“Artists are the voice of a community. They represent the people, culture and write their history. It is the duty of the people to encourage, equip and protect those artists if we want them to represent who we are. Every community is gifted with artists because God knows that without artists in a community it will be colourless” says Singer-Songwriter Kilang Zulu.
Zulu has an aura that sits perfectly with his passion for music and he needs no introduction although he has been missing from Nagaland’s music scene for 12 years. He has been busy lately but you’d expect no less from one of the most productive men in the state music and his newly released album “Loved by you” on Dec. 1 2017.
In today’s Rhythm of Love Zulu opens up about his music and social campaigning helping at risk children with HelpLive International (helplive.org).
Eastern Mirror: What is your musical background? Talk us through your musical journey.
Kilang Zulu: I am pretty much a self-taught musician. I did couple of very short music classes here and there but since I was musically looking for something different from what was out there, I worked hard to teach myself. Singing was my first passion so most of the time I would lock my room, blast the music system and try to imitate my favourite singers. Thinking about that now makes me feel really sorry for my family and neighbours because they had to put up with that for years.
Eastern Mirror: You have been the front man of a rock band called ‘Faith’ and ‘Heritage’ and undoubtedly musicians from Nagaland owe you for showing passion for music and producing good music. How did you manage to be so involved and connected with music?
Kilang Zulu: Faith was a band I formed and Heritage was a separate band with whom I had the honour to perform. For me, from a very young age I knew that my deepest passion was music. So when I reached a certain age I had to basically look for every opportunity to learn or perform. With hardly any access to internet and basically zero Social media platform, I had to constantly sharpen my skills. It was the people who were gracious enough to allow me to be who I am, bear with my mistakes and gave me countless chances to get better and that’s what helped me to continue my involvement with Music because it gradually led me to more and more opportunities specially within India.
Eastern Mirror: What do you feel is the best song/album you’ve ever released and why?
Kilang Zulu: “Break Through” which was released in 2004 is definitely my favourite because it was not only the first album but we were also able to completely express ourselves as musicians with complete freedom and without any fear of whether the album was going to do well or not. Even while recording at the studio we experimented so many different sounds and methods of recording which was completely different from what people were doing at that time. In other words…. we wanted to introduce something different.
Eastern Mirror: How does the song writing process works for you? Do you have any influences?
Kilang Zulu: Yes, I do have a lot of artists who influences me when it comes to styles or sounds but when it comes to writing, it’s always very personal. Where I am and what I am going through basically inspires me to write. Whether I am in a good place or a difficult place I try to keep myself real with God so, that also inspires my writing. Those songs will mostly have a message about questions, hope, fear, worship etc.
Eastern Mirror: What are your fondest musical memories?
Kilang Zulu: This one is awesome!! The first time I took the stage I completely forgot the 2nd verse. My mind went blank, only the melody was ringing, so what I did was I continued singing with lalas….till the end of the song. That’s how I completed the song.
Eastern Mirror: How do you balance your music with other obligations?
Kilang Zulu: Music is a huge part of my life and it energises me. So, no matter what I am doing or where I am I always look to connect with music. For instance if I am in the car I turn on the radio all the time and if I am home whenever I can I grab my guitar and jam.
Eastern Mirror: You have been in Thailand for good number of years. How did it change you musically and artistically? What was the vital experience and lesson you took back with you?
Kilang Zulu: Being based in Thailand definitely gave me a lot of access to opportunities to learn because here in Nagaland resources and opportunities were very limited. This helped me to understand how to present my music better to reach out to a bigger audience internationally. The biggest lesson for me as a musician or an artist was to take my music style and to be willing to adjust it according to what is current and what will help it reach a bigger audience. And that comes from interacting with better musicians and being willing to receive their constructive criticisms.
Eastern Mirror: You were out of the music scene for quite some time. What kept you busy? Are you back in Nagaland for good?
Kilang Zulu: Yes, I haven’t performed here in Nagaland for over 12 years now. At the moment I am loving what I do to help at risk children with HelpLive International (helplive.org). This non-profit help at risk children by providing them food, shelter and education. I will be going back to Bangkok sometime this year. But from now on I will be visiting quite often because we have started helping at risk children in India too.
Eastern Mirror: Having seen the international community of musicians, how it works, what are their ideas and suggestions to improve the music scenario here, given the fact that there is no proper label here.
Kilang Zulu: One thing I have noticed is musicians can make a living from gigs and different contracts from different companies. So, if you only have the talent and skills it helps you pay your bills. It also helps the artist to continue to purse greater success. But here I still feel that a lot of deserved artists are not given enough support both morally and financially. Inviting an artist just to entertain the event is not enough. We as a community should also look into helping the artist beyond the event and that is to help achieve greater success.
In order for a label to survive we need market but the biggest challenge here is that we have a huge music loving community but economically we are not there yet. It’s very difficult to sell music here because people are not able to pay for a CD or to buy it online. So what happens is people end up downloading illegally.
I feel that if we really care about our artists we should support and help them beyond events. Yes, events are important because it entertains the people but if we want to bring out the best in our artists and somebody that can break into the international music scene, we need to take it to the next level. For instance, create more and more international programs not just for performances but also for the artists to learn from the best that’s out there through interaction and proper classes. Create scholarships for genuinely potential artists to study at renowned music schools and colleges. Because at the end of the day knowledgeable, intelligent and creative artists will give you the best.
Again, I personally don’t encourage an event if it’s only to benefit the sponsors and to entertain the audience. It should also very much be about the artist and his/her future.
Eastern Mirror: If you were to compare Northeast music scene with the world, how long is it going to take us to grow/develop?
Kilang Zulu: Oh man!! I wish I had the power to see the future and give you the answer to this question. First of all I know that we are second to none when it comes to talent and skill. The only challenge is access to resources and opportunities. If we can only come up with a plan and set goals with a timeline then in the next 10 years I am sure we will see a shift in our music scene.
Eastern Mirror: What’s coming up for you? What are you working on now and where do you feels your music and is headed?
Kilang Zulu: This year 2018 I am looking at doing a little tour promoting my new album. So, will start within Asia and see what happens. At the moment I am just trying to get as much feedbacks as possible on my album and from there I will decide on the direction for my next project. My music is all about impacting communities and helping children. Whenever I get opportunities I always try to be a voice for at risk children. So I am hoping that this year I will get more opportunities to spread awareness for at risk children through my music.