In 2014, when Taba Chake performed at the Ziro Music Festival in Arunachal Pradesh, there were only a handful of people in the audience who came to listen to him. When the 29-year-old singer-songwriter performed at the Pwlo (night) stage on the first day of the festival a few days ago, there were thousands of fans chanting his name and screaming out their love for him. It’s been a long journey from his village in Papum Pare district in north-eastern Arunachal Pradesh, performing in bands in Delhi and Mumbai, and then beginning his solo journey a decade ago.
The singer-songwriter who writes and sings in five languages—including English, Hindi, Nepali, Assamese and his own language Nyishi—released his studio album Bombay Dreams in 2019 with songs in English, Hindi, and Nyishi. Earlier this year, he released his Hindi single “Udd Chala” which has 2.9 million views on YouTube. It was also one of the most in-demand songs at the Ziro Music Festival, and Chake obliged by singing it for his fans at the festival.
A big fan of old Hindi songs, he obliged us by crooning the first two lines of his all-time favourite track ‘Tareef Karoon Kya Uski’ when we chatted with him about his journey and upcoming album.
1.How does it feel to perform in your own place among your own people and that too on the Ziro Music Festival stage? Do you feel you have arrived?
I don’t know about that! (laughs) It always feels good to come back here and perform but I always get nervous when I perform in front of my own people and I know how clever they are! I don’t want anything to happen to me if I make any mistake! (laughs) I don’t want to disappoint my people. I just want to make them feel proud.
2. You divide your time between Mumbai, Delhi, and Arunachal Pradesh. Can you tell us a bit about your experience in each of these places?
I love Arunachal Pradesh, of course. Delhi is where I started my music journey. It has taught me a lot and I have a lot of friends there, but Mumbai is the place where I started getting so many tunes and lyrics in my head. I feel this place has so many emotions. You see people working hard and you think to yourself, “What am I doing? I should also be working hard!”
3. Can you tell us a bit about your evolution as a singer-songwriter and what inspires you?
I started my music journey with metal and pop, and of course, rock. I studied jazz when I went to music college and can play it. I decided to write and sing my own songs, and perform in my language including others. I have an experience of different genres but what really inspires me is the journey. It is when you step out of your comfort zone that you get to understand yourself better and get inspired to write about your own life. I am still exploring and getting to know myself better.
4. You write and sing in many languages, including your mother tongue Nyishi as well as in English. Which language do you like singing most in?
I get nervous when I am asked this question because I write and sing in different languages. I am still trying hard to write in Nyishi because I feel that people are forgetting the language. My idea is to write songs in my own language because I want to inspire my people. Writing in your own language can be difficult because you don’t always get the right words to express your emotions. When I write my songs, I need to call up my elders or visit my village to ask them about the words to express certain emotions. English and Hindi are fine, although the pronunciation of the latter is slightly different. I am very good at Assamese.
5. Who are some of your musical inspirations and some of your favourites?
I grew up listening to many genres, including old Bollywood songs, Pakistani bands as well as Chinese and Japanese music. I listen to a lot of music so it is difficult for me to pick one genre or artist. These days, thanks to music streaming platforms such as Spotify, iTunes, and YouTube, one just has to type the name of a genre and can listen to so many artists. One doesn’t even have to know the artist which is better because then one can focus on the tunes, the melody and the lyrics.
6. Can you tell us how important the Ziro Music Festival is for the people of Arunachal Pradesh?
I think it is because of this festival that a lot of people from our villages have come to know about the outside world and vice versa. A lot of cultural exchange has happened which is good. We have artists, writers and performers in Arunachal Pradesh but we are shy by nature. I want more Arunachali people to come out and perform the way we did at Ziro so that more people come to know about our culture. People come to the music festival and see our paddy fields and beautiful valleys but if we want more people to understand our culture, we need to come outside and express ourselves so that more people from the rest of the country understand us.
7. Is there a new album/single in the pipeline that you can tell us about?
Yes, there are a bunch of songs releasing in the near future. You will get to hear and watch them in a few weeks.
8. Lastly, what message would you like to give to your fans?
I just want to thank everyone. I cannot do things alone—it is because of my humble listeners who like my story, my writing, my songs and my journey that I am here. I just want to hug everyone and say thank you.