“Four simple girls enjoying the beauty of being alive..”
That’s how once Tetseo Sisters described themselves. The ingenious all-female band of the beautiful North East state of Nagaland is literally rocking the world of music today. The melodious music of the soul represents the rich cultural heritage of not only Nagaland but the flavor of the entire North East India. TW speaks to the Tetseo Sisters about the exciting and melodious journey so far.
1) How did Mercy, Azi, Kuku and Lulu meet each other and what inspired you to form Tetseo Sisters?
We are siblings so we grew up together, performing together and learning new songs together. Then we started writing our songs together and at a point it really took off, so we started traveling for gigs together too.
The band happened eventually over a period of time. We didn’t have a name when we started out but being sisters, it kinda stuck with people who organised shows and slowly, we came to be known as Tetseo Sisters.
As for the music, we grew up surrounded by music and it was only a matter of time before we took it up professionally and became focused on making it a well choreographed show format for different venues and festivals.
2) With loads of well-deserved prestigious awards like the TrailBlazer Award at the 4th Nagaland Music Awards, Governor’s Award for Excellence in Music etc. and social media popularity reaching the sky today, how does it feel looking down the memory lane?
We feel that in some ways, our journey has just begun. As artists, we want to keep growing and learning so there isn’t too much room to be laidback and rest on our laurels.
There are so many more shows to do, music to make and platforms to explore and conquer. We are driven to push it further and explore more vistas.
3) You have named your debut album ‘Li’, which means ‘songs of the people’; ‘Tetseo sisters’ are always known for their own brand or style of folk-music. If you can tell us a little more about your unique style and composition and also about the instruments used?
Our parents taught us our first folk songs and our love and appreciation for Li grew as we began understanding how special they are. Then came the stage where we also began writing our own lyrics and tunes. And since then, we haven’t looked back.
The response has been amazing from audiences both back home and away. People have always been generous in appreciating what we are doing to document, promote and popularise folk music to be a cool part of the contemporary music scene.
We use the traditional one stringed Tati, shakers – khrokhro and shüshü, bamhum and infuse guitars, strings and keyboards to our folkfusion music.
We primarily perform Chokri Naga music along with English originals but our live gigs also often include select covers in English, Hindi and even Korean and Japanese.
4) As you have mentioned in one of the interviews – “We are just four simple girls enjoying the beauty of being alive and making the most of life with our loved and dear ones by God’s grace”, tell us more about these young girls from the beautiful landscape of Nagaland making a wave in the world of music, today. Besides the obvious passion for music, how similar or different are the four of you, offstage?
Off stage, we are four fun loving but simple humans trying to make the best of God’s grace and blessings in our individual lives. As students, homemakers, content creators, travellers and explorers -we are four unique people with individual passions but a collective dream to make a difference with our music and also our lives. We are so different from eac other and yet, in harmony. We all have our different callings – driving us together and also individually.
Lulu is a medical doctor, Azi is a homemaker, Kuvelü and Mercy are content creators/collaborators on different projects and we are all foodies, travellers and keenly involved in social service and positive influencing.
5) More often than not we have seen your music making meaningful social statements. In World Environment Day Celebrations in Kohima in 2018 you have your voices to a collaborative single – “Contemplation” by Band Powerfaith , Network18’s Mission Paani Waterthon, yours “Say Yes to Life” to commemorate the World Anti Drugs and Trafficking Day etc have taken your music beyond the boundaries of melodious music and feel-good entertainment. What’s your thought on this?
Our primary focus is to do something positive and meaningful with our lives and the gift of music. We believe in wholesome entertainment. We don’t want to create controversy or hurt any sentiments but asking questions and creating awareness and curiosity about critical life events and social issues that impact all of us are what we care about deeply – and as global citizens and people with influence, we want to speak up and voice our thoughts. For our own good and the good of all, because timely action to prevent is always better than regret and loss.
Our music has always been happy and positive and we don’t want to be associated with anything dark or negative.
Using our music and influence to spread the message of love, peace, growth, friendship, progress and positive change is a step in our personal growth and we hope to continue doing that. In a fun and happy way. We want to lead by example quietly and make the impact we hope for.
6) Many look at you as the brand ambassador of Nagaland; you have taken the folk-lores of Nagaland to the international stages in Thailand, Myanmar, Korea, United states etc. How did you find the audience worldwide connecting with your music?
We have been blessed to be able to represent our land, culture, people and even the country at many platforms. Our music helped us break many barriers and start conversations. In a small way, we have been able to change the narrative and perception of popular media as well and create curiosity. Or atleast, opened up a small pathway for people to see the NE differently and also our own people to rethink how they want to be perceived or how to represent themselves.
Wherever we go, we have received so much love and appreciation. And each event has led to an exchange of ideas and people expressing an immediate connection with our songs, ethos, simplicity and appreciation of life/nature and our stories.
7) What is the road ahead for the Tetseo Sisters?
More music, travel, new projects, encouraging eco-friendly sustainable living, building new connections and achieving personal growth; to continue inspiring and uplifting the youth, women, indigenous arts and pursuing excellence – not perfection as we traverse life and the multitude of challenges it throws at us – individually and as a group of artists.
(Interviewed on March 2022)