The Naga quartet, Tetseo Sisters, have dropped their latest single Zizoné, here's all you need to know
They’ve often been called the most exciting band to come out of the North East and that’s hardly a claim that can be contested. Tetseo Sisters, this Chokri Chakhesang quartet of sisters hopes to redefine the way mainland India perceives the Naga people, Naga music and Naga culture and was recently celebrated for topping the charts on iTunes for a few days after their brand new release: Zizoné. The new single, a collaboration with renowned musician Sandeep Chowta and music producer Nitish Chachra (Chalk & Cheeze), led to indie music fans across the country discovering and enjoying this quartet’s unique sound and style of folk music. But this is not where their journey began. Debuting with an album called Li Chapter One: The Beginning at the Hornbill Festival way back in 2011, a recent dance edit of one of their most popular songs O Rhosi, has now crossed over 2 million views on YouTube. The recipients of many awards, including the Trail Blazer Award at the 4th Nagaland Music Awards in 2012 and Eastern Panorama’s Achievers Award for excellence in Music in 2014, we catch up with the quartet to find out more about their unique style of music, the new single and what Chokri Chakhesang folk and traditional styles of music mean to them.
How did this collaboration come about?
Mütsevelü (Mercy): So, Nitish (Chalk & Cheeze) and I somehow connected during the last national lockdown, and when he asked if we would like to work together on a song, we immediately said: yes. But deciding on a song and writing a brand new one took a while. It was very serendipitous and we are glad this happened. We had certain parameters in place for the song and we decided to write a fun original song in Chokri Naga about women in general but about our sister Azi specifically. Throughout life, Azi has been the most different among us sisters. She has always been bold and outspoken and makes friends so easily. So easygoing and yet so strong in her resolve and how she goes through life. We call her a diva and a super mom; fragile looking but running the world around her in spite of hardships and disadvantages, just like our mother. So this became the song, Zizoné. A song about the mystery and the gift that is a woman and also about our sister and mom. We recorded our vocals at home with our producer brother and sent it out. The rest of the magic was done by Sandeep Chowta and Chalk & Cheeze.
In many ways you are the most popular band to have ever come out of North East India, how does that make you feel and why do you think your unique sound worked?
Kuvelü (Kuku): We do feel wonderful to represent the North East of India in many ways and it is heartwarming to find so much love and acceptance. The uniqueness of what we are — and us just being so proud of our roots and being humble and cheerfully original finds a connect with our listeners. People are always looking for a fresh experience and we are that fresh, original experience.
Most of your traditional lyrics are in your native tongue Chokri?
Alüne (Lulu): We do sing in English and have dabbled in Hindi too, but as primarily folk artistes with a mission. Our Chokri Chakhesang Naga act became our signature and we continue doing so because it is something we believe in and want to share the magic of Chokri folk music with our listeners.
Could you tell us a little bit more about Chokri Chakhesang folk music?
Azine Vezivolü (Azi): Chakhesang is one of the Naga tribes recognised to have the most beautiful folk music focused on harmonies and a range of styles. All folk songs are beautiful and memorable but there is a magic to Chokri Li or Chakhesang Folk Music. There are songs about just anything under the sky and every activity is accompanied by song. There is so much music inherently built into our lives. Especially in the villages.
How did the Tetseo Sisters come to be?
Mütsevelü (Mercy): Our parents introduced us to music and Li — or folk songs of the Chakhesangs and it was a natural progression to performing Li for an audience when the opportunity came — because no one else our age was doing it. We started out as a duo and the formation kept changing. Sometimes it was just some of us along with a bunch of friends or cousins; then we’d go back to just us and a few friends; and eventually we ended up as the four of us singing with Mhaseve, our brother on guitar. We have had the pleasure of being accompanied by a bigger entourage including dancers, musicians and of course appearing in different combos of twos, threes and even individually as solo performers — as the occasion and circumstances called for. We started right in school (when the youngest of us, Lulu was a toddler) and we have performed whenever we could through college and our professional lives (and now Azi is married and a mom of two) — the journey continues.
As a band or individually, where are your musical inspirations drawn from?
Azine Vezivolü (Azi): We all draw inspiration from different things or people and experiences but we all agree on the fact that our parents are our biggest inspiration. Then life, our family and loved ones — lived experiences, travel and listening to our different favourite songs and movies — it’s a little bit of everything.
Your music is traditional but also smoothly moves between genres — how do you define the Tetseo Sisters sound?
Alüne (Lulu): Honest and relatable. Also, because speaks a humane language of emotions— even if our listeners do not understand Chokri Naga, the melody connects and has a charm of its own that has never failed us.
Kuvelü (Kuku): We have a few more collaborations that will hopefully be ready for release soon: a new album, an EP and a bunch of singles.
If the four of you weren’t singers, what do you think you would have been?
Mütsevelü (Mercy): We would definitely be still doing what we are currently doing along with our music and something creative surely — Lulu is a doctor, food critic, influencer, beauty-preneur; Azi, a home maker, beauty and plant enthusiast; Kuvelü – a fashion/style blogger, trendsetter, adventurer and influencer; and I am a traveller, aspiring author/filmmaker, food connoisseur and content creator. So, we’d have definitely been doing something we enjoyed.
Zizoné is available to stream online as a part of Desify by Chalk & Cheeze.