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Retro Kolkata Exclusive : Interview with Tetseo Sisters, Naga Folk Music Icon

Image © Tetseo Sisters
Tetseo Sisters are a quartet of sisters from Nagaland, India. They are devoted to the art and tradition of the Naga folk music and have been performing on stage since they were children. The Tetseo Sisters: Mütsevelü (Mercy), Azine (Azi), Kuvelü (Kuku) and Alüne (Lulu) grew up in Kohima, the capital of Nagaland. In 2012, they received the Trail Blazer Award at the 4th Nagaland Music Awards by Native Trax, along with Alobo Naga. In early 2014, they received the Eastern Panorama's Achievers Award for excellence in Music at Shillong. They have won the many prestigious awards including Trail Blazer Award, MTS Discover title, Governor's Award for Excellence in Music, Achievement Award for their contribution to Music in Nagaland. In 2019, Tetseo Sisters presented their music and storytelling art at the first ever Hornbill Festival Box Office Show. They have recited the National Anthem at the opening ceremony of the Pro Kabbadi League Season 1 in Kolkata . In 2021, Tetseo Sisters joined activists, celebrities and important personalities of the country to commemorate Network18's Mission Paani Waterthon and performed Live on National Television. They debuted a single "Paani Lizo" a tri-lingual song about the importance of saving water.

Retro Kolkata : First of all, thank you for accepting our invitation for an interview. Congratulations on completing over 28 years of musical journey. How does it feel to have been active for so long?

Tetseo Sisters : Thank you very much. It just feels like yesterday we were doing our first few shows. The journey has been wildly enriching and one with many learning curves. We have also seen through stormy weather and many challenges which made us relearn and rethink. For a career which has been driven by spontaneous and serendipitous growth and opportunities, we have worked hard to be realistic, relevant and relatable. We continue to learn and grow. There is still much ground to cover and plenty of milestones to look forward to.

Image © Tetseo Sisters

Retro Kolkata : Tetseo Sisters started their journey in 1994. Can you recall the moment of your debut show as a group? Has anything surprised you about it all so far?

Tetseo Sisters : Being on stage is a pure joy and thrill and it remains so today. From the adrenaline rush to the calm assurance of holding your audience captive and enjoying the music and your art! It is a great new high everytime especially when your audience respond and sing along with you. It is always surprising when the audience request your songs - especially the ones you didn't realise they were so familiar with.

Retro Kolkata : You have devoted your life to the art and tradition of Nagaland and have taken Naga Folk Music to a different level. Who has been your greatest guide, support, and source of inspiration in music? Who’s been standing beside you through your ups and downs?

Tetseo Sisters : Thank you. We have worked hard and so have our parents. Our parents have been our greatest support and of course, God's grace without which there will be no Music and no inspiration.

Also, our respective significant others and our team members. We all have different dreams but we aligned our passion to push through, all these years.

Image © Tetseo Sisters

Retro Kolkata : From your debut album ‘Li Chapter One : The Beginning’ to ‘We stand with her’, Tetseo Sisters has released a lot of hit albums & tracks. What professional expertise and learning experience did you bring home? How’s the experience and what’s the personal favourite track of Tetseo Sisters so far?

Tetseo Sisters : It is hard to choose and specify a favourite track. We all have our list of top 5 especially to perform. It is a continuous learning process - the writing, recording, production, branding etc. We are still learning and enjoy exploring and experimenting - to bring our signature touch to all that we do and take it to the next level.

Retro Kolkata : How strictly do you separate improvising and composing?

Tetseo Sisters : Inspiration drives it all. Sometimes it just feels stuck and then suddenly, it clicks. We are quite flexible but some things are best left alone to its original state. We do improvise a lot on stage or when performing live.

Retro Kolkata : In 2021, you released ‘Paani Lizo’, a tri-lingual song about the importance of saving water. How are you taking the message of the importance of water and water conservation to all over India? In both urban and rural areas.

Tetseo Sisters : We personally experience water crises and it is important for us to voice our concern and so the song. We have performed the song at several events and have made use of all available platforms to get the message out. Here's a shout-out to all Retro Kolkata Magazine readers to be mindful of water conservation. Every drop counts and you can make the difference! Thank you.

Retro Kolkata : Since you are on the scene for quite a long time we are sure you went through many challenges. Do you think in India perusing music professionally specially in the band circuit is still not a preferable option for all?

Tetseo Sisters : It's been done successfully but it is not easy - specifically for non Hindi music- but we encourage everyone who has a dream to follow it and find your way to wherever you need to be.

Retro Kolkata : Let’s talk about ‘O Rhosi’, which is a massive hit by the Tetseo Sisters. What was the creative process behind the amazing track. What was the story/concept behind the track?

Tetseo Sisters : Rhosi is a feeling and a mantra. To inspire and bring joy. And it just worked out like that. The mood just lifts through the song. And we have 3/4 versions of it and most people can't decide which one they like more- because it has become so popular over the years.

Retro Kolkata : In 2018, you have received the Governor's Award for Excellence in Music at a special function on the occasion of the Indian Independence Day at the Nagaland Raj Bhavan and the Achievement Award for your contribution to Music in Nagaland. How was the feeling when you heard the news?

Tetseo Sisters : It was a long time coming and we were not sure if to even expect it to happen. When it finally happened, we were relieved and happy. Sort of like a validation of all the work we had done but more for the joy of making music and not for an award. However, recognition is always sweet and acknowledgement of your work and contribution to society is always humbling and gratifying at the same time. Encourages you to work harder.

Retro Kolkata : Where do you think you are all happiest: In the studio recording new music, on stage performing or elsewhere?

Tetseo Sisters : We do have fun studio sessions especially brainstorming and writing but we are happiest on stage doing our thing.

Retro Kolkata : Who are some of your favourite artists right now? Who would you love to work with in the future? What would be a dream collaboration for Tetseo Sisters?

Tetseo Sisters : We are five very different people so our list is long. We listen to quite a range of music and enjoy many different genres.

Our dream Collab would be with AR Rahman, Amit Trivedi, Coke Studio and hmmm Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, any of the top K-pop groups, Perfume....the list is long.

Retro Kolkata : Any current plans for future releases?

Tetseo Sisters : Many new songs slowly coming your way including an independent film OST. Ten songs in English we hope our listeners will be thrilled to hear from us.

Retro Kolkata : We (Retro Kolkata) are trying to build one single stage for all the artists, because we believe that artists are the most beautiful creation of God and geographical boundaries can never break their unity and harmony. Please say something about our initiative and any special message for your followers. Tetseo Sisters : That's wonderful to know. Being an artist is a challenge and a joy and we thank all who make our journey as artists worthwhile. And we are glad to have the opportunity to touch, move and make people think twice with out art. Keep encouraging the arts because without art, the world will be less meaningful and plain.

Thank you for amplifying the work and stories of artists. Kudos to the Retro Kolkata Team.


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