Nagaland/October 29 Kohima/Interview/Nikon/DSC_0001.MOV
You should become a production manager for films, ya.
Yeah. The speed with which you work and get things organized, na, solid assistant director to have.
All your deep dark secrets.
I loved one part where we’re discussing the components of the song, the stanza and I was like, there’ll be four syllables and five…and part of the frame, Lulu’s fingers… And we left it in the corner…
Actually we ourselves haven’t seen it.
We haven’t seen any of it actually.
On the camera a little bit. But, we never see it. We just kind of fast forward it to see what the frames are looking like – Okay, we have these kinds of a frames. We never actually sit and look through the entire footage until we get back.
Then I like that you people got the big---working. But you can figure what’s going on. Then oh, okay, the guy is facing the wrong…
Basics. Just your background, what you studied. About when you were in Delhi, what did you do?
Where you grew up. Where you were born…
Shall I just start off? My name?
Your name we know. But actually, I don’t know your full Naga name. Your official name.
It’s kind of a tongue twister. Mutsevelu. Mutsevelu Tetseo. A lot of people find it really hard to pronounce my name. Even in school, it was tough for everybody. So, one of my teachers used to call me by the first part, Mutse, Mutse, Mutse. And then our catholic principal, he misheard it, okay, and he called me Mercy. So then, he started calling me Mercy and then everybody started calling me Mercy.
That’s how you got the name? That’s hilarious. I thought maybe, like in Kerala - Christian names? They always have one Christian name and one local name. So I thought maybe you guys had similar practices.
A lot of … were catholic when we were in school. So…
And Mercy is a very
Yeah, very Christian name. But no, it’s not. Okay, it’s a Christian name of course. But,
I was born in … village. A long time ago! And, I was brought up in Kohima. I did my schooling from the Don Bosco school. All of us, my brother and sisters did our schooling from the Don Bosco. Now its Don Bosco Higher Secondary School, Kohima. Then I did my eleventh and Twelfth from Kohima Science College. Then I went to Delhi, did my graduation and Master’s from Delhi University. I studied Psychology and specialized in organizational behavior. And then in the mean time, the music was going on. After I finished my graduation, I worked a bit, for almost a year. But, off and on, we were working with music, fashion and all the stuff. Then, whenever we get time, we come home and we catch up with the music scene; what’s going on. So we’ve been following up with the music all through. And, not at a very professional level as such, but first we started it as a hobby kind of thing then it started going into our scheme of things. We don’t really plan but it just works out like that. Like if a good programme comes than we join in. then in holidays we try to catch up with what’s going on. And in the mean time if we get invited to festivals and all we go and participate. So it’s been going on like that.
You did your master’s also?
Why did you do psychology?
Initially, I thought I was doing medicine, but then, with music and everything I thought it might get too hectic/ so the other alternative was psychology which was really interesting for me. I thought I’ll become a clinical psychologist. But I’m doing my master’s and graduation an dI’m teaching my Ma! So I took up organizational behavior. That way I’d still be dealing with people and studying some human emotions and what not. But not really on a, um, won’t get too heavy on me because you know clinical psychology…that’s really deep.
What’s your earliest memory of music?
Sitting with mom? My first memory is actually western music, not folk music. When I was, I think around three or four years old, my dad and my mom, they had a huge collection of old CD’s, I mean, old cassettes. They used to listen to Abba, Pussycats and Carpenters you know? They used to play the songs and we used just dance around the house. I’d put on my mom’s skirts and they were really long and I’d just twirl around the room in tune with the song. Yeah that’s my earliest memory.
My mom and dad, they had a huge collection of cassettes. And I ruined everything because I was experimenting with recording my own tapes. So I would just press the record button and put any available cassette in it and then I’ll start singing. Then half way through the song I’ll be like, ‘No, not this one, another one.’ And then I’ll be thinking about what song to sing next and I’ll just record nursery rhymes or whatever comes to my mind. So, I’ve ruined a couple of cassettes. But more than that I had this idea of taping us, so if Azi or Kuko, my brother for that matter, if they are crying or something, I’ll tape it and provoke them or make fun of them and make them cry more. We used to do a lot of stuff like that when we were younger. Now that we’re older we don’t do that anymore.
And as far as music goes, what you guys are doing now, where, you personally, what would you like to do with it?
For a long time we’ve just been doing what we’re doing. We didn’t really have a direction, as in, we’re not ambitious like ‘Oh, we’ll do this or we’ll do that’. But nowadays, we’re thinking of making some concrete things out of it so we’re now working on an album which has been taking forever. And so, we’re planning to maybe do, I don’t know, the plan is like to make three albums. We’re thinking like chapter 1, chapter 2, chapter 3. So, chapter 1 we’re planning to do a pure folk album which will be like tracing the beginnings of folk music and how we got into it. And then maybe the next album will have some fusion music and some folk too, an expansion of the first album. Then thirdly, we’d like to branch out into pure fusion music, like world music. That’s like our dream for now. And now that we have … and the world wide web to help us we’d like to put it out there. So we can share what we have. We don’t really know how far we can go but that’s just the dream we have.
She’s fallen asleep.
Just personal history. Like what you did – school, college…
Okay, I was born in Kohima and we all studied in the same school. Yeah, Don Bosco Higher Secondary and then I did my plus two from …higher secondary – arts. And then I moved to Delhi and I did my graduation from Lady Sriram College, Sociology Honours.
Did you enjoy being in Delhi?
Yeah. So, you didn’t want to stay on there?
I was also part of the Western Music Society in LSR. I did it for three years. Now I got admitted into IGNOU for my master’s in Sociology.
And you’re doing that from here?
Yeah, yeah, from Kohima.
What are your earliest music memories? What do you remember first listening to or singing?
I guess, the two of us listening to our mom teaching our sister. Try to repeat after them.
That’s folk music?
Yeah. Both folk music and western.
Because we like to mimic them na? Imitate them.
What’s the age difference?
Lulu is ten years younger.
They could sing and I would cry.
Did you go to Delhi?
Yeah, I’ve been there for various shows.
But you didn’t go there to study?
No, I haven’t been there for studies.
Only for exams and holidays.
Do you plan to?
Yeah, I am planning to.
When are you planning to go there?
I’m not sure about…I’m planning to go later, maybe for…I’m not sure. But I like Delhi.
What kind of music do you guys listen to aside from, I mean, generally?
Pop, rock, alternative, yeah, mixture of everything. Hindi also, Korean, Chinese…
How about folk from other parts of India?
We do listen.
I like ghazals. I don’t know about them.
Ghazals, as in the lyrics or…
We don’t really get what is going on right? But the detail is very nice. And then of course, hindi, Bollywood music.
I am very much interested in Hindi dance movements.
Lulu has done lots of dancing in school.
I would like to learn Kathakali or something.
That’s pretty awesome. I notice that you guys take a lot of care with your costume. Why did you decide to go with full traditional Naga, like, was that a conscious decision or was it just the obvious thing to do? How did you guys decide?
It wasn’t really a conscious decision. But along the way, of course, when we started out it was like, a lot of people were embarrassed to wear the full traditional dress you know? But then we were like brave. Because, in a way, if you’re in full traditional dress, you stand out in a crowd right? At a point in time, when everybody is going so western, you go back to your old ways and put on something like that, everybody is so curious and then you get a lot of attention . So, then along the way we started adding more elements to it. And then I think we added a couple of colours too. So it makes it …more. I won’t say it’s a conscious decision but, maybe…
How do you guys design your stuff?
It’s a long process of arguing! But then, we do have some sort of guidelines right? I mean, our culture is such that there are specific occasions and then the specific occasion calls for certain colours or certain costumes. WE have a variety of costumes to choose from. So, accordingly we pick up something which we like and then ….because we’re wearing it right? So, I think that’s how we have come to a place where we put in all ideas and then make something.
I do the sketching.I sketch the dresses.
Do you have sketches?
Not right now.
The starting rainfall in winter?
There is not…but you know, it drizzles a bit and then the temperature suddenly drops.
Actually winter is about to start…
But October 15th, winter starts in Kohima. This year it’s been weird okay? Because it didn’t rain at all in October. Normally in the summer, it rainsan dteh monsoon will last till the first week of October. So it will be raining non-stop every day until 3rd or 2nd October. Then we have a brief respite for like maybe two weeks when there’s no rain and it’s really sunny and warm. Then towards the 20th or maybe23rd-24th, it rains like crazy for three or four days and then it’s officially winter. This year it hasn’t happened!
Yeah, it was not raining. But the temperature has rapidly changed since we came.like when we firstmet you guys, the first couple of days, it was quite nice. It was like not cold at all. Now it’s just crazy.in just like two three weeks.
It’s a good thing we went for a shoot yesterday.
Today has become really cold. Headaches will start. Where were we?
The design, costumes.
So, how do you like source the, I mean, does your mum, help you with the stuff? How to like, or is it just, I mean?
No, Mom helps and then sometimes there are specific technicalities, then we get in touch with other people. For the weavers and all, my mom used to weave a lot. She made most of our clothes with her own hands. But now it’s a tiring process, so she’s stopped doing that and then she has some other ladies who do that. So, we place our orders with the specifications and they make it for us. Then we get it stitched or we add the beads and all that. That stuff we do ourselves. And we make all the beadings for our earrings and everything – we make it ourselves. And even the jewelry we wear, they are inheritances of our mother from her mother. From our grandmother! So our mom has split it up into like four portions for us four sisters and I wasn’t there when they re-did it. But recently fixed the whole thing because after some time vteh whole thing, threads and everything will break right so they did the whole thing again. So we have parts of our grandmother’s jewelry with us, all of us.
Did you meet your grandmother?
Yeah, yeah, all three of us.
Tell us about your grandmother.
My mom’s mother, our grandmother, she was the only daughter among I think she had eight brothers. She was the youngest and her father was one of the wealthiest men in her village. So she was brought up, not really spoilt, but, you know, she had eight brothers. And she was really tall and beautiful like her mother – we sang that song about our great grandmother. In our village at least, the ideal beauty is like, broad forehead, thick long dark hair and strong limbs and arms and then nice skin. These were like the pre requisites of beauty. So my grandmother had all that. She also had a lot of property to her name even though she was a daughter. And she was a good singer herself. So, then she learned the songs which were sung for her mother. There are songs about her too but I am not really sure which ones are the ones. Then she taught them to my mother too. What else? She married early and she had four daughters. My mom was the youngest daughter. From her first marriage that is.
So she had two, we’ve heard it already but tell the story of her two marriages.
Okay, she got married to another wealthy young man, our grandfather. Then, there was the uprising –the … war between the Indian army and the Nagas. Our grandfather was with the Naga national movement and he joined the army and they had to go underground. Later on he was caught and they sent him to jail, Tihar or other parts of India, we’re not sure. So I think for seven years he didn’t make an appearance and they heard rumours that Grandfather had died in jail.So after seven years, my mom – My mom was born after my grandfather was jailed. So she didn’t see her father at all. And then around seven years after Grandfather disappeared, Grandmother re-married. Then the year she re-married, news came that Grandfather had been transported to Kohima jail and he was sick. So, it was a huge blow for her. And it was so much drama because Grandmother was re-married and Grandfather was still alive! So it seems she went and met him in prison and they somehow made some sort of peace or something and Grandmother came back and lived with her new husband. And she had three sons and a daughter from her second marriage. So, Grandfather, I think he died in jail, the same year.
So are you in touch with the rest of the grandmother’s second family?
Yes! My grandmother had twin boys from the second marriage. But they both unfortunately passed away. But two other siblings, they still are there in our village and we’re pretty close. They have children the same age as us, not us. Their children are our age. We aren’t that close, but, you know, when they’re in Kohima they come to visit us an dwhen we go to the village we go and see them. Then as is the tradition, during harvest and all, they keep sending us stuff… They keep sending us. Yeah and at Christmas, we send them cakes, sugars.
Are there any songs that were written around the time of the war? Like in folk songs?
I’m not very sure okay, about the timeline of the songs but there must be new songs too, I’m sure. But then, more probably the old songs have been repeated? I remember in 1989 or when we had our pre- jubilee celebrations in the village they’d put up a drama with all the folk songs depicting the war and how people would run into the forests to hide from the army.
You weren’t born then.
We weren’t born then, yeah.
You were saying that your parents also had to live in the forest for a little while no?
Yeah. My dad is like eight years older than mom, so he explains all that. Right after independence, There was the struggle between the Nagaland government, not the government, the Nagas and the Indian Government. So we were fighting for our independence and during that time, I think it was some time co-inciding with the Chinese invasion of India I guess. So there were huge uprisings and then the Indian army came and burned the villages in the eastern Naga region. So whenever the army comes and burns the villages then people have to run to safety. So they spent 3-4 years living in the wilderness, in the jungle ,making makeshift camps every night, moving from one spot to another if they see the army coming.
They had to live through those times. Even my mom, she was the youngest in the family. SH eused to tell us stories that when she was like three years they had to run back to the forest. They lived on pumpkins and leaves so my mom hates pumpkin leaves. Because obviously, they couldn’t cultivate rice and they were scared to make fire in the night. And our village is like really cold, so it was really harsh for them. They lived in harsh conditions and they lived on just maize, pumpkins and then squash leaves. Luckily for us, we have a lot of vegetables, wild vegetables, so we have a…
About living in the jungles? What were you saying?
We’re saying yeah,it was hard living in the jungle, in the cold and everything.
On a different track since you are the youngest, when did you start singing?
When did you start singing as Tetseo Sisters, under that name?
So you were four of five at that time when the band started?
Oh, so you wer e singing, performing publicly even when you were like four or five?
Yeah, on TV.
Do you have like footage of that?
They still broadcast the programme.
And Mom made these small costumes for them okay, they looked so cute.
Oh okay, maize.
Lulu was like so cute. And my dad made her a miniature puppy and she could barely play and she’d come and… Azi and me were in Delhi already by then, so they would get calls from people requesting the Tetseo Sisters and since we were in Delhi we wouldn’t be able to come, right? So my mom got them …
So it’s been mostly the two of you together and the two of you together because eof the age difference. So, have you always like wanted to do music fulltime? What’s been your like dream?
More like a hobby. I haven’t been thinking as fulltime. I’m planning to join medical after next year.
Is that because it’s difficult to survive on music or because you do want to do…
Yeah, because I want to do something else along with the singing.
How has it been for you guys like generallytrying to get like concerts and trying to perform? Is it easy, do you have to go hunting for it?
In a way, now that we have a reputation as performers so it’s not that difficult to get gigs. But then it’s difficult to get the kind of gigs you want to perform at? In terms of compensation … it’s not that difficult to get gigs.
What about the audiences? Are there audiences you enjoy performing to or like…?
We have had a variety of audiences. But he audience from the nineties when we started and the audience now are totally different. Now they’re more receptive to folk music and stuff. Back then when we just started, it was like, okay, in a way it was a novelty of sorts; three or four young girls sing folk songs, ‘Oh cute!’ and that’s about it. But now, I think, now that we’ve matured as performers, now, we can get the respect we want and even the appreciation has gone up. And then people are actually interested in what we are singing about. They’ll sit with us and we have chats about what we’re singing, how we started and why we started and all that. Before it was just a show.
When you go outside of the North East do you find like that people are somewhat aware of the music or are they curious or have they heard it before? What’s the general reaction?
Most times, it’s brand new, so the reaction’s been mostly positive. Kuku has spent a lot of time in LSR playing our music.
Yeah? How was that? What did you do?
I sang on my fresher’s day and then some assemblies, morning assemblies. And the lecturers really liked it. They’re very much interested in our ornaments and where it comes from and the story behind it.
In a way, it sort generates interest and keeps building up? I think outside the North East lots of curiosity.
Do they like, one thing, because we’ve been meeting folk musiciansin a lot of places, one thing that we’ve got form a lot of people is that folk music is sometimes not taken as seriously as classical, your typical classical music. Both the music and the musicians… Have you faced that at all?
I don’t know about the rest of the country.
No, I’m saying completely from your own personal experience.
The North East, even the army states, I’m not sure if they have the Guru system or something. Actually, we don’t have that. So then there’s specific music belonging to each tribe. I think there’s a mutual respect in that sense. Obviously there’s no institution carrying on the traditions, there’s no formal training system, nothing like that. So in that sense, it’s very loosely based but I wouldn’t say that it’s considered inferior or whatever. I think there is a healthy respect from all quarters for all kinds of art forms. At one point there was a lot of promotion for western music and classical music but Indian classical music has not quite caught on the imagination out here. But in the recent years, at least maybe the last ten years or so, there’s been much attention and concentration on music as in folk music and efforts at promoting folk music. But there are still very few groups who actively sing folk music on the stage like we do. I think there’s only one group, one other group, from another tribe.The rest, you do have performers who sing on stage for people, but they don’t have a formal band or a set up like that. So if there’s a function, they bring somebody from the village or a group from this place and that place, whatnot, but no formal group.
I think what’s really nice though is the fact like that almost everybody knows some form of the music, at least it seems like that to us. Because like I was saying in the Church no, you just hear the music and you know that everybody has a…and also very interesting because, you usually think of like music when you’re in like communities where, which is usually like modern you know, not everybody sings, everybody’s like, you don’t hear music growing up or whatever. It’s quite different. And then you hear people say ‘Oh, I’m terrible at music, I can’t keep a tune’ and then when you hear, like it’s possible like for an entire like huge community, where everybody sings well, that’s like, it’s nice.
I think all of us can sing. So, whether it’s classical music or folk music everybody has been exposed to some sort of music. We are pretty musical.
With one or two exceptions, the rest can all join in. So maybe in a way, it raises the standard of musicality because everybody can sing and you have to be really good to be special to stand out from the crowd. Yeah at the same time, there’s a mass of very expert listeners… And then the appreciation is also double in that sense right? When you really think about it, if everybody can sing, then it’s pretty common, but it’s not like that. It’s like everybody can sing so they appreciate good music even more. It doesn’t matter whether it’s folk or pop or rock or … everybody has different tastes of course, but then, music is music.
Aside from your mum, who all did you learn songs from? Did you learn from anybody else?
My father. Mostly I think my mom. If she actually, forgets a part of a folk song she calls them up and…
We have been working with Ben Hangri. We do have some sort of drums, bamboo clangers and the cup violin and we do have some violin elements in the…used by the other tribes. So we’ve incorporated all the sounds into a new…and we want to put in some new natural sounds like bird calls and the sounds of the water rushing down. Sounds like that in the fusion music.
And have you recorded any tracks so far?
We’ve recorded one, it’s a dance track. It’s called O Rhosi. We’re hoping to launch it at the Hornbill festival this year.
Oh very cool. So does it have vocals of only the four of you or does it have others also?
This one has vocals by us.
Can you do one sample singing now? You need the background music for it?
Otherwise it sounds like folk right?
Okay, okay, then we’ll hear when…
I can sing it for you, not a problem.
You can sing the version without the
Oh without the fusion part, right.
It goes like that.
I can imagine how it can turn into a…
You finished your questions?
Yes, I have.
You want to add something Lulu?
Any last words? Yeah, words of wisdom?
Be happy? I thought it’d be ‘I wasn’t born then’.
Does Li mean something or it’s just the name?
Li means song.
In Chokri dialect.
How often do you guys sit and sing together?
Most weekends, Sunday evenings.
All of you?
Whoever is around. But there’s more argument than singing.
Argument about what?
About eh voices, technique, picking up each other’s mistakes and you know. My mom call sit popcorn bursting… we’ll sing a line and we’ll be like you did that wrong, you did this wrong…and then ‘No, no, this is how’ and… instead of singing we’re arguing. It sounds like popcorn.
One of the first events right, when we started promoting culture, it was a school dance festival where they mad eall schools to come with cultural dance or folk music. So we started the group together and then mom volunteered to teach us folk dance and that’s how we got started. So it was like eleven or twelve of us little girls and mom taught us a folk dance and folk song to go with it, that’s how we got started. And then in Church also we had traditional Sundays. So everybody comes wearing the traditional shawl and we sing all the folk songs, traditional songs of those days. So we’d just sit down on Sunday evenings and she started teaching us a few new songs every week and then it just became a process. So we try to do that even now, whenever we all get together .
For the sweet beer, you can use left over rice or sticky rice. If it’s left over rice, after you cook rice, dry it under the sun, separate the rice bits and then you add little… and put water…
Only for this purpose. So they would be blending lots of it but a section of it …It comes in three colours, it seems, this grain. Red, white, oh four, red, white, brown and black. It’s fragrant and it has colours. So you just add one handful to the pot of rice it will turn black.
Is it the same thing that is used for clothes and all also?
Navy blue, yellow, orange. Red’s a new colour.
Red is a new colour? That’s really funny because when you think of the typical Naga shawl that you get everywhere, it’s always got likered. It’s actually slightly orange.
What is the meaning of the two songs, not like word to word, the two songs that, the one that all of you sang?
I don’t know if you experienced that in Phek, but when people go out to work in the field, they stop somewhere, keep the food baskets and stuff so they can come back on the return journey and feast before thay head back home.SO this is a song which is sung after you finish a hard day’s work and then come back and stop with all the different groups. Even if you’re working in different groups the whole day, in the evening all the groups come together , make a fire and then sing this song, refresh ourselves and then go back home to their respective places. So it’s one of the songs which is sung then.
We didn’t see, when we were there, each group was doing their own feasting. They didn’t all do it together.
Right , right. So in their fields, they do their separate lunching and then in the evening, before they head back to their village, they do a, they sit down together and have a small gathering. So that’s one of the songs that is sung then.
There’s one song that I want to hear all of you sing which is that, your grandmother’s song.
What was the discussion?
We’re just picking the parts, the voices.
So it doesn’t change by depending on where you are sitting huh?
Do you fight about parts?
It’s about our grandmother…
That is her name?
What is the song saying?
It’s a song praising her beauty, her brains, her graciousness, her sweet temper.
Sweet temper, what does that mean?
And her gracefulness in form as well as behavior. They compare her beauty to the necklace of the Nagas, especially the … necklace…the orange beads, which glows really a warm orange. So they’re comparing her beauty to the orange glow. And they say she’s perfection personified. Neither is she too tall, nor too short, nor too fat or thin, just perfect.
Oh wow. So, when was the song written?
A long time back.
No as in, like, how old was she?
Oh okay. Maybe when she was around 17 -18?
Oh when she was that young?
We have this tradition of sending out the young beautiful girls to look after the cows in the forest. The mithuns and the cowherds. So the cowherds were supposed to be the most beautiful girls and there was…they send out the beautiful girls to distract the warriors… So then the village warriors can set up a counter attack or something. So our great grandmother was one of the young ladies. But her beauty was really famous. SO people used to come and peek at her. And they used to compose songs and woo her in the forest singing songs about her. So they got passed on and people learned it and it’s been passed on to us as well. Because in the olden days, girls used to get married really early, so 16 -17, that’s like when they are at their beautiful best. By 18 they’re mostly married.
…So the only indication of your marital status will be your hair.
So there are no songs about her long hair, her beautiful long hair. Because if you write songs like that then it means that girl is already married.
She’s about to be married. Then you can say, ‘Oh!’ . That’s why most of the folk songs which are extolling the beauty of the girl will be like ‘Oh you already have like really beautiful hair, that means you’re betrothed to somebody. So too bad for me!’
Oh, so it’s not what a beautiful bald head, you look like the moon…
It’ll be more like - Oh, too bad I didn’t see you before. Or, somebody’s already taken you away. Or somebody better than me must have found you first. Most of the songs are like that in a very subtle way.
It’s very interesting because it’s the other way round. So it like, if your husband dies or something, you’re asked to shave off your head no? All the beauty kind of goes with the hair in this thing. But otherwise they are always told to grow their hair. That’s very interesting.
For us it’s a little different. There are instances where some people, they’ll just accept any proposal which comes so that they can grow their hair. And once they get married, They can always divorce the husband right and yeah…but now they can get to keep their hair. Yeah, that was the practice. But with the coming of Christianity, everybody started growing their hair. That was pretty recent, 1936 right? … What else?
…war cry. This is a specific war song, right? For folk dances and all it’s an absolute must. So there, anyway there you have males, females dancing together so it’s not a problem. We have a dance number so for that we have to …
My brother, he doesn’t know how to do the war cry.
He doesn’t sing folk songs.
He does sing with us.
No, in concerts he…
Yeah, yeah, she’s rehearsing for her thing.
But, we’re not going to do so many folky numbers on that. Maybe, 5 to 6 songs.
Fusion meaning, fusion with what?
Western, Jazz, Indian everything. We have one already which is like slightly techno…
Have you performed those in concert?
We’ve performed it once. Last Sunday. There was this young leaders’ connect thing organized by the youth … of Nagaland, so we…
That’s the song about the cherry blossoms.
It’s really nice.
It goes like, remembering…I remember the times, the days when the cherries were in bloom. The beech trees were white and pink and about to be laden with fruit. They were so beautiful, I just wanted to pluck it and put it in my hair and then, I hope one day I’ll grow into a beautiful girl and somebody will look at me and, you know, look at me with that same, not with a bad intention but, like, you know, I’ll be worth plucking from a tree and then adorning somebody ,right? Something like that. And then there’s a parallel line which is going in the same, uh, the flower looks so pretty I wish I could pluck it and hold it in my hands or use it to beautify myself. But then, a plain face like me would detract from the beauty of the flowers instead the flower’s beautifying me. So it’s like self deprecatory.
Yeah, a lot of the humuor is like that. Even the love songs and all that, somebody better than me will come and take you.
Yeah, it’s always like that.
Very interesting that you have…
Even in the songs which you’re inviting other people to join you, it’s like ‘Oh why don’t you come and sing with me but I don’t have a nice voice. If I had a nice voice I would be singing non-stop.’ Something like that. ‘But then since I don’t have a nice voice maybe you wouldn’t like to sing with me, but anyway, just for old time’s sake and for the good times, come and join us.’ Something like that.
These are all group songs?
Yeah, most of the group songs start out like that and then when they come to the end of a folk song, there’s a typical verse which goes like, ‘ I wish I could sing more beautiful stuff about you but this is all I can come up with, so I humbly desist or I humbly end my song here.’ It’s stuff like that. And then in … language it’ll be like ‘I don’t know if my song was up to the mark or if it was pleasing to you but let me tell you I did my best and that’s all I could come up with so forgive my shortcomings.’ And even the songs which talks about hospitality and all it ends up with saying ‘Maybe our rice beer was too sour for your liking or maybe the seasoning was too less, but when you leave this place think fondly of us. Maybe, come back, hoping this time we’ll give you sweeter wine.’ Or something like that. It’s always like that.
Maybe we should end our film like that…
…Two different melodies with the same lyrics okay?
Syllable use…lyric is like … Do she mo rie - four syllables, do ke da te le – five syllables right? So it’s a verse of four and five syllables and we’ll use it in two different songs, but the same lyrics.
Okay, but I have to pause you for one minute.
SO that’s like two different songs but both with the …But the chorus is a little different. SO like I was saying each song has a character with a difference right? So it can mean two different things, two stories in one folk song. So you can use the same lyrics to all the other songs too.
So do you ever sing like the same thing continuously from one, like, is it, would you only choose to sing one form or switch?
We do medleys. Yeah we do a lot of medleys. We do like, to make things interesting right, sometimes we start with a slow song and then we go into a faster one and then end with another slow one? Or just do a continuous medley like jumping from one melody to another and then coming back to where we started… it’s the nature of folk songs right to keep changing because you must have noticed even the war songs they start with a slow tempo and then it keeps growing and building and then it slows down again. So those are different songs put together and the other stuff we do. And normally the folk songs are really long because has a specific purpose right? So they’re sitting by a fire and cooking meat and singing one song; until really the dish is ready they’ll be sing the same song. But we can’t be doing that on the stage right? So we shorten it and then just mix it up. Yeah we do what we can to spice it up. Now everybody wants it short and sweet. Nobody wants a seven minute folk song. Yeah, but some of the songs… you can’t end it half-way right?
So you’ll have to finish the whole story.
Yeah we do that. Or another cool thing is like you can start with the melody and continue the story and as the story progresses you change the melody and go into another one. We do that also. But for that, it has to be somebody who understands the lyrics right? But even if we tell them like this song is about I don’t know whether they …but most of the songs for example, there is a song on the … even if you don’t know the melody you can figure out what it’s about. Or with a lullaby…
I think lullabies are universal in any country.