There are few good things that have happened ever since the coronavirus took over the world, but for artists whose creativity is as restless as their passion, this came as a challenge to do more. Darjeeling based band, Meraki, released their first Nepali single on the 15th of May, alleviating many music lover’s lockdown blues.
Meraki is a five-man band comprised of Leewang Dorjay (vocals), Anmol Lomjail (guitars), Jayant Sundas (bass), Jai Rai (keyboard) and Ushang Bomzon (drums).
‘Biswas’ is the first song in the soon-to-be fully Nepali album, a change from their previous single ‘Better Together’ which by itself, a perfect song to keep up spirits during the lockdown. The YouTube description for the song is – “A major factor in everyone’s life, a foundation to any relationship. “Biswas” which means “trust” here is a basic concept of highlighting the deeper essence of love in relationships of any kind.”
ETC speaks to Leewang, the frontman of Meraki, who also won ‘Best Vocalist’ at the Hornbill International Rock Contest 2018, a memorable event since their performance at the HIRC catapulted them to fame in the hills. He discusses the writing process and what the band plans for the year ahead.
He begins by describing how the shift from writing an English song to a Nepali one wasn’t easy. “I realized that even though we are Nepali, it was difficult to write in the language”, says Leewang. “My mom is a writer, so she helped to make the lyrics sound grammatically correct. I did the tuning and lyrics but everything else, it was our guitarist, Anmol who did it. He sat down for days, mixing and mastering the track.”
Biswas has the rare ambient quality of making one feel as if they are sitting outside, ruminating on life and all that comes with it – which is a great feature, since many aren’t able to leave their houses.
It’s also their first step to Nepali music. “Next 16th, we’re releasing another track, Tadha Bhaye Pani”.
The lockdown imposed due to the pandemic has many feeling dismal about the situation, especially those who prefer to watch live music at restaurants, pubs and festivals. But Meraki has a grand plan to cure those blues. The band plans to release a song every 15th or 16th, for the next seven months, to bring the final tally up to eight songs which would be concluded as a full album by the end of the year.
Then, if the world has carefully prevented more positive cases of the COVID-19, they plan to perform and as with their previous shows in the hills, there is hope that it will be an excellent one.
Still, it is a wonder that the band is releasing music even when being socially distanced from one another and being confined to their homes. Leewang explains that they’ve all been working well online. “Currently, I’m based in Delhi but before coming here, we recorded everything possible and only mixing and mastering were left.”
The hills have always been famous for its tea, scenery and musicians. Every other person one meets, has their own story with music but when there are so many bands and solo artists, surely the competition must be brutal? Leewang disagrees. “Kurseong, Darjeeling… every place has many musicians but we all support each other when it comes to music. We don’t drag each other down. Plus, I’m a people person, so I have a lot of friends who push and criticize. The band takes honest criticism constructively.”
Are you ready for the next Meraki song to take you on a journey, as unique as only the band can create? We hope so.
UNB confronts racism and haters in his triumphant EP ‘Made In India’
By Palzor Machungpa
Gangtok, 12 April:
One meme said the best, “Punjab has Honey Singh, Mumbai has Divine, Bhopal has Dino James and Sikkim has UNB”.
UNB, short for Ugen Namgyal Bhutia has always been intent on making statements and bringing forth various issues of our society through his songs. By showcasing the social scenarios and his personal confessionals UNB rides high with his relatable song-writing and that soothing yet attention-seeking voice. With his new Extended Play, “Made in India” the multi-lingual rapper simply does what he does best, ‘speak his mind’.
Opening the EP is the one-minute long ‘Intro’ where he talks about the importance of Nepali community in the country saying that the Nepali language is one of the 22 languages recognized and encouraged by the Constitution of India. He goes on to explain that the album is a small effort from his side to shine the light on the importance and existence of the Northeast India as an integral part of the country.
In his second track titled, “Hum Bhi Kya Kam Hain”, Ugen raps about his struggles as a North-eastern musician following his dreams in the capital of the country. Musicians especially rappers have time and again explored the plight of being a Northeastern in India but UNB blends the struggle of a Northeastern trying to make it big with the important aspects of being a Northeastern and planting the message of patriotism at the forefront.
I read somewhere that in hip-hop, the personal is always political. The rapper is no stranger when it comes to showcasing his Northeastern-ness in his songs. Songs like ‘Call Me Indian’, ‘Jai Jai Khukuri’ which showcases his political frustrations are his best. In a year as tumultuous as 2020, UNB brings out the sonic uprising amidst the worldwide backdrop of coronavirus pandemic, racial discrimination and the systemic abuse of the majority over the minority that hits close to home. Tracks like ‘Made In China Nai’, ‘Dhoti’ does that and displays the rapper’s say in racial identities.
The remaining songs ‘On Point’, ‘Namastey’ and ‘Jal Barsey’ reveals the other side of the rapper as he sings about the haters and how he tries to make his underrated career work by focusing on what he does and not really indulging in the feuds.
Produced by the Egyptian music-producer, Fiftyanobeats the sound of the EP reflects the depth, strength and personal growth of the rapper. As always the strength of the album lies in the rapper’s deep appreciation for his family, the passion for his music and the love and respect for his community.
UNB has always been talking about his birthplace [Sikkim] in almost every song he puts out. He takes the listeners into the busy and vehicle-packed roads of Jamtok [sorry, Gangtok]. He has documented the specificity of his generation in the track ‘Badam Ko Lagi’ where he literally sings the nostalgic tune of the game.
UNB makes music to acknowledge the identity of Nepali speaking people in the country. He sings about breaking the societal norms and follow one’s passion. He sings about Sikkim, our home and its people and it is high time we listen attentively to this young and talented musician because gems like him need to be protected.
For more information about UNB, subscribe his YouTube channel ‘Kauso Entertainment’ or follow him on Facebook, Instagram and other social media handles.
His new EP ‘Made In India’ is available in all streaming formats across Spotify, iTunes and YouTube.
“MADE IN INDIA” – Sikkim born rapper UNB announces his new EP
“KAUSO ENT” also known as “KAUSO ENTERTAINMENT”, is a name that quite a number of Sikkimese people have probably heard about; it is an independent record label by UNB, a New Delhi based Rapper, producer, and an Engineer who hails from Gangtok, Sikkim. He has been making music since 2013. With more than 30 songs on YouTube, which have crossed millions, he has been able to create a strong fan base around the globe.
UNB announces his return with a brand new hip-hop project and the release of his upcoming 4th EP titled “MADE IN INDIA”. The forthcoming record is the follow-up to his 2019 self-titled EP ‘CHILAYO’ and is set to be released on April 12th 2020 on all major digital platforms. With a total of 06 original tracks, the EP is his first Hindi Project targeting a wider audience. UNB has recorded, mixed and mastered all of his tracks at his own home studio in New Delhi. Additionally, the songs have been produced by Fiftyanobeats, a young and talented producer from Egypt.
Talking about the title of the extended play the Sikkim born rapper says, “being an Indian Nepali and a North-eastern staying in New Delhi, it is tough when I have to explain my nationality every time I say I’m Nepali or every time they see my face or every time they listen to my songs. So, this EP is basically the voice of every north-eastern and Indian Nepalese who have to prove their nationality every time, just because they look different and they speak the language”.
Speaking to ETChronicle, UNB tells how he wants to explore more of the Desi Hip-Hop genre and expand his horizons by writing in Hindi. He speaks about how this EP not just addressing the broader issue of the identity crisis that most Indian Nepalese and North-eastern Indians face, it is also about his personal growth and his personal issues as an artist outside his home.
“The extended play reflects what we (Indian Nepalese) face outside our states, there might have been artists before me who have faced this identity crisis and xenophobia, but this is something that has been bugging me for a while,” says UNB.
He adds, “This is sort of exploration for me as well as this EP speaks about me as an artist, how I have felt the identity crisis, of not being Indian or a Nepalese in people’s views. I am trying to see how it goes with my Hindi writing, delving into Desi Hip-Hop as well.”
UNB also tells ETC about how he plans to come to Sikkim as he has seen a lot of movement for Hip-Hop in the state and how he wants to meet more people from the culture. He plans to organise a Hip Hop event to meet more artists from the hills before thinking of collaborating.
Lepcha folk band ‘Sofiyum’ gives a heady performance at TedXChennai
Sofiyum – the first of its kind Lepcha folk fusion band based out of Gangtok, was formed in the year 2011, with a common love for fusing traditional Lepcha folk songs with contemporary styles of music. It is a seven-member band with Mickma Tshering Lepcha on Vocals/Tungbuk/Puntong; Ongyal Tshering Lepcha on Vocals/Guitars/ Tungbuk; Phursong Lepcha on Vocals/Percussions; Choki Lamu Lepcha on Vocals/Percussions; Leeyong Lepcha on Guitars; Rathap Lepcha on Drums/Tangdar and Chyuzong Lepcha on Bass.
The band was formed with a common love for fusing traditional Lepcha folk songs with contemporary styles of music.
Recently, the band made its appearance at TedXChennai where the band mesmerised the audience with their folk music revealing the stories of fishing, animal freedom, and survival with modern music styles. The band also delivered a talk at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community.
Via TedxTalks, Learn more at https://www.ted.com/tedx