in Nagaland or the NE region then. Mr. Rio has about 80, 000 to 1 lakh searches per year; Miss Iralu had about 60, 000 to 90,000 searches per year, and (Ahem! Ahem! Wheezecough!) I had about 50, 000 to 80,000 searches per year.     

It was much prior to the Alobo Nagas and The Divine Connections personalities arriving on the scene.  

(Plain Tech Speak: If you have a high search index, you have … hmmm… a somewhat sizeable population of people searching for you, or your works on the internet etc)

During 2011 and 2013, when Alobo Naga & the Band went to VH1 and Divine Connection won the MTV rock show, the two briefly surpassed us on the search ranking.

During 2011-2012 AN &TB’s and DC’s search index in total was about 1 lakhs per month! One of the highest regional search trends on Google in India then – that is super famous! Or maybe India just so happened to have the second largest mass of people on planet Earth after the rabbit-crazy China. Don’t forget that even most Asian music stars don’t enjoy that much attention on normal market days.

But now, in 2014, AN&TB and DC’s Google streak has decreased rapidly. Alobo Naga’s index has fallen to around a measly 840 search per month (Bleh*). (Please check Google keyword search tool. After the company changed the webmaster tool recently, the numbers seem to have turned truant)   

Back to the ladies

Back to the topic, so I was stating that the Tetseo Sisters do not nag like hags but do what they can, right? Over the past couple of years, they have taken every opportunity without complaint, thus building their fan base and visibility gradually.

Today, the Tetseo Sisters are starting to beat every other Naga musician’s stats. For instance, at this time, the Tetseo Sisters’ search index has grown from about 1, 000 in 2012 to around 15, 000 in 2014 – which is 7 times more than the number of search queries for our local Baritone hero Nise Meruno. Strange indices – because there are some people that consider Meruno a bigger star than any other Naga musician on the solar system.    

If the momentum continues, the girls are going to whip Alobo’s behind, at least in terms of visibility on the internet. Considering there are more internet connections in Nagaland than the entire copy of newspaper circulation in the state put together, that's serious sheek.      

: I’m not a musician, just in case you are wondering how I figure in Google search trends with all this talk about this music and that music. 

The Eastern Panorama award

On Monday, Eastern Panorama honored a number of individuals and organizations for their contribution to various pursuits, particularly in the field of education, sports, music and the arts, and entrepreneurship. Home Minister of Meghalaya Roshan Warjri gave away the awards. The Tetseo Sisters were honored with an award for contribution to music.

Given, that the award is not the WMAs. Yet, considering that Nagaland has nothing even faintly offering an impression of industry, the few roses that come our way just might lead to bigger things. Griping makes a great thorn in the flesh.

And I do believe the sisters deserve the award. Pretty or ugly. Hiyohey.