Over the years, the entirety of North East India has been over shadowed by so called “Mainland India”. Inspite of the fact that it’s a land filled with stories and myriad cultures, it has always been dormant. However, with the emergence of the upcoming generation and media the NorthEast is ready to spread its wings and reach out to the world. Dekaa’s life struggles draw parallelism with the history of the Northeast. After being denied an identity of his own, neither in his motherland nor his homeland did he find peace, while he kept chasing other’s dreams.
Dekaa had lost himself doing things that he was never meant to do. The idea of music had been buried deep within. But one can cage a wild beast only for so long. Growing up at a time when India was being exposed to International Pop Culture and urban Hip-Hop culture had started planting its seeds in the West, Dekaa understood that art was a form of expression and music an effective medium. The opening up of the Indian Economy in the 90s allowed technology to seep into major Indian cities.
Computing may have been a new concept in India but this kid from the 90s took to it like Bread and Butter. Dekaaʼs aspirations were influenced by his routine of frequent travel and his scant presence at home. Being sent to boarding school at a very young age, his love for travelling made him a frequent company of strangers at airports and nature on hilltops and mountains. The more he was exposed to the unknown, the more he started to question himself and his identity. It is then when the idea of ‘Nijore Matite Nijoke Herewaluʼ (Being lost in oneʼs own land) struck him and began to resonate in his mind. The idea stayed with him and drove him to discover his roots along with other likeminded people who feel the same way.
Dekaa recently released “Mur Gamusa”. DesiHipHop.com got in touch with the artist to know more about the music video. This is how it went –
Tell us about your latest project “Mur Gamusa”. How did the idea come about?
Mur Gamusa was born out of a genuine collaboration after I met Su Real in the Shillong Chapter of the NH7 Weekender, 2016 after our respective performances. Our conversations off stage set the ball rolling for the composition of the song. Mur Gamusa was a concept but Su Real proved to be the spark to translate this into reality. There was a lot to learn from this project not only as an artist but also as an individual.
Tell us about the journey so far and the special relationship that you share with music?
My journey with music started off as nothing more than a hobby. We were just a bunch of friends playing music and having fun for the heck of it. Our school used to host these Rock Concerts annually and as kids who grew up in a boarding school, a platform like this gave budding music enthusiasts a chance to express themselves. In 2011, I released my first album titled ‘Classroomʼ which was regional in nature. From that point onwards, music to me transformed from a hobby to a passion. However, instead of going the conventional way, I decided to learn about the nuances of the craft first. In 2011, an unfortunate incident had a major influence on my understanding of music and life as a whole.
One of my closest friends got electrocuted by a guitar while practicing and he lost his life. The emotional scars of the aftermath diverted me from music for a while, but eventually I realised that life must go on. The last song of dusk had been sung and there was no point in dancing to the waning tunes. In a world that looks at artificial joys and the materialistic ardor of life for inspiration, I found mine in a friend who had dreamt to travel the world with his music. We live in an era where the virtual world appeals to us more than friends and family and as teenagers, we can quickly lose track of things and become directionless.
After some thought, I withdrew from active music making for the next six years and turned my attention to exploring different avenues of the music industry like making music videos, songwriting, production, working in the studio etc. All of the above being mammoth sized disciplines by themselves, I tried to grasp whatever I could and each experience taught me one thing or another, bringing me closer to the representation of myself that I envisioned in my head. Added to the fact that I was younger and there is only so much that I can talk about, I had to experience different things in order to talk about them.
I took to rapping naturally as it became an outlet for the culmination of the energies that I had gathered from different experiences. To tell a story, one must live the experience and this is exactly what happened with me as all my past adventures gradually found themselves resonating through the boombox. Once I had enough confidence with bringing out my own production, I reached out to collaborate with other rappers and singers but not everyone is ready to step down from playing the lead. Finally I stopped asking others and let my work do the talking, gathering enough courage to attempt it myself. Luck and talent take people places but one must be willing to force themselves to climb higher up the rungs of the ladder.
You say that you have explored various genres of music. How did you decide to let EDM do the talking on this one?
The medium appealed to me because there is nothing that is more relevant than EDM that can carry the message to the masses. I have always been a big fan of a complete body of work like an album or a full length film but as artists, sometimes we have to stop and listen to the public that has but a minimum attention span. I believe true art can be found when we are “looking for the next but still relevant.” Genres like rock, metal, jazz in general in today’s scenario have lost their old relevance. Coming from a background of punk, rock and also being fortunate enough to be surrounded with few of the best jazz musicians in the country over the years, I have been exposed to a whole new world of possibilities that has compelled me to never stick to only one genre. It’s hard to box art, so I don’t look at music in the form of genres but more as mediums through which we can better convey the story or idea we are trying to put across.
You’ve incorporated a lot of Assamese cultural symbolism in your song while most rappers today are more westernised in their approach. What attracts you so much to your roots?
That is something I have battled every single day of my life. Growing up at a time when India was being exposed to International Pop Culture and urban Hip-Hop culture had started planting its seeds in the West, I understood that art was a form of expression and music an effective medium. It is very easy to fall into the trap of emulating what someone else is doing and for the most part I was doing the same, trying to be the black sheep. Eventually I found out that I had a voice of my own which was trying to tell me something. There are a lot of people who are in this situation and many of them reach out to me to share their stories about how a decision made by our elders has left us in an immobile position. We want to move ahead but at the same time we are being held back by our past. We started to chase something without knowing which direction it was heading.
After the British reign in India was over, the rich traditions and culture of India started to play a dormant role in many minds. As globalisation took roots, the hip people in India started to follow the latest trends in the West. In doing so, we grew up on Avengers, Batman and Harry Potter, while almost alienating our own myths and superheroes. Can you imagine what a movie on Shiva or Mahabharata would be like with the VFX capabilities of today?? Most people in the industry today have the best gear, what they lack is the effort to think about something innovative. We come up with excuses like ‘language barrierʼ but does that come into your head when you are done watching two seasons of Narcos straight?
Most Assamese people of today who have left the state in pursuit of learning have missed out on many myths and stories about Assam. With my videos I try to incorporate them and tell the stories in a way that is relevant today. If one follows the education system rigorously one’s perspective becomes one directional. It can get you a job and money but it limits you to the perspective with which you see the world. The Mughals have been extensively studied in Indian history but what has never been taught to us is their continuous failure over many years to annex the the Ahom Kingdom which managed to sustain its sovereignty for over 200 years. This realisation made me want to provide people with an alternative. I’m no one to tell people what to do, all I can do is provide an alternative perspective.
From a very young age I remember I was always into hip-hop culture unknowingly. Hip-hop blew up in the West then and the cool kids in India tried to keep up with the growing trends, so one of those cool kids was my cousin who handed me my first English album. It was a Linkin Park album and an Eminem album, and just like the culture of India, I got excited about what the West was offering. I was around 12 at that time and started to experiment with art and graffiti, edgy clothing and most importantly the idea of authentic story telling. In the true essence, Hip Hop is all about self-expression. I can only talk about what is my reality, my roots, sometimes I rap in English because again it is me using English as a medium to get the message across. You might have the best intentions but if the message doesn’t get across, is there a point of it at all?
What is the message that you’ve tried to put across through ‘Mur Gamusa’?
Mur Gamusa, as a song, is a sequel to my previous project titled “The Statement” but as an idea Mur Gamusa is not only about the ‘Gamusaʼ wearing people of Assam but it is about the youth of todayʼs generation striving to fit into the 21st century world. Itʼs about giving the unheard a voice to express themselves. There is always an undercurrent of a rebellion within us but our Gamusa has provided us with a sense of unity.
Do you think your message not only echoes among the Assamese people but the youth of other regional cultures can relate to it as well?
Definitely, I have tried to elaborate on this in the interview with Su Real. We all are chasing jets and markets and we have little time to reflect and see what we have become. Why is it that the taller the buildings we climb, the more vacations we want to take to the mountains and countryside?