Day 5: When The Tetseo Sisters Mesmerised The Crowd!
Rupert Winchester absolutely loved the Tetseo sisters. Here’s what he has to say about them and their performance…
Last night we were thrilled and delighted to witness an exclusive performance by Nagaland’s most famous and accomplished group of folksingers, The Tetseo Sisters. The event was held around the bonfire at Kohima Camp.
As the name suggests, the band consists of four sisters (Mercy, Azi, Kuku, Lulu), with their brother plays the guitar for certain performances.
The sisters have made a name for themselves around the world, and have performed in the United States, Great Britain, Japan, Korea and other Asian countries.
The group like many Nagas is highly educated. Mercy has a degree in psychology; Azi, a former Miss Nagaland runner-up, has a degree in political science, Kuku studied in Delhi and Lulu is currently pursuing medicine in Nagpur. Last night, we had Mercy and Kuku sing for us.
The sisters are from the Chakhesang tribe, and they have a vast repertoire of folk songs available to them, through a traditional Chakesang songbook that has 223 common songs. Most of the other songs have been handed down through oral tradition (much like any other Naga tribe) from generation to generation.
There are songs for special events, songs about love and war, lullabies and even songs that are related to agriculture and seasonal activities.
According to Mercy “The Naga folk music is oral storytelling. It is all about sharing stories about why certain practices and faiths are carried out. For every activity in rural life, there is a song talking about the lessons and processes.”
She even told us about the songs the villagers sing while they toil away in the fields. Apparently, they have a separate set of songs reserved for when the day’s work gets done. “This is like announcing that it is time to return home. Those individuals working far away from the group take these songs as a signal.”
On a personal note, over the years, I’ve worked with dozens of bands and groups of musicians. But there are very few who have impressed me with the professionalism and attitude, the Tetseo are one of them! The sisters were on time, looked fabulous, and struck up an instant rapport with the other guests. They were happy to answer questions between songs, and they actually got the tiny and intimate crowd up on their feet on one of the numbers.
And their music? Mesmerising! Their cool, crystalline voices curled around each other, rising up through the night in a strange and thrilling mélange that was at once familiar and at the same time entirely new. They even ended up their set by singing a couple of Christmas carols: Jingle Bells and Walking in a Winter Wonderland, which made everyone think of Christmas anew.
I was terrifically impressed—as I have been by much of the Naga culture that I’ve seen so far—by the Tetseo Sisters. My only complaint would be that they had no copies of their CD for sale, and I can’t find it on the internet. Because I want to hear those sublime voices again, soon. Many thanks to Mercy and Kuku, not only for their amazing voices and songs, but also for documenting their rich cultural heritage so vibrantly.
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