We spotted Abiogenesis, a band from the North East, at the ‘Colors of North East Festival’ in Mumbai in early August 2015. Their performance left everyone spellbound. Their music was nothing short of exotic, something we had never heard at all, wholesome music that soothes the mind and fills the soul. We just had to meet up with them and managed to corner them for an interview. They rattled about themselves like there was no tomorrow. But before we take you to the interview here’s a little snapshot of the band so you get to know what Abiogenesis is all about.
Abiogenesis to a science student would be a biological term, but to Moa who founded the band, it is a rock-folk fusion band from Dimapur (Nagaland), formed in 1992 and performing since 2005. They describe their sound as a form of world music called ‘Howey music’. They are the only band in the world that plays the Howey and Bamhum. They also make Howey musical feature films. Lichaba’s Daughter was one of the three films selected from India to screen at the Days of Ethnographic Cinema Festival in Moscow in 2012. They have also been nominated for a Grammy Award, too.
Voices In Kisama, the band’s latest music video, premiered on VH1 India in May this year, followed by telecast on MTV Indies, 9XO and Songdew. It was also reportedly featured internationally across the world. Voices In Kisama is an instrumental piece from their fourth album Legacy Of The Mountains (2012) which was nominated in the Global Indian Music Awards 2014. The two new Naga bamboo musical instruments, Bamhum and Tikzik, are played in the video. Most of the footage has been shot in Kisama during the 2014 Hornbill Festival. Through this song, Abiogenesis intends to promote not only Naga Howey music but also tell the world about the colourful Hornbill Festival held at Kisama annually.
We met up with Moa to know more about the band.
Tell us about Abiogenesis the band. How did it all start?
Moa: Abiogenesis started off as a rock band playing both originals and covers. Gradually, as the years went by, we realized the need to go further. This made us explore and experiment with our music. The exploration and experimentation resulted in evolving a new form of world music called Howey music. Howey is a fusion of Naga and other Indian folk with various forms of modern music. The word ‘Howey’ is derived from the chants or expressions of the Nagas since time immemorial while doing work or dance during festivals easing them and giving them lots of energy. In the midst of this process, something wonderful happened, the invention of the Bamhum. This novelty brought about a huge change to how Abiogenesis sounds today. It became the leading instrument of the band with Arenla playing the lead Bamhum and I playing the harmony. The new Abiogenesis was born through Howey music and the Bamhum in 2005, our foundation has been laid since then and now we play only originals. Arenla and I are the founding members and when we evolved Howey music; our two sons, Meren on guitar and Imli on drums, were playing with us. Due to other commitments they do not play with the band anymore and the present line-up is Arenla on vocals and Bamhum, myself on guitar, Bamhum, harmonica, Tikzik, Aso on drums and Tikzik and Sosangmeren on bass guitar.
Abiogenesis is a biological term. How did you get the name Abiogenesis?
Moa: Yes, Abiogenesis means the evolution of life or living organisms from lifeless matter. Presently, youngsters in Nagaland are more inclined to western music and culture and as such they have very less or no knowledge of our rich cultural heritage. We thought we should reverse these trends through our music. So we have incorporated the elements of the past with our music to make it modernized and appealing so that it will arouse interest in them.
How do you define your music and which genre would you put in? Is it pure folk fusion or would you have another name to give it?
Moa: Howey music is our brand of music. It’s a fusion of Naga and other Indian folk elements with various forms of modern music that appeal to a younger generation. Of course, our music is leaning a bit more towards rock.