This week, Nagaland Classical Guitar Society’s Atso Chasie was interviewed by The Northeast Today (TNT). We’ve reproduced the article in full. You can view the original on the TNT website.
Atso Chasie: A classic touch
Coming from a farming family in Nagaland, Atso Chasie has come a long way becoming a classical guitar player. His first serious thought into learning music came after he heard the Piano Sonata No. 11 in A major by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. It was that moment which spelled a deep impact in alleviating his will to pursue music. From practicing 15 hours a day to learning with popular guitar players like David Russell, Denis Azabagic, Laurent Boutros, Pavel Steidl, Christian Lavernier, Andras Csaki and Zoran Dukic, Atso cleared ATCL (Associate Trinity College London) in classical guitar and also has a diploma at the International Classical Guitar Festival and Competition, Calcutta. He is currently a Research fellow on NAGA Folk songs and Indigenous instruments under C.C.R.T, New Delhi. Here is Atso Chasie in his exclusive interview with TNT-The Northeast Today talking about his journey into music.
TNT: Great to have you with us. Brief us with your early life and how did you get into music?
Atso: Looking back, as far as I remember, music has always been a part of my life. Back in my village, besides school, paddy fields was where a normal kid was supposed to be, instead by the age 6, I was spending more time learning chords on an old Reynolds guitar with all weird chords slammed on it. The sight of a musical score fascinates me, though I had no clue then. From a family of farming, the knowledge and opportunity to begin was another limitation. I didn’t get serious about it until into college, I attended short music course’ at Patkai college, where I sneaked back near the practice room where the Piano Sonata No. 11 in A major by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was beautifully rolling on the piano. That moment spelled a deep impact in alleviating my will to pursue music.
TNT: You have a very profound knowledge in classical guitar and also performed at various venues and competitions. It must be quite a treat when you take the stage. Tell us more about it.
Atso: I had my first music lessons from Tamarez Lotha, greatly impressed by my zeal to learn and the ability to play the instrument, where I always try to steal more time practicing on his classical-guitar. By 2009 I have already cleared ATCL (Associate Trinity College London) in classical guitar. Church was the first platform, uplifted me greatly as a performer. I have participated and won in all the opportunities available to a classical guitarist at various competitions both state and national level, achieving diploma at the International Classical Guitar Festival and Competition, Calcutta. I love performing to a small audience and had the opportunity to represent the state and India performing at various occasions around Delhi, Patna, Rajasthan, Bhutan, Darjeeling, Bangkok, Manali etc. The platform to share and connect with different cultures through music is worth performing.
TNT: What’s been your biggest inspiration when it comes to taking up music, particularly the classical music?
Atso: My biggest inspiration is my late Dad, who has been instrumental and supportive throughout the hardest times. My love for classical music was natural and challenging. I see so much art and beauty on simple natural things-like a bin piled up with papers.
TNT: A lot of people use software’s, tutorials, videos etc… For learning the guitar these days. We would like to know how you learned the instrument and when did you get your first guitar?
Atso: It may solely depend on the learner, or the approach as a player, however I have come across players ignorant of musical notes and signs, where tutorial videos substitutes’ the amount of concentration necessary to learn and enjoy good music. I believe video tutorials are a boom for many players these days, however being musically literate is the advantage and the standard way of learning music at a different level. Back then, we have no access to videos or tutorials, music scores was another limitation. Clearing up all the available scores was a great way of learning my instrument.
TNT: It’s a tech savvy world today. Which guitars and sound effects (if any) do you like using often?
Atso: As a classical guitarist, modern gadgets doesn’t really play a vital role, though I hope to own a good classical guitar, cedar-top, concert series, presentable at the international arena.
TNT: Have you played in bands as well or will continue solo?
Atso: No that’s where each band member will have to kick me out, haha… Definitely I hope to tour with the Nagaland Guitar Federation (NGF).
TNT: Tell us about the hours you put into playing guitar and dedication required to reach the level you are at now?
I had the opportunity to take master classes with some world famous players like David Russell, Denis Azabagic, Laurent Boutros, Pavel Steidl, Christian Lavernier, Andras Csaki and Zoran Dukic, which has helped me to be a better player. Enough practices and that’s where I am confident to perform. Times have changed with my schedule practices; I started my music career practicing 15 hours a day, where the most distraction was to go for the daily human needs. These days I am putting great efforts to stick around 5 hours each day. However lots of sacrifices socially, enough practice and dedication has eventually let me here.
TNT: Have you thought of making any album?
Atso: Yes, it may be a mixture of songs and instrumental of our unique culture.
TNT: Music as a career in Northeast. Your say?
Atso: In my opinion Music is an opportunity one can pursue as a career without any doubt in Northeast, provided with talent and dedication throughout. We already have successful musicians bringing laurels to our land. Music schools, music teachers and now you have music degree college, Nagaland Conservatory of Music. I believe through music we have the opportunity not just as a career but also to present our cultural identity, both national and international level. Go for it!
TNT: Which is the best band/artist from the Northeast and why?
Atso: There are a lot of good bands and musicians in Northeast. It’s hard to pick and choose the best from the best. However, “Abiogenesis” band from Nagaland stands out as one of the best bands from the Northeast, initiating music to a higher level, I believe the band is one of the first band to promote our Naga culture both in national and international participation. The band has a unique sense of melody by fusing Naga folk music elements with modern style of music, a new genre known as Howey music, with the introduction of Bamhum, the band pioneered a clear and original picture, musical creativity of our culture to the rest of the world listening, as I believe our identity is the first step to any goal.
TNT: Any musician from the Northeast that you would like to collaborate with?
Atso: At the moment I would love to work with, Guru Rewben Mashangva, Tetso sisters and many more will add up at the right time.
TNT: 5 guitar greats in your opinion?
Atso: Tamarez Lotha, Rudy Wallang, Joey Woch, Atsa Lang Roths and Sentiyanger Longkumer.
TNT: Considering the level that you are in at the moment, do you envision yourself getting better?
Atso: Yes, as an artist there is no ending of getting better or have attained perfection. In fact this is just the initial stage. I believe competitions is also a good road to achieving higher goals and another platform of getting better. Sharing the stage with international musicians, it constantly triggers me to even work harder and harder.
TNT: Any shootouts, upcoming announcements?
Atso: Not really, I am currently a Research fellow on NAGA Folk songs and Indigenous instruments under C.C.R.T, New Delhi, hopefully I will pen down few songs and pieces by the end of the session.
TNT: What is your other passion apart from music?
Atso: I love touring around and have the passion of collecting tree-roots, though many of it ends up in the kitchen.
TNT: Thank you for taking your time out. We hope you prosper in your future endeavors.
Atso: Thank you so much.
At the 6th Annual Music Awards Of Nagaland (2014), Atso Chasie was the winner of the “best instrumental song” category for his own composition called The Monolith. Listen to the piece here: