Taba Chake brings Nyishi to the indie scene: Singer-songwriter on performing in an Arunachal dialect, his artistic evolution

Writing songs was not as difficult as reaching out to people and sharing my words through my songs, says Taba Chake.

Devki Nehra December 05, 2020 14:00:28 IST
Taba Chake brings Nyishi to the indie scene: Singer-songwriter on performing in an Arunachal dialect, his artistic evolution

Taba Chake | Image from Twitter

The Indian indie music scene, dominated largely by English and Hindi, was introduced to the Nyishi dialect nearly a year ago when Taba Chake released his first ever EP, Bombay Dreams. Ever since, the Arunachali singer-songwriter's songs have recorded over 12 million streams across different platforms, and pre-pandemic, he was a fixture at many homegrown music festivals too.

What makes Taba Chake's music charming is the instant sing-along quality of his simple yet heartfelt lyrics combined with easygoing, folk-inspired melodies. He recently released his new single ‘Blush’, an endearing track that recalls the urgent longing of someone far, far away from the person they love.

This weekend, the finger style guitarist is set to perform at the virtual Bacardi NH7 Weekender, whose line-up includes the Australian jazz-funk quartet Haitus Kaiyote, Thai artist Phum Viphurit, US rapper Duckwrth and more.

Over an email interview with Firstpost, Chake, who is currently in his hometown of Khunglo, speaks about his creative journey, why he chooses to sing in the Nyishi dialect, and how he hopes to resume touring and meeting his fans soon.

Tell us a little bit about what the pandemic has been like for you and how you’ve been coping with quarantine blues (if any).

This lockdown has been very productive. For the first time in 15 years, I had time to do things I always wanted to do, like visiting my village Khunglo often. And I spent a lot of time with my parents and family, which I rarely got to do before. Also, I got to explore songwriting in different languages, like writing an Assamese song for the first time. I’m working on my spiritual growth as well.

Your music is so uplifting and relaxing. Can you tell us about your creative process, and who your influences and inspirations are?

I don’t belong to a musical family. My parents never went to school because the tribal community back then was different than what it is today. Today our community is welcoming and generous. When I was younger, my dad would tell me about his childhood in the jungle. For him, seeing a moving car or a bus was almost like spotting some kind of UFO. Arunachal Pradesh was a complete jungle till 1990, my dad says.

We are the first generation who grew up with buildings, telephones, roads and cars. For me, to learn how to play the guitar, writing songs, taking a flight to Delhi or Bombay or anywhere was like some kind of dream. My parents never knew about a career in music. I had to guide myself and leave my footsteps for the next generation. I have struggled a lot to become who I am today; writing songs was not as difficult as reaching out to people and sharing my words through my songs. Today, when people sing my songs back to me, I cannot help but tear up because everything seemed impossible to me. My life experiences inspired me to carry on my music.

There isn’t anything fixed about my creative process. I always sit with my guitar first — sometimes words come to me first and sometimes the melody, then I take it from there.

What does your pandemic playlist look like?

I don’t make playlists anymore. In the beginning, I would create playlists to improve my guitar skills and learn more about the art of songwriting. Now, to expand my learning, I watch and tune in to life experiences of people and the beauty of nature. I let my own words and tunes come from within me because I strongly believe in the saying, 'You become what you listen.' I just let my soul sing its meaning of life.

How have you evolved as a musician ever since you first released your music?

Learning is endless. I started music very early, and people have started listening to my songs only recently. I wrote songs like 'Blush', 'Meri Dastaan', and 'This is the Day', back in 2013. I feel that every artist is always evolving, as art and music originate from experiences and emotions. And we are continuously experiencing new things in life. So the learning and evolution processes don't stop.

Why did you choose to sing in the Nyishi dialect? Could you tell us more about your relationship with the dialect and its history? Also, how do people react when they realise you’re multi-lingual?

People are surprised when I sing my Hindi songs. Even today, 90 percent of the country thinks that people from the North-East do not speak Hindi, or have exposure to Hindi music. One of the primary reasons for choosing my image as the album cover for Bombay Dreams is to debunk this perception.

Nyishi is one of the major tribes in Arunachal Pradesh. There are about more than 30 dialects in our state, which is why we do not have any one language. As a child, it was difficult for me to understand Nyishi because my parents were practising Assamese.

The Nyishi dialect is fading fast, so in 2008, I decided to focus on giving more importance to this language. Being the first singer-songwriter from Arunachal Pradesh, it is my responsibility to preserve the Nyishi language for the next generation and to present my Nyishi culture to the world. I feel proud that through my songs, it is the first time that Nyishi songs are out on streaming platforms.

Taba Chake brings Nyishi to the indie scene Singersongwriter on performing in an Arunachal dialect his artistic evolution

Image courtesy of Bacardi NH7 Weekender

You are soon to perform at the very first virtual edition of the Bacardi NH7 Weekender. What can fans expect from your performance? Whose set are you most excited to watch?

I always wanted to become a part of the Bacardi NH7 family as it’s one of the most prestigious music festivals in our country. Getting the opportunity now to perform on the Dewar’s stage feels amazing, and I hope to perform live on their stage one day. For now, I am going to be marked at one of the virtual show histories, doing what moves me, and I am very excited to see our performance.

(Also read on Firstpost –Bacardi NH7 Weekender goes digital: From live shared experiences to global chats and watch parties, what's new this year)

Do you miss touring? How has the pandemic changed the way you interact with your fans?

I miss touring the most. I loved meeting and interacting with my fans after every show. Their love and support has been overwhelming, in my journey so far. I hope I get to hit the road again soon. However, I believe everything happens for a reason.

In your opinion, what does the post-pandemic independent music scene in India look like?

To be honest I can’t predict anything at this point.

If you want your fans to take away any one thing from your music, what would it be?

Can’t be one thing. I want to say just three words: love, hope and peace.

We live in the age of widespread social movements, be it MeToo or Black Lives Matter. What role do you think your music plays in giving marginalised communities visibility?

To be honest, I don’t know. I just hope to create more curiosity among people about where I come from, and the Arunachali culture, through my music and my identity.

Is there anything exciting you’re currently working on? What’s next for you?

Nothing excites me more than writing new songs. Very soon you’ll get to hear me sing in more languages.

Bacardi NH7 Weekender 2020 will stream online on 5 and 6 December.

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