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Tetseo Sisters Bring Naga Folk To Stage At Folk Nations

The quartet will perform songs from their debut as well as upcoming second album

Isha Singh Sawhney Mar 22, 2013
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Tetseo Sisters

Tetseo Sisters Photo: Courtesy the artists

The Tetseo Sisters, comprising four siblings from Nagaland, have a serious mission: to breathe fresh energy into the forgotten folk songs and traditions of the Chakhesang Tribe, a major tribe from their state. Mercy Tetseo, the oldest of the folk quartet, and her four siblings, Azi [28], Alüne [19] and Kuvelü [22] and their brother Mhaseve [26], grew up surrounded by church and folk music. “Everybody in the North East can carry a tune. Our earliest memories were of singing in church choirs every Sunday, where mom and dad were very involved. We listened to music, mom taught us our first folk song and we learned to play instruments like the Tati [a single stringed instrument also known as Hekah Libüh] and the khrokhro, which is basically a gourd-shaker,” explains Mercy.

In Mumbai for the Folk Nations showcase, Tetseo Sisters will perform without Azi but Mhaseve will make up for her absence. “Azi has just had a baby,” explains Mercy, adding that Mhaseve often steps in to cover for a missing band member, but isn’t a permanent member of the band. Mhaseve works on the group’s sound engineering and production, though songwriting is a group effort, vetted by their mother.

Getting together to form a group was never a conscious effort, adds Mercy. By the Nineties, the younger sisters, Alüne and Kuvelü joined their older siblings who’d been performing at various cultural events, after they gained attention with a performance on a children’s show on Doordarshan. The sisters released their first album of acoustic songs called Li: Chapter One: The Beginning in 2011. “Li” literally means “folksongs” in the Chokri Naga dialect.

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Their upcoming second album titled Chapter 2, says Mercy, seems to be leaning towards fusion pop. Additional instruments like the guitar, keyboard and violin will feature on the album. The vocalist also hints that some of their idols including Elvis Presley and Janis Joplin, Yanni, Enigma, Mr. Big and The Corrs, may just influence the sound of their second album.

But folk of course remains on top of it all. “Folk songs are a very important means of sharing our history and in each song, there are many stories. We retain the original chorus and then add parts and compose the song to make it more progressive, but retain the flavor,” explains Mercy. “We don’t play around much with the melody, but work with the verses. The themes are very universal – songs about love, life, friendship. Songs about day-to-day stuff.”

Tetseo Sisters will perform will perform as part of Folk Nations today at 6pm, Blue Frog, Mumbai. For other details click here 

Watch the Tetseo Sisters at the Himalayan Writers Festival

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