Singer-songwriter Taba Chake hails from a small town called Doimukh in Arunachal Pradesh- an independent artist, singer, performer and a dreamer who likes travelling and exploring different cultures. He has made his presence felt even in a fast-paced city like Mumbai with his trilingual album “Bombay Dreams”. His songs are gaining momentum each day as he hosts around 144,000 listeners on Spotify and more than 2 million views on YouTube as of today. He has been mentioned in the billboard, Rolling Stone India, and is a featured artist in Spotify’s RADAR.
His music is an amalgamation of his love for nature, percussive finger-style guitar playing and folk elements and has attracted a lot of listeners throughout the world. If you listen to his music, I am sure you will feel as though you are floating among the colourful clouds of Taba’s dreamy thoughts.
His journey surely is a huge inspiration to a lot of people who want to break free of social barriers to become who they are actually meant to be. So let’s take a quick tour of his take on some of the burning questions in the independent music scene and other aspects of being an artist.
Red: Can you tell us a bit about the challenges involved in making a mark in the independent music scene?
Taba: People think that being an independent artist is cool, in the sense that one has creative freedom to explore and mould their art the way they feel. This is true because, musicians no longer have to play at a bar for days and months hoping that – out of the blaring bar talk comes out a producer to sign a deal with them. People have successfully created hits making music in their dorm room working freely as independent artists. Although this freedom comes with a price, that is, you have to get into unknown waters often. By that, I mean challenges like finding your music style, building reliable connections to get gigs and marketing are some common problems one has to tackle and even after tackling all these problems, one has to find a way to commercialise their music. Personally speaking, I never did strive towards commercial routes such as playback singing but I wouldn’t deny the chances if I ever get one. One has to be slightly flexible.
Red: What do you think is the best thing about being a musician?
Taba: There are a lot of amazing things one can get being a musician, like touring, meeting new people, creating music and the happiness that comes out of it. Songwriting has helped me in such a way that I can express my feelings and thoughts and convey them to people through my music. Writing came to me as a form of therapy when I first started it. I would not say that I am talented when it comes to connecting with people through speaking, but I can express a lot of things better through songwriting.
Red: Where do you get your motivation to create?
Taba: I don’t really know what motivates me and I do not want to blurt out some random movie dialogues like, “I was born to do this or I was made for this”, but I guess the real motivator for me is myself. A lot of challenges came along while I was starting my music career and so did small victories and once I got the feeling of accomplishment in making things happen, that has been my constant source of motivation. I inspire myself and that might sound weird but it’s true.
Red: What role did the culture in your immediate environment play and how did it affect the kind of music you create?
Taba: My first exposure to music was when I listened to my mother humming tunes as I was growing up. Her fountain of cassettes mostly comprised of folk songs and Bollywood numbers, from the 80s and the 90s. The musician in me is also shaped by my uncle’s playlists of English songs from bands like MLTR, Eagles and Bryan Adams. We also have a festival called “Nyokum” which happens every year in Arunachal Pradesh, and luckily, my home was very close to the place where it was organised. So I got to see a lot of people singing and dancing since my early days. Being born in a family of a priest, we have a lot of singing in our home usually in the form of hymns which I believe has something that has greatly influenced my art. My art is deeply rooted in my roots, I hope it makes sense. (laughs)
Red: What is the story behind your song “Walk with me”?
Taba: While working on the album “Bombay Dreams”, I had to come up with two songs in a span of two weeks and I had very little expectation from songs that would come out in a hurry but I was still at it. Surprisingly enough, a simple tune struck me while I was in the metro and I rushed to my home so that I could put it down on paper. As I sat to write it down, fortunately, my girlfriend was with me and I asked her a few questions. We started talking about our lives, hopes and love, which made the song flow ever so naturally. It was that simple. The song did surprisingly well as compared to the other songs of the album. My girlfriend is also a major inspiration behind the song.
Red: What is your advice to other young musicians from North-East India who are struggling to find their footing?
Taba: Growing up in Arunachal Pradesh, I found out that there were a lot of challenges when it came to pursuing music or any form of art. So, I swam past the tide and went outside North East to pursue my dream. Eventually, I found out that the competition there was even tighter. Spending my days outside the North-East, I saw that we underestimate and doubt our capabilities. A lot of us do not pursue a career path which is unconventional in the eyes of society, even if we are good at it. So my advice for the artists in the North-East is that you must believe in yourself and trust the process. Here in the North-East, a common notion lies that pursuing something like music can never be more than a hobby, or a side hustle perhaps because society expects us to believe so. Even in the music festival that happens in our localities, we expect artists from outside the North-East to perform, rather than trusting our local artists to put on a great show.
Red: What books do you think are worth reading according to you?
Taba: I don;t read often but when I do, I mostly read stories which are based on folktales and books that fuel me positively. Also if I am working on new songs, I read a lot, but I don’t read romance novels.
Red: What does your “not-to-do list” look like?
Taba: Well, I haven’t thought about it, but I guess one of the things would be to avoid drugs. I am not even curious about it which I believe is the brighter side in me. (laughs) I used to drink once in a while back at home, but not anymore.
Red: Can you tell us a bit about your favourite failures?
Taba: Not to brag about it, but I am very good at making logical decisions. I rarely do get disappointed by my actions perhaps because I try to be mindful of what I do. However, I remember that one time while starting out on music, I was juggling a lot of things at the same time. From making music to other aspects of management, I used to handle all the things by myself. That made me weary. The fact that I was doing a lot of things simultaneously had made me fail in all the things. In the present day, I feel that I have found my purpose. Thinking back on my journey so far, I feel it was all so simple. I just had to write good songs and that was it. People take a lot of stress contemplating their purpose when they’re failing, but I feel that it is perfectly normal to fail. I believe simplicity is the answer and one should try making something that stresses them out as simple as it can be.
Red: How do you stay productive during your lazy days?
Taba: On lazy days like when I am watching movies at the theatre, I carefully observe the background score. I seek inspiration from the synchronisation of a movie scene with the background music and I don’t know about everyone but to me, the simple act of listening to background scores in movies intently is quite productive to me even though it seems effortless. When I am at home and get lazy, I try to get inspired by the calmness and the serene environment of my home, and even that counts as productive to me.
Red: What gets you ticking during your difficult times?
Taba: I remember God in my darkest times. I have faith in God even though I don’t believe in worshiping a particular god. For me, God can be candlelight in a dark room.
Red: What message would you like to convey to the younger generation?
Taba: I would like to convey a very simple message to the youth, that is to enjoy, attend school and go to college. Be real, be humble.
In a world where everyone pushes you to work double and bang your head against the wall until you succeed, Taba seems to have a different approach. He believes that good work can be created not by working extra hard on the outside but coming at peaceful terms with oneself. Taba is an artist undoubtedly capable of reaching great heights with his music, even on the world stage. This short conversation with him is enough for us to realise that we are never too far away from being able to live our best lives as creators. He is an inspiration for all artists who hail from North-East India, giving every one of us a glimmer of hope that it’s not too late to start doing what we love and making things happen for ourselves and for people around us. What valuable insights from Taba did you take away from this conversation?
Check out Taba’s most popular song. I’m sure you’ll like it. Check out his other songs as well, they are listed on his YouTube channel. Cheers!