TNT’s take on Northeast India’s band ‘Kum Chirui’ as they sing of their rich Karbi Heritage

TNT’s take on Northeast India’s band ‘Kum Chirui’ as they sing of their rich Karbi Heritage

By Mewanshwa Kharshiing

Being part of a community can birth a cohesive force to influence society around us be it religious, sports, political parties and many more. In the realm of music, melodies do transcend borders of geography, language, caste and creed. It touches the deepest part of our emotions which stir our state of consciousness depending on the genre of music we prefer to listen.

One such transcendence is seen in the band ‘Kum Chirui’ which sets to convey the art of storytelling of their native Karbi culture of Assam through their uncanny blend with Alternative, Folk and Rock tunes.

The band members who have been friends from more than two decades, namely The’ang Teron – Vocals, Songja Terang – Drums, Desmai Kachari – Bass and Raikom Terang – Guitars are all originally  from Karbi Anglong, Assam and have come together to put through their expressions thoughts, ideas, hopes and aspirations through Kum Chirui.

The name “Kumchirui” as one is the word means “eel” in the Karbi language. While separately, “Kum” is the word for a traditional string instrument and “Chirui” means to return. The band sets to electrify the sense of its audiences.

 

Before Kum Chirui was formed, all the members were part of a band called Trancemigrate. However, guitarist Kuru Ingti had to relocate to Diphu, their hometown, while they were all in Delhi due to logistical reasons and Trancemigrate had to take the backseat.

In an exclusive interview with TNT- The Northeast Today, Kum Chirui said that the band was birthed out of influences from Trancemigrate which is primarily a metal band. Members said that they collectively love a good melody and regularly performed alternative, melodic songs in addition to metal in their setlists. “Kum Chirui was formed to showcase our melodic side as it became a little awkward to play melodic songs in a metal show” said voaclist The’ang Teron.  The band claims to be inspired by  a lot of things which includes the facets of our their heritage; it’s society and it’s polity are inspirations as well as life, death and the general state of consciousness.

He further said that the band was formed out of the experiences of growing up together, listening to the same music, learning to pick up an instrument, being self-aware and conscious of cultural identity while still being part of a greater universe.

The band sings in English and its native language, Karbi. But, the members try to compose music that is understandable in all languages. With their fist debut EP having rolled out on June 24, 2017; the band sets to convey stories through   their three songs Kenglongpo, Kong Kong Do and Inviting Departure. The songs in this EP was written mainly by The’ang (vocalist, main man) with inputs from the others during our Trancemigrate days. Of the three songs, two are sung in Karbi, their mother tongue while the single ‘inviting departure is in English.

 

Kenglongpo and Kong Kong Do are about (separate) mythical creatures whose stories are told in Karbi culture. Kenglongpo is the name of the Karbi mythical equivalent for the Bigfoot/Yeti/Sasquatch prevalent in other cultures. The song describes the creature and the myths attached to it. Kong Kong Do is also about a mythical creature akin to the boogeyman, used by adults to scare children into behaving. Inviting Departure is more a self introspecting dialogue about endings, beginnings and the fragility of life.

Most of the music they write is spontaneous inspired and influenced by modern and classic alt/prog/rock; Incorporated with motifs from Karbi musical tradition, which is actually oral history told in the form of songs. The songs have been recorded, mixed and produced by Raikom & Songja at our their own small home studio setup and has been mastered by Acle Kahney (guitarist of pioneering djent band Tesseract) at 4D sounds, UK.

The band said that they have all grown up listening primarily to rock from the 90s and 00s (alternative, grunge, nu-metal & others) and for them, the motifs for melody in western alt/rock and traditional Karbi music seemed to go well together.  They reiterated that the melody in their music is as important as the words said in the lyrics.

In depth about the band members, Teron said that they had all been friends while growing up together in Diphu, Karbi Anglong and have been playing separately in bands since we were in high school.

“Since we knew each other and were all at Delhi at the time after ending college, we formed a band called Trancemigrate. The’ang & Songja are full-time musicians (The’ang sings for metal band Dreamscapade and plays guitar for acoustic duo Edit, while Songja plays drums for Drop the Void and John Pamei), Desmai has a full-time job while I am studying to be a producer and sound engineer. Desmai and I are also The’ang’s bandmates in Dreamscapade.” added Teron.

With most of the songs written by their vocalist The’ang and he firstly writes the basic guitar parts and vocal melodies and then other musicians all add their individual instrument melodies with inputs from each other in the whole process. Most of the music that The’ang writes is worked from ‘noodling’ on the guitar and singing along to it.

They say that the main difficulty they face is the continual re-writing their individual parts in any particular song and it is open for improvisation until it’s recorded and released.

When asked about any upcoming EPs, albums or announcement from the band, members said, “We have just released our self titled EP on Bandcamp, YouTube and Soundcloud. Currently, work is under way to release music videos for the songs in the EP (In August, maybe). We are also working to put up our music on web stores and streaming services like OK Listen, iTunes etc. so that there are options for people to access it more conveniently.”

With music and culture being their main muse the four artists aspire  to be writing and performing music together full-time and according to them is the “dream” for independent musicians in India. They also aspire to write and release more music in the future while evolving as musicians and as people.

On a take about the current independent music scene in the Northeast (like the rest of India), Kum Chuirui said that it can improve from what they know. They also said that it has been coming up with Venues, organisers and the general quality of music have evolved for the better.

“Even though there may be gripes with some issues, it’s encouraging that there are so many talented bands and musicians who are and have been breaking new ground in the Northeast.” commented, The’ang Teron.

With a lot of material from their Trancemigrate days, Kum Chirui is in the hopes to record a full album and release it by the end of the year.

‘Kum Chirui’ is scheduled to play at The People & Co. which is a venue in Gurgaon on the 19th of August and this will be the first time they will be playing as Kum Chirui. We hope for all to be there and support this budding band which is set to make ripples not just in the National arena but overseas as well.

Lyrics & Translations

Kenglongpo (Translation)

V1

Since time immemorial

In the wilderness

Kenglongpo has roamed

Across a thousand hills

And a thousand yards It has ruled

Do you not fear It,

O’ wise old man?

Prechorus

Beware and be careful

Chorus

Kenglongpo

Hear the noise It makes

And walk away straight

Or don’t walk at all

Kenglongpo

It has no elbows,

It has no knees,

Or does it?

V2

Why is it the way it is?

What is it, do we know?

What has it become?

And how did it form?

How does it walk downhill?

How does it kill?

How has it

Become so strong?

The Spider can’t spin its web around It

The Peacock’s majesty can’t repel it

The Sky can’t limit It

Our minds can’t fathom It

Prechorus

Hail the Lord

Chorus Repeat

Kong Kong Do (Translation)

V1

No words to say, although the river of speech has flown for a while

It has flown afar,

But not too far.

Wearing a kind of

Shimmer in the glow of light,

Gleaming and glimmering,

Isn’t that right?

V2

Forget it not, hard to forget

It beckons the memory.

For the vessel is lost, of Words.

Chorus

Kong Kong lives X6

Bridge

Appear if you can,

Not in fantasy and not dreams

Come if you may,

Bring your presence,

Reveal yourself.

Inviting Departure (Lyrics)
 
Where do we run ?
From our inviting Departure
Your invocation collapsed
On my doorCause we may leave to die today
There’s no end to new unexpected
And beginningDo you fear?
These are your projectory
Your mind cannot recover from the
Horror
My oh, mind don’t freakAll right
All wrong
The river flows over again
The offsprings aren’t
Stretched on
Gently flowing down the stream

The writer can be contacted at mewankharshiing@gmail.com