Western music has emphatically influenced folks of North-east through the years. However, each passing decade brings about a new wave of musicians and genres. This article, if goes in accordance with my intentions, will take you in a headbanging journey to the times when our grandfathers were jamming to the “Abba”, and humming to Bob Dylan. Though the people here got hold of western music a little later than the original releases, the 60s Sikkimese youth had certainly been swaying to legendary bands like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who etc. branding themselves with the classic four-man band theme. Discussions with people aligned to these genres can clearly portray the fire they fondled in them during the advent of rock at the time. Then arrived the 70s with definitive hits from Pink Floyd and making the more wondrous people here get a whole different view towards worldly concepts and laws of nature. There have been local musicians and bands who have hit great heights in recent years. Many new musicians have shown an utmost amount of praise for artists and bands from the 60s and 70s, admitting that they were the most influential and moving among all of their role models. Music advanced like no one had ever imagined, and the numbers of North-east youth drawn towards western music were gradually increasing. Personality changes could be seen among the 70s North-east youth. Goals of global recognition in the field of music seemed not so far away. People started coming together and establishing bands, some decided to ride solo.
Sikkim also housed a premier rock band in the late 60s and early 70s, starring Late Crown Prince Tenzing Namgyal as the drummer. It can be seen that western music had already started impressing the concepts of majors and minors into the minds of the local youth, even the prince couldn’t stop himself from para-diddling.
The 1980s saw the birth of a new subgenre, including disco and dance music. Dance pop became more popular among the teens and young adults of Sikkim too. As these forms almost disappeared in the early years of the decade, rock music continued enjoying a large fan base. Soft rock and heavy metal also came into being, symbolized by denim and leather all over. Distortion actually became a thing, pleasurable for some of the local youth, motivating them to build bands of similar genres and dress accordingly. As economics and business really started to boom in Sikkim and around, band merchandise could be imported from Thailand and China which gave the set of musical, desirous local youth a license to wear and promote the art form they were in love with. Later stages of the decade saw the rise of one of the most influential rock bands ever, Guns ‘N Roses. Some of us still hear people talking about how their band mates used to hold the guitar with a top hat on, with a lit cigarette between the lips. The 80s also saw a rise in rap music [called ‘old school hip hop’ today] with artists like Vanilla Ice and LL Cool J influencing Sikkimese youth directly into baggy t-shirts, pants and new-era caps. Slam poetry was born and local folks immediately started forming hip hop groups and releasing singles.
Local people could be seen wearing more band t-shirts and baggy clothes, the number of western music fans was staggering. As the last decade of 1900 progressed, Guns ‘N Roses gained recognition and flagged the peak. Another part of America brought into being a new wave of acoustics, with soft, deep vocals and harmonious guitar strumming. Yes, country music gained popularity all over the world including our small state. Though local people weren’t seen dressed like cowboys, the acoustic guitar and other forms of acoustic sound gained hype in and around Sikkim. Heavy metal music was more active and on the rise as compared to the 80s, with Metallica, Megadeth, and their huge rivalry. GnR, Pantera, Metallica, and Slayer were categorized almost correspondingly by the Sikkimese youth of the time and so began the age where guys with electric guitars across their backs were seen draped in ink flinging their long hair which flowed down to their shoulders, walking briskly towards their next jam, running a bit late.
As we entered the new millennium, it was easier to get updated from around the globe due to the availability of international TV channels and the Internet. The World of music faced progress as well as decline when we saw legendary artists like Kurt Cobain, Dimebag Darrell and Michael Jackson fall as martyrs, providing lessons and values to younger minds. Halfway through 2000, pop had already become a new trendy outfit for people in Sikkim, influencing them to form dance groups and as the decade started approaching its end, the music industry made a silent vow to keep pop music going even after the tragic death of Michael Jackson.
Pop artists like Bruno Mars, Alicia Keys and Beyonce were on the rise through the 2000s but other genres also hadn’t failed to compete. People in Sikkim had diverse interests, as rap, metal and techno were also charging uphill. Eminem had dominated the world of rap music since a long time in the past and we can still see Sikkimese folks dressed up as classic Eminem-hoodies, baggy jeans and sneakers. Different forms of metal like Thrash metal, Black metal, Death metal and progressive music also continued influencing local musicians and bands. The 2000s brought about a minor revolution of music in Sikkim, inspiring bands to build upon genres like metal and grunge. Some notable examples of these bands are – Girish and the Chronicles, Damagera, Crystal and the Witches etc.
With three years left in this decade, the 2010s has been a roller coaster ride for bands of most genres and has been a marvelous journey for EDM artists, whose influences have reached all over the planet and have also been taken by our local youth as stimuli in starting careers in the field. We can see the rise in the number of DJs in modern day Sikkim.
Some prevalent artists like Bipul Chettri and Tribal Rain emerged with self-developed genres. The former conceptualized music which sounds like an amalgam of the American country music and local folk music and the latter came up with a combination of mesmerising fingerstyle patterns with soothing melodies. Brewing these ingredients together made these creators gain admiration among people of almost every age group.
We can only wonder how far western music has come. As we walk through MG Marg for five minutes, guys dressed in black with black nail paint and eyeliner, baggy chonglers and t-shirts that could fit at least two people, baseball caps and black band t-shirts – are a common sight of any stereotypical day. As the American music industry is dominated by the talent and skill of the youth, the local Sikkimese youth has molded our habitat into a smaller version of America, waiting to put out original works of art and plotting plans of vitalization.
The silent majority of north-eastern youth has been quite successful in making people from other parts of the world groove to their harmony. In recent years, north-eastern bands have broken startlingly big barriers when it comes to recognition. Solo artists also have shaken local people with the publicity they’ve gained. Some examples of these north-eastern bands who are absorbed on the refurbishment of music from the 60s and 70s are Divine Connection(est. 2004; Rock/Blues/Jazz), Soulmate(est. 2003; Blues/Rock/R&B), The Vinyl Records(Punk/Indie Rock) etc. The fire and passion exhibited by these bands have paid off quite handsomely taking into consideration the audience they’ve gathered. We as fellow North-Easterners fully support the advent of music from local artists as they pave their way towards moving people with their music on a global scale.