The Tetseo quartet from Nagaland are devoted to art and tradition with a repertoire of native folk songs and they first performed together in 1994. They have since made regular appearances at various national cultural events and other festivals. In November 2014, they won the MTS Discover title at the NH7 music festival and featured across the festival&’s repertoire in various cities. Folk songs are so much a part of their culture and they work away at retaining the original chorus while composing song to make progress.
Tell us about the Tetseo sisters
There&’s the four of us, Azi, Alune, Kuvelu and Mercy, and we like to think of ourselves as storytellers when we sing the songs of our forefathers that have been passed on through our elders and parents. We’ve been singing from a young age and hope to pass the message on to future generations. On stage, you’ll see us in twos, threes, all together, and sometimes even solo as we’ve always been doing our music passionately alongside whatever we’re occupied with at different points of time. We try to retain the original format of each song though we write and play with the lyrics and give a nip and tuck here and there. We like to share a full entertainment package when we go on stage and take a lot of care with the selection of a song, costume and the stories so that everyone can enjoy the fun.
The kind of music you perform is so unique. How would you define it?
We call our music simple, honest and organic. “Li” comprises the songs of our people that focus on vocal harmonies, rich in tones and nuances, culminating in a startling perfection of rhymes and rhythm. Our songs are often accompanied by the single-stringed tatiand the gourd shaker, Khro khro, for percussion. The sound of Li can take you to happy places as we sing a rousing tune or sweep you off to twilight zones where you can witness the pain of star-crossed lovers as they bemoan their misfortunes.
How was it like winning the MTS Discover title at the NH7 music festival?
We were very happy to be the first group from Nagaland to be a part of the NH7 Music Festival and, to top it off, be named the MTS Discover winner was an awesome feeling.
Can you describe the term “Li”?
Li is literally a folk song or a tune in the Chokri dialect, spoken by the Chakhesang tribe of Nagaland. It&’s a language on the verge of extinction. It involves the the historical account of life as it was in the old days and the wonderful stories make them all the more precious.
Apart from your parents, who can you cite as your musical influences?
We are influenced by many musicians, both Asian and Western. Our music icons range from the pop greats like Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, Etta James and Abba to Pharell Williams, Lady Gaga, The Corrs, Jane Birkin, Charlotte Gainsborough, Katie Melua, The Wonder Girls, Girls Generation, Yui, Perfume, Glee Club, Christina Aguilera, Jennifer Lopez and Pink.
How do you stay connected with young people when they are more into Western music?
While the youth are more interested in Western music, they still have a big appreciation of folk music and are a huge support for all that we are doing. There is a huge connection with the fashionable and colourful outfits and accessories that we wear at our shows, as well as the unique sound we play. Folk is cool and fusion is happening for the youth of today and we are riding this happy wave.
Anything exciting in the pipeline?
We have recently released a single, Cepho Celho Lizo- The cherry blossom song, from our upcoming second album, A Slice of Li, which is getting ready for release sometime this year. It will be available for sale at www.indihut.com and on itunes shortly. The video for the single will also be out soon.