Alobo Naga and Band, all set to perform in New Delhi this Friday as part of the two-day North East Festival, talk about their songs of hope

Provincial as most of us are, when two people from a region meet, the question ‘where exactly are you from?’ does come up. In this case, it was with a hilarious story that one recalls the other’s hometown in the strife-torn Northeast. “My first performance as a musician was in your town (Golaghat, on the Assam-Nagaland border). I was a kid then, singing at the town hall with a bunch of other kids when suddenly a group of armed CRPF men came trooping in, stepped on to the stage and stared at us. We were obviously as frightened as the audience and cowered. And then one of them ordered, ‘Oi, Border film ka gaana Sandese aate hain ga’.”

The raconteur who evokes a loud laugh from me is Alobo Naga, a popular Rock singer from the region today. Alobo, besides being a soloist and one of the handful of Indians to have the prestigious LRSL certificate from Rock School, London, is part of a 2010-born five-member band that has quite a few achievements to its name already. Say, the 2012 Best Indian Act at the MTV Europe Music Awards and featuring in VH1’s top 50 list.

The song that brought laurels to Alobo Naga and Band is “Painted dreams”. “It tells young people to believe in their dreams and work hard,” says Alobo in a telephonic chat from his hometown Dimapur in Nagaland.

“Painted dreams” then must surely be on the list of songs that Alobo and his troupe are to belt out at the two-day North East Festival in New Delhi this Friday. Alobo surprises you when he utters an elongated “no”. “I am fed up of singing that song…we have so many new songs now, the audience need to have new music from us,” he says mirthfully.

The tone of conversation changes soon when he says his band only sings songs of hope. With dozens of insurgent groups operating in the Northeast, and a strong armed forces presence to combat them, it is only hope — for a better tomorrow — that people of the region usually count on. So Alobo’s comment makes sense.

Turns out he is talking about the country at large. “After the Delhi gangrape case, I along with a friend wrote a song, ‘Let her live’. The band members composed music for it. It is to spread awareness in Indian men about crime against women. In every concert, we sing this song. At least as musicians, we can do this much,” he says.

The band has another new song, “All we have is now”, to instil hope in young people. “It talks about the socio-political scenario of the country at large, how money and connections work better than talent, how rights have been deprived. But at the end it talks of hope,” he says. All of these will find space in the NE fest.

A solo number of Alobo has just been launched on iTunes and indihut.com, available for downloading at Rs.30. Though it is not a part of the list of songs to be sung in Delhi on Friday evening at the IGNCA grounds, Alobo explains the economics behind it. “I have studied the market, felt that instead of releasing a full-length album, it is better to launch on the Internet one song at a time which is affordable.” The band, which specialises in Contemporary Progressive Rock, has already an EP and is in the process of releasing its first full length album. “Right now, we are making our music video for it with help from Grammy nominee sound engineer Tim Palmer,” he says.

On why Progressive Rock, Alobo bestows credit on local listeners. “People here are contemporary in their thinking. While bands elsewhere are still stuck to Classic Rock, we are taking the risk because we have listeners.” Yet another singular feature that his band has is a turntable operator, the first in the Northeast. “We saw international bands using deejays, so we thought why not us too. It helps us to create different sounds,” he responds.

The young musician is thankful to the State Government for promoting music. Nagaland is the only State to have an entity like Music Task Force. “Nagas are blessed with a strong sense of music, and the best part is, the Government has begun treating music as an industry. This has come as our saviour. This has enabled local talents to buy instruments, raise their standards, and showcase their bent and flair to a wider world.”