Takar Nabam: The Nyishi Musician

Takar Nabam

Hailing from the tribal region of Arunachal Pradesh, Takar Nabam has managed to forge an identity firmly in the vanguard of innovative artistes while respecting and building on the deep roots of his culture. Nominated as one of India’s “Top 5 Guitar Players” by Guitar Player magazine in 2020, he utilizes his firm command of both voice and instrument to convey deeply personal narratives of introspection.

Nabam’s music has taken him throughout Asia to perform, and to major festivals in India like NH7 Weekender, Ziro Festival of Music, and in Bhutan, Singapore and Myanmar. He has expanded his scope of touring, including appearances at New York City’s Rockwood Music Hall and Sofar Sounds.

In an exclusive interview with VERUS FERREIRA, Takar Nabam recalls his musical journey to Delhi and back to Arunachal.

Tell us about your early days of being a guitarist and vocalist.
It was back in 2011-12, and I was about to graduate from college. Most of my batchmates were busy preparing for job interviews. Somehow the idea of sitting in an office working 9-5 didn’t appeal to me. By this time, I had a bit of experience playing on the Delhi independent music scene and I felt like continuing with that. After some time at a music school, I spent a few years teaching at various music schools in Delhi, and writing my own music. 

People on the music scene knew me as a guitar player for the metal band Guillotine, and it was shocking for them to hear me sing. I wasn’t a great singer, but I worked on it, and focused more on writing and singing about things that mattered to me. We played a lot of shitty venues; we also got to open for Metallica in Bengaluru in 2011. 

How did you learn the guitar?
The first ten years of playing the guitar, I didn’t know even to tune the instrument. I used to go to the music store to get it tuned, or called up a senior friend and made him listen to my guitar and ask him if the guitar was in tune. I bunked a few tests, classes to make sure I learnt the guitar solos of songs by Joe Satriani, John Petrucci, Paul Gilbert, Eric Johnson, Megadeth, Iron Maiden, Guns n Roses, note to note. I spent a lot of time on guitar tabs, YouTube tutorials and a lot of transcribing. In 2012, straight out of college, I spent two semesters at a music school. This was the first time I got to learn music, formally. This opened me up to the world of composition, songwriting, singing, jazz, improvisation, and it completely changed the way I looked at guitar playing and music. It became an integral part of my life. 

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Verus Ferreira
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Verus Ferreira

Verus Ferreira is a freelance music journalist for over three decades, contributing articles to various newspapers and magazines. He is the author of The Great Music Quiz Book and The Great Rock Music Quiz Book. Besides being a music aficionado, he is also a photo-journalist. He contributes to Musicunplugged.in and has his own column on The Revolver Club, a vinyl music store. Reach him at verusferreira.com