Bollywood may be stereotypical and commercialised with its formula content but offers a “great platform” for folk artistes to display creativity on a large scale and gain popularity, feels all-girl band Tetseo Sisters.
The band, which performs traditional folk music of Nagaland’s Chakhesang tribe and folk fusion, has four Tetseo siblings – Azi, Mercy, Kuvelu and Alune – as its members.
Founded in 1994, the band is credited with bringing Naga folk music to a larger audience.
“We love a lot of things about Bollywood, while certain things make us cringe too. Indie music and folk have more recently found a place in Bollywood and that is good news,” Mercy of the Delhi-based band said.
“For all its commerciality, stereotypical, formula treatment, Bollywood is a great platform for artistes to gain popularity and make it good financially. It also gives great opportunity for creativity on a large scale,” she said and added they get inspired by life.
The folk quartet said their songs were about daily life existence, beauty, nature, family, love, friendship, death, pain and happiness. They sing “Li” (folk songs) in Nagaland’s Chokri dialect.
The band members, dressed up in their miniature versions of the traditional Chakhesang costumes, play instruments like tati (one stringed instrument), khro-khro (shakers), drums and Bamhum.
On their songs and music, Kuvelu said: “We sing some traditional (Naga) lyrics as well as some that we have written. ‘O Rhosi’, ‘ApulioLizo’ (prayer song), ‘Ohe!’ and ‘Hiyo! Hiyo!’ are some of our well-appreciated songs. We also perform western contemporary music.”
“Our songs celebrate life and certain virtues and values. They talk about identity and describe a beautiful way of life close to nature,” added Kuvelu who is part of the quartet that has featured in many cultural events across India and abroad.
The band members said they were always open to varied experiences and opportunities to make new and different kinds of music.
The Tetseo Sisters said they were now on a mission to create awareness about the need for environment protection, gender equality and racial discrimination.
“We are not activists of any kind. But we want to highlight the need for environment protection, recycling, gender equality, racial discrimination and safety for women across the country,” said Alune, a key member of the band that has jammed with folk musicians from India and abroad.
Asked about their future plane, Azisaid “Our dream is to go on a worldwide tour. Slowly but surely, we are pretty close to getting there.”
On the growing trend of all-girl bands in the northeast region, she said: “…it is probably because of the love of music inherent in people of the hills and the more socially egalitarian tribal culture that lets girls be more individualistic and free to pursue their interests.”
“However, there are many famous female vocals fronting many top bands from the rest of the country; so it’s not like there is a dearth of female musical talent around the country barring the northeast states. To us, it doesn’t really matter if a group is all male or female so long as they make great music,” she said.
Asked whether the band faced any problem in connecting with audiences in other parts of India, Mercy said good music does not need a language.
“We have been playing in Delhi for a while. Yes, we sing in a dialect spoken by very few people and that’s the beauty of it. Some things can’t be translated but thankfully with music, you just need to hit the right notes and the melody to capture your listener’s soul and do its job.
“We have had a variety of audiences and they have never faced any problems getting the intent of the songs, and we also try to share a gist of each song that we sing. Good music does not need a language. It speaks to the soul,” said Alune as the band’s popularity grows in other parts of India.