• Wed, Sep 19, 2018
Features

Build A Story

features Feb 28, 07:10pm

Meet Pelenuo and Jonathan Yhome, two singer-songwriters and siblings, who have kicked off a musical journey - minus a lot of noise - have extremely honest and simple stories to tell.
 Photo Courtesy: Pelenuo Yhome

More often than not, the obscure areas of YouTube provide some fascinatingly weird content, but for many, it continues to remain one of the finest sources of some polished artists. One such channel, named The Rec.current, helped in the discovery of a musician and her song that (as the comments underneath suggest) has become sort of an anthem of the sprightly, breezy state that she represents. Curiosity led to the obvious subsequent step.

 

Meet Pelenuo Yhome

 

Between our first conversation and the next, Pelenuo Yhome lost three of her close family relatives on two separate days. Understandably, the 26-year-old found herself in an extremely unfortunate and unique position. The singer-songwriter apologized for the delay in responses but delivered on her promise to treat this interaction as a “personal diary.” The personal loss did not become a part of our conversation later, barring one time. The usually shy and reserved musician, and the co-subject of this interview, however said, “I thank you for asking this to treat like a personal diary.” The grieving phase and the interview both were relatively new challenges for Pelenuo and her comfort was of prime importance.

 

“I have to admit, I am really not good with words,” reminds me Pelenuo once again.

 

The Identity

 

But I had heard her sing. Although it was only on YouTube, called ‘Build A Story’ - the song that forged a reason for the outreach that led to this interview in the first place - the lyrics had a simplistic appeal that resonates with everyone’s idea of a laidback composition. And if ‘Build A Story’ is any yardstick, then Pelenuo’s songwriting, effortlessly, makes for the otherwise general verbal deficiency. While we switch between e-mails and Facebook messenger for our elaborate interaction, Pelenuo maintains consistency and continues to unravel. Honestly, as the singer emphasizes, there’s no moment of controversy or madness that defined her past thus restricting her from expressing more, but an unshakable fear and lack of trust towards people that often pulls her back into a safe cocoon. “You’re lucky you’re getting to know a lot about me,” jokes the Nagaland-based artist. It almost feels like ‘Build A Story’, the composition that paints a hopeful idea of romance and intimacy, wasn’t the work of someone with trust issues. “It’s not entirely true that I use music to communicate. With music, I feel at ease,” replies Pelenuo upon asked on the role of music in the evolution of her persona.

 

 

The Story

An amateur furniture and spatial designer, Pelenuo considered recording ‘Build A Story’ only on the behest of her brother, fellow musician and a collaborator, Jonathan Yhome. Born and brought up in Nagaland, the Yhome duo did not have to zone out of their hometowns – first Kohima and now Dimapur – for inspiration. Their exposure to live intimate performances began during the usual family trips between the two cities. These trips often involved sing-alongs, thanks to the duo’s earliest possible vocal muse, Yhome senior. “My father would start singing and the whole family would join in until we reached our destination,” recollects Pelenuo, before apologetically adding ‘that activity’ as her only remaining childhood memory. With roots tracking back to two tribes, Pelenuo adopted the maiden name that belonged to her father’s clan. Her brother, Jonathan, too, shows closeness to his father through his song ‘Send Me Away’, another acoustic guitar driven composition of personal journey and the ideological crossroads that haunts a young mind.

 

The Brother

For Jonathan, the escalating anger issues drove the then teenager into joining Nagaland Conservatory of Music in 2013. “Music has been sort of a savior for me,” reveals Jonathan. Like Pelenuo, Jonathan never could master the art of communication. Although music provided an escape from the discomfort, it also opened the door for one-way and effective way of expression. Jonathan’s four original singles so far feature the stories that define the roles of events and people who ensured dramatic changes in his life. The songwriter also strongly believes the basic purpose of music has massively changed, and musicians do not often use the language of art to tell stories anymore. On that front, he finds his sister Pelenuo as an ideal collaborator of sorts.

 

 

The Identity

The two singers understand that the music industry that has become “a factory that manufactures material for the market” will soon cross paths with their music and the decision can steer their careers into an unprecedented direction. But for Jonathan, that time isn’t here yet. He’s far more political and ideological than Pelenuo. “I’d like to use my music to help people financially and emotionally,” remains the war-cry for Jonathan and a “soul-less music industry” remains his concern. Ask Pelenuo about the obvious detachment between the North East and the other regions, and she created an opinion upon discussing the topic with her close friend. “I came to the conclusion that we (musicians from Nagaland) do not know how to promote ourselves as musicians and the rest of India does not try to reach out to us too. I do not know why. May be, it is the genre or the English songs, I do not know. In fact, if you look at Bollywood, there’s not a single musician from Nagaland. Perhaps, it is our diction.” Pelenuo cites her own example to address another issue that’s quite global, but largely prevalent among musicians from the North East according to her observation. She says, “We (Nagaland musicians) will release the songs on Facebook or YouTube and that’s probably the end of it.”

 

The Dream

‘Build A Story’ is neither Pelenuo’s first single nor does it summarize her story. The singer takes a few minutes to name her other songs. (Yes, she named her other originals during the interview). “One of my songs is called ‘You’, it’s about long-distance relationship. Another song is called ‘Here We Go’, a song that describes how paths change, and I, either, have not found the title of other songs or I simply cannot think of the name right now.” But ask her to pick a favourite, and Pelenuo replies, “There is one song called ‘Sunset’, this is a song that I want to sing with an orchestra in front of a large audience.” Jonathan has a similar dream. “Well, I want to perform with the Bon Ivers and the Alter Bridges live.” These two North American acts had a major influence on Jonathan’s musical evolution, while Pelenuo’s heroes came from the Down Under. “Oh, you should listen Taya Smith from Hillsong United. You have no idea how humble she is.” Once again, a Yhome senior – this time the mother – played a role in sharing the music encyclopedia in the Yhome household. “My mother would bring me the cassettes of Backstreet Boys and Hillsong United, and I would lock myself in a room and jump and jump until she would return from the office and shout at me.”

 

The Connect

The elaborate consumption of their respective musical heroes clearly reflects on their songwriting as the Yhome siblings continue to extend their discography. Both have a similar style of playing their guitars and Pelenuo credits her brother for the same. “He’s also taught me a few techniques about voice control. In fact the video for ‘Build A Story’ with The Recurrent team was possibly only because of him. You’d think I’m saying this to promote him, but I assure you he’s truly talented,” adds Pelenuo.

 

Call it borderline clueless, but the two musicians currently seem to be carefree about the potential scope of their music and the ideals they represent. These musicians enable the "tiny big scenes" of the country and Pelenuo hopes to reach out to audiences a bit to her West and possibly out of the YouTube's obscure world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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