The new Chalk and Cheeze album, Desify, gives house music a uniquely Indian twist
Chalk and Cheeze, a city-based house music DJ duo made up of Nitish and Harshit Chachra, defines its sound as electronic dance music without boundaries. Its new sophomore album, titled Desify, takes this notion a step further by blending house music with truly Indian elements. Desify is produced by famed Bollywood composer Sandeep Chowta and features a collaboration with Nagaland-based folk music group Tetseo Sisters.
“We grew up with quite a mixed spectrum of musical influences. Today, this translates into DJ sets and original compositions where we pick apart and infuse together all the pieces of music we love best: beautiful synth work, ethereal backdrops, brooding basslines, and occasional vocal hooks… all on top of a pronounced foot-shuffling beat,” Nitish tells us.
The eight-track album is Indian in sensibilities, but with a strong western music base. It uses instruments such as sarangi, shehnai, sitar, dilruba, ektara, dholak and percussion instruments from Kerala like chenda, edakka, thimila, and madhala. The songs are heavy on south Indian flavours. “The track Desi Mama for example, has strong influences from Kerala. Even the album art, that is created by the team at Smitten, is influenced by the costume and make up of a Kathakali performer,” Nitish explains.
Some other stand-out tracks on the album are Indian Curry, Masala Rush and Mor Funk. “We’ve noticed that a lot of new music gets discovered on short video apps such as Instagram Reels. The idea was to create something that would get listeners and visual content creators hooked to the tune and would eventually pave the way to create audio visual content with the track,” the artiste adds.
Call of the hills
One of our favourite tracks on the album is Zizoné, which begins with haunting vocals by the Tetseo Sisters. The vocals were recorded in Kohima and are in Chokri Naga, one of the tribal dialects from the state. The word Zizoné means calm goodness. It is the nickname of Azi, one of the sisters. The sisters wrote it as an ode to the diva in her, but extends to all women and celebrates their vulnerability and strength.
“The collaboration with Tetseo Sisters was an idea I shared with Mercy Tetseo, mid 2020. It was purely the result of a new friendship that happened by chance during the lockdown. I was digging into the crates of folk music artistes from India and I found Tetseo Sisters’ music was very unique and catchy. We were thrilled to use their vocals and lyrics to create an upbeat house track that would get people tapping their feet and nodding their heads to the music,” Nitish signs off.
Available on online streaming platforms