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Continuity & Community: Two Factors That Drive These Acts From The North East

features Mar 17, 02:36pm

The scene is expanding, but within the region. But is that enough? Asks Randeep Kaur to some of the underground names from the North East.

Ever since a series of articles and an alternative music buzz has pulled our necessary attention towards the North East, the initiators have been rightfully patting own backs for exposing the metropolitan mainstream crowd towards an otherwise unexposed pool of talent that has fought another kind of battle on the independent music front. The North Eastern region of India is undoubtedly the home to some of the most incredibly talented musicians – it houses some of the best of metal, electronic, folk, fusion, pop and jazz musicians in the country. Pick a genre and there will be a representative with an exclusive following, although one that rarely stretch beyond that geographical limitations. 

 

North-East has seen some incredible international acts like Steve Vai, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Alaska Snack Time and several others -  many of them during their respective debut in India. When it comes to music festivals, the recent editions of NH7 Weekender Shillong, Ziro Fest, Hornbill have been super success - artists like Vishal Bhardwaj, Indian Ocean, Carnatic musician TM Krishna, Ram Sampath and artists of the mentioned league have recently experimented with the idea of live music in one of the usual suspects of the North Eastern cities.. As on observer, it is obvious to arrive at a conclusion that music thrives in North-East India – which actually does, albeit there is a catch. No doubt the local artists do get the opportunity to perform in these seasonal festivals, however, the big question remains; the one that has only taken several forms over the years - where is the steady stream of income?   

 

Let’s talk about the northeast music scene beyond the most anticipated music festivals in the Indian calendar. How does the community grow and thrive when the festivals go away and thus all the attention around it? How are these local artists surviving on music? Well, there is veiled reality that is hardly spoken about.  The reality that they lack venues, programmers and even managers who can represent them or take care of their bookings. Only the ones with good connect make it to other cities and get recognised. Others (Specific genre like metal, rock) sit tight, make music, promote it online and hope to get recognised someday. In an effort to tap the unexplored talent we reached out to the hidden gems of rock/metal bands of the seven sisters and one brother of Northeast India.

 

RSJ interacted with some amazingly talented local bands from Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura, Manipur and Sikkim to understand the in-depth situation of the music scene and opportunities for local artists in North East India.


In conversation with RSJ on the music scene, Lunatic Fringe, progressive black metal band from the Orchid state of India, Arunachal Pradesh (Itanagar) commented through Facebook, “Well, the overall music scene is growing gradually with time. We see a lot of international acts coming up here in the Northeast. The scene is no less than the central India. However, sometimes when it comes to the particular genre of music, shit happens. For example, in some music festivals, particularly metal acts are boycotted as the organizers assume they shall disappoint the crowd and all the people involved in the event or might be something else. So, this way our metal acts suffer a lot. Organisers should know that it depends upon the performers individually, how to pull out the crowds and not based on performing subjects that is the “genres”. Suppose a Hindi rock band may be better than a hard rock band while going live on stage, no matter the music of that hard rock band is heavier & vice-versa.  So, this is also one of the true ground reality of the current northeast music scene. Hope things change someday.”

 

Elaborating on the options beyond music festivals, the band replied, “There are a few options that allow musicians to showcase their talents like I.G. Park, Itanagar (Arunachal Pradesh), Shilpgram, Guwahati (Assam), Polo ground, Shillong (Meghalaya), Ryo ground, Imphal (Manipur), Café live and loud, Gangtok (Sikkim). We have performed in venues like Road to rampage - Ryo ground, Imphal, Manipur. There are also some local events we have played in like: Capital chaos 4 Venue: Nyokum Lapangground, Winter Mosh fest: Nongpathar Stadium,  Nongstoin AC fest: Aei ground, Chandmari Guwahati, Statehood day - Indira Gandhi Park, Itanagar (A.P), Wrath metal fest - Ozone pub, G.S road Guwahati." 


Speaking about their band work they said, “Currently, we are working on our debut EP which is on the mixing process. We have plans to release it soon within a couple of months followed by an EP tour all around the country.”

 

Highlighting the obstacles in their music career, the band added, “Upgrading the gears is one the biggest problem. For a normal metal/rock band in India, it is not an easy thing to upgrade the gears. As its price is 10 times the payment we get by going live. And besides this, lack of shows for the genre we play, so you might have already got our point thoroughly regarding this topic.  It takes a lot of time to upgrade gears. And with no proper gear, your live sound would suck too. Other than this, the lack of gigs. The prominent reason for this would be metal acts being boycotted from various music festivals. Let us take one example - There are so many music festivals happening in Arunachal Pradesh nowadays every year but as far as we know, hardly any metal act has performed in any edition of one of those music festivals. Well, we are mostly invited on metal gigs that happens once in a blue moon. And since, hardly metal organizers get sponsorship to organize their gigs, so it is somehow possible for them to organize once in a year or twice, sometimes not even that. Last but not the least: Band fees. Most of the time we don’t get our full fee structure. Even though metal is not commercial music and we do it for the sake of passion but still there are some basic expenses which needs to be taken care of by the organizing committee. It is quite easy to watch, drink and enjoy the live music on stage but behind the scenes of the artist are always sad and horrible most of the times. Anyway, we will carry on, despite the hardships. Our destination is much more important than these challenges."

 

 

Click Here To Listen/Download the tracks

 

RSJ also reached out to Living Among Death (alternative and progressive rock metal band) from Assam (Diphu, Karbi Anglong) about music scene they expressed. “The current music scene of North East India has a brilliant reputation in our country and also abroad. Due to the rise of social media and reality shows, now is easier for them to reach out to the larger crowd for which many hidden jewels of singers, musicians and bands got the platform to showcase their talent. Now, there is a trend going on in this part of the region is that political parties are also started hiring singers /bands for their victory rally concert and other campaigning purposes.”
 

Regarding the opportunity to perform in their hometown, the band expressed discontent. “The opportunity is not that vast but still there are some venues and local event/fest that enable local artists to perform. To name a few are Monsam festival of music (Diphu, Assam), Karbi Youth Festival (Diphu, Assam), Storm bringer X (Guwahati, Assam), Bodoland rock fest (Kokrajahar, Assam), Thunder march, NIT Silchar, Assam."


Talking about their current work they added, “For the past one year, the band is trying to bring up new and fresh sound to our audience. We are spending more time in researching the material. Currently we are focused on construction and composition of songs and arrangement of the music for the upcoming album, which probably we are going to release it by the end of this year."

 

When asked about challenges in their music career, they laughed and started with a statement, “Well, the name of the band itself is challenging - Living Among Death. It was conceptualised when our district (Karbi Anglong) was witnessing ethnic clashes between two major ethnic tribe. At that time, the band mission was to spread the word of peace, harmony and brotherhood among the tribe through their music. They believe that their songs can heal the wounds of the victims. Financial play a major role for survival of the band, for which each member had to engage themselves in government job or other businesses. Time is also one of the factor for the band members to maintain because they need to balance between their survival job and practice hour.  And other challenges? You know, in this part of the region, getting gigs in regular intervals is really challenging task for a band like ours. Majority of people listen to Bollywood and regional music. We play and produce western hard rock music, most of them listen but few are there to invest. Light minded people also take risk and organize concerts but lack of sponsorship hamper in paying band fees and other necessities. Even there are some kind of organizers who never pay out equal share, they partially treat between western rock band and Bollywood influenced singer/band. Lions share are always in favour of those who sing Bollywood songs. Lack of venues and music promoter is also a challenging part in band history. There are very few promoters who promote our music without any charges mentioned but we also find paid promoter, who never agree for free promotions."

 
Living Among Death (LAD) is an Alternative Rock band from Diphu, Karbi Anglog (Assam), formed in September 2008. The band was initially known as Lad Pearly Gates, however, later renamed to LAD. This band is based in Diphu, Karbi Anglong, Assam and played a very crucial role in bringing the culture of music into some sincere attention.

 

Click Here To Listen/Download The Tracks

 
Shillong has been a catalyst to the now emerging attention towards the North East. The city exported acts and songwriters that have been idolised all over the country. RSJ contacted Blueprint Dives (Metal/progressive band) from Meghalaya (Shillong), to ponder upon how the city has evolved once the spotlight was rightfully shared across the entire region. The band replied, “Well, North East India has a lot of potential. We have umpteen number of good artists and then there are festival, venues that provide us platform. Venues like: NH7 weekender Shillong, Ziro fest, Dambuk orange fest, University Festival, etc. They allow a good breeding ground to musicians and listeners. Diversified music genres in festivals do create a growing atmosphere and exposure for new artists. It’s good to see a few NE artists getting to play in these festivals along with other artists from different parts of the world. It creates a desirous attitude to smaller bands like us to put in more efforts in what we do and to become better every day. The scene is definitely growing."

 

Speaking of the limited venues they said, “In terms of pubs and other open venues for concert, there is still a lot to work on. However, the festivals like NH7 weekender, Shillong, Ziro Festival of Music, Ziro, Arunachal, Orange Festival, Dambuk, Arunachal keeps our hope- pertaining to music alive.”

 

Adding to the list are Cloud9 Restobar in Shillong, Rocka rolla in Guwahati, the Hard Rock cafe, and several other small pubs that provide bands the much needed platform.

 
The band has hit the live circuit only lately and has performed on three occasions last year - Cloud9 Shillong, Mood Indigo IIT Bombay and Brahmaputra Raga Jazz in Shillong. The new year is filled with expectations and visions to accomplish. The band is also working with an EP album and expecting to be out later this year."


Talking about the challenges as beginners, the band emphasised, “The biggest challenge we are facing, not only as a band but as musicians (since some of us are working day in and day out as session musicians) is to land a gig through online contact without knowing the key people personally. There is much to play in the game as far as we know it. So, for a new artist to get albums and songs recorded and eventually promotion is the biggest challenge. Sometimes the social media don’t do the work practically, it does help a little though. About all of it, the cost to meet is impossible. Secondly, the income factor and the cost of travelling from North East to other places. So, getting a paid gig in any metro city in India that too with travelling expenses is something really difficult. Honestly, it won’t be true if I say what we do can be called a career. Big ups to some artists from North East India who have a national credibility. Lastly, for a new band like us who is climbing the ladder look forward to sources like RSJ and others for a launch pad. We need a little support to be known and get known. Blueprint Dives is a four-piece metal/progressive band based out of the capital of Meghalaya, Shillong. The band plays djent and progressive metal music with a touch of modernity. Formed in 2014, the band has never looked back and is loved and followed by many. Their genre can be defined as progressive metal with various influences. The band draws inspiration from several musical genres ranging from Western classical to Modern Rock. Each member brings in a unique synergy of style and this adds to the unpredictable nature and identity of the band.

 

 

Listen to the latest tracks by Blueprint Dives
 

Post speaking to the musicians from Scotland of East, RSJ reached out to the land of rolling mountains Mizoram, (Aizawl) based band- The Scavenger Project (Electro- progressive rock) - to get their views on the local music scene. They said, “The current North East music scene is better than it was when we started out as a band some 10 years ago. Although, it has to be said that it is not as buzzing as it should have, judging from the sheer volume of talent North East harbours."

 

Speaking of the opportunities to play at the local scenes the band added, “Many organizations have been constantly providing great platforms and opportunities. Notably the organizers of - Orange festival and Ziro festival of Arunachal Pradesh; the hallowed Hornbill Festival of Nagaland; Dylan's Cafe and Cloud 9 as well as Mr Rudy Wallang still upping his game in Meghalaya; the NITs of Assam, etc. Mizoram has seen a change from big festivals to indie - cafe type gigs springing up everywhere - cafes like Coco Cafe, 6 Miles, The Warehouse Cafe of Folk land and one vibrant Korean Restaurant, to name a few. The youth are now toning down to acoustic setup and boy are they soothing and aesthetic. The Avidynamics and their Bayberry sessions are something to be taken a notice of. New and vibrant music are introduced in these sessions. We have performed in NIT Thunder march and Assam University, Hornbill Festival Nagaland, Cloud9 in Meghalaya, Chapchar Kut and Anthurium Festival in Mizoram. Here are few venues and there are many others which I could not recall the name of the events exactly where we have performed."

 

About the current band work they said, “We have been around for 10 years now; had one album to ourselves; and we are lucky to have played around the Country and even have one of our song 'Acceptable' been played on Vh1. Lately we are a bit dormant in terms of activity, due to many individual projects by the members and other engagements. But when called upon, we always deliver a bang. Yes, we are mainly focussing on writing new songs. There are talks within ourselves about a possible second album. And this year being our 10th Anniversary we hope to go big and have a 10th year anniversary concert of our own, and possibly a tour. Also, we were featured on a project with Doordarshan which will be aired very soon hopefully."

 

About challenges in music career, the band pointed out, “The biggest challenge is the lack of sustainable bands. There have been major changes recently, but I believe the industry really need to incorporate the marketing, promos, TV, audio and other perpetual live platforms for Bands to really make a juicy career out of it. In short, we need some sustainable opportunities.”
 

The Scavenger Project is an Alternative Rock band from Aizawl (Mizoram), formed in the early days of 2008. The band is a convergence of the top talents in the Mizoram music industry, the members are experienced both on stage and off, with a gift for composition and song writing. They describe their music as ‘electro-rockgressive’, a blend of electronic, progressive rock, hip hop and nu metal. The band / project is the brainchild of Victor, music composer for the band and also the guitarist of a band Magdalene. He run’s Scavenger Records which is responsible for most of Aizawl bands recordings. PB Linda aka (Mami) is the Female singer and is the wife of Victor.

 

 

Click Here To Listen/Download The Tracks

 

 

Describing the music scene, UDX, an alternative metal band from Nagaland (Dimapur). said, “Honestly speaking, from a hard rock and metal band's view, outdoor gigs have gone down considerably?, except for a few pubs and festivals.”

 

Talking about the band and progress they said, “Band has been on sort of hold since the last Vietnam tour at the end of 2016. No major gigs past year as a band, apart from a few solo projects of members. We are working on some original materials at the moment. But with the vocalist on the break, progress is pretty slow. Also working on a comeback tour towards the end of this year."

 

Speaking of challenges, they bluntly stated, “As mentioned, one of the biggest challenge at the moment is the absence of regular frontman at the moment. Other than that, tours and live shows. The setback is that everybody wants good music but they forget that the musicians have bills to pay too and stomachs to feed. That's something we've always struggled with, with any group. UDX is an Alternative Metal band from Dimapur (Nagaland), formed in March 2008 as Dementia. They were renamed UDX on the 3rd of July, 2011, with a commitment to continue writing songs that were different – musically and creatively. Along with alternative metal as generic musicality, they like to blends hues of rock, blues, and funk genre as their musical style. Ideally dedicated to social causes, their music is strummed to the harmony of society, thematic with rhyme forms."

 

 

Click Here To Listen/Download the Tracks

 
We couldn’t get enough of good music from Dimapur, so we also decided to speak to band from smaller areas of Nagaland (the local artists). Hence, we got in touch with another band from Nagaland (Mon District) - Toxic Peace (Progressive fusion rock band).

 

Speaking about the music scene in North East they said, “Well, the music atmosphere here in Northeast is unbelievable. It’s a region rich in culture and music. I would say with more venues and festivals, music in Northeast is growing bigger.”
 

Talking about the venues, the band claimed, “There are lot of venues in Northeast. There are Festivals like Ziro Music Festival, Hornbill festival International Rock Contest, The Shillong Beer Fest. etc. And then there are venues like Pepper(Nagaland), Cloud 9 (Shillong), Cafe Hendrix(Guwahati), MOM Kohima (meet over musicians) where musician get to perform and engage with fellow musicians from other part of the state or region."


Regarding the band’s current work and earlier performance, they said, “We were very fortunate to represent the state as an Ambassador for the State Aids Control Society at Delhi, Arunachal during Poi Pee May festival, here in the state at different contest and gig venue. Our last performance was at the Lao Long Mo post-harvest festival 2017, mon, Nagaland. Right now, we are recording for our upcoming project. We are also organising Beat Contest for the upcoming younger musicians soon. Challenges are obvious - Lack of opportunity, sponsors, marketing. We faced lot of critics, hardship when we started the band. But our determination and love for music kept us going.

 

TOXIC PEACE a Progressive Fusion Rock band from Mon (Nagaland) formed in the year 2002. The band in-tune with Rock genre also love to incorporate folk tune and music in their song. The songs are mostly written on social and political issues prevailing in our society and that is how the band name TOXIC PEACE came about. 

 

Listen to their singles - 'My Turn' and 'Forsaken'

 
Tripura-based band Horjwlai (Folk, heavy, death, trash, black metal)

 

Present in the music scene for last 10 years, Horjwlai has not managed to find much consistency lately. Speaking of the music scene, the veterans said, “The current northeast music scene has improved than earlier but still lacks proper platforms. Although there are music festivals but usually if we want to organise an open concert, there is hardly any venue. Some organise it in auditoriums due to the lack of space.” Speaking of some renowned venues and their band’s journey they added, “There are some music fests like Hornbill Rock festival, Ziro festival of Music, Orange festival and NH7 Shillong that provides opportunity to artists. Since we were not active for the last few years, we haven't had the opportunity to play at music festivals. Previously we have opened for MR BIG in Shillong. Also, one of our song got featured in The Northeast Today's magazine. We also played at Rongtheang festival in Karbi-ang- long. We got featured in NortheastVibes.in as the best bands and artists from northeast and recorded a song for Rock4life compilation album which includes legendary bands from northeast such as Soulmate and many more. We have not been active for one year. Currently we are doing a new project and planning to release an EP by the fall of this year."

 

When asked about the challenges in music career, they said, “Putting up a proper gig is a big challenge for us currently, lack of proper open spaces where we can arrange an open field concert. It’s also difficult for us to get someone for managing and arranging the shows, which we among ourselves have to do and take care most of the time.”


Horjwlai is a Metal band from Agartala, Tripura, formed in 2007. Coming from Tripura, a place where there's no western music culture, has been very challenging. But they were determined to make a change and created music that incorporates the heavy sounds of metal and their own tribal tunes and melodies. Horjwlai is crammed with a swarm of 90’s clenched metal limericks due for a real breakthrough into the national scene. Bolstered by a robust discography, this is a band that has proven its mettle solely with their perseverance and relentless attitude.

 

 

Click Here To Listen/Download The Tracks
 

Then we reached out to the ‘princely state’ Manipur (Imphal) band- Yuthak Wah (Death Metal)

 

Speaking about the music scene they said, “Northeast music scene is well fitted with underground extreme metal music scene. However, the region lacks commercial and hard for the sustainable music business, specially, in this type of genre. We have not played outside Imphal yet since we had played in Kohima in 2014. But we keep performing in our local venues in Imphal.”

 

About challenges, they said. “Economically it is not possible to full time work as music career. Passionately and aesthetically we value our time and effort.”

 

Yuthak Wah is a Death Metal band from Imphal (Manipur). The idea of the band started a long time ago and despite some changes in matter of time in band name and active members, band continues to perform. Yuthak is a kind of time signature that prevail. The word Yuthak is a conflation of two Manipuri words, ‘Yu’, local rice beer and ‘Thak’ from the word ‘thakpa’ which means drinking. ‘Yuthak’ signifies a leisure period or the break after hard work served by drinking ‘Yu’. ‘Wah’ signifies the voice. Their track Freakonomy is been featured in a compilation album titled Rock Music Manipur Vol.I along with other 36 bands. Currently the band is working on their debut album. 

 

 

Click Here To Listen/Download the Tracks


 
Still Waters (Hard/riff rock band) from Sikkim


On the music scene. they said, “Currently the scene is very much alive. Now we have more pubs and cafes hosting musical events almost every week, as compared to 15 or 16 years ago. Apart from that we can witness music festival like Monsam Music Fest in Diphu, Shine a Light, Nh7 in Meghalaya, Goodstock, Fireball, Rock Revival in Assam, Red Panda Fest in Sikkim, Hornbill Fest in Nagaland...yes the scene is advancing."
 

Speaking of top of the mind venues in North East they said, “We have Cafe Hendrix, Jumping Beans, Cafe live n loud, Gangtok Groove, Cloud Nine etc there are many small venues as well. We have performed in venues like Shine A Light music fest at Sohra, Meghalaya, Cafe Hendrix at Guwahati, Statehood Fest at Arunachal, Red Panda Fest at Sikkim, Monsam Music Fest at Karbianglong.”

 

Talking about the current work on the band front, they added, “On the band front we are working on the
songs. We are looking forward to record our stuff as early as possible. Despite challenges like lack of musical infrastructure they said, “We just want to continue playing music and move forward, it's not about glamour or fame. For us it's about continuity, it's about marching towards victory, some will fall, others will rise but you have to keep moving, and moving forward is a biggest challenge.”

 

Still Waters is a Rock band from Gangtok (Sikkim), formed in 2001. Taken from the old saying Still Waters run deep and the band's name reflects the band's image. Coming from a simple place, their onstage presence and their original music is far from being gentle or simple. Still Waters started adding respectable laurels to its list of achievements at a very early stage of its formation.

 

Click Here To Listen/Download The Tracks

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