Straight from the Heart

A band that has been around for sometime, Divine Connection is a Christian Rock Band with humble beginnings. Ever since it made its debut at Dream Café (Kohima) sometime around the autumn of 2004, the band has traveled the long road to success with quiet determination. Divine Connection is the name currently making waves In Nagaland and in the rock music world all around the country. The winner of ‘Kurkure Desi Beats Rock On with MTV’ and the Creative Director of the show, V. Ate Kevichusa gives an insight on the band’s journey to the top.

1. Morung Express: Ok this is indeed a ‘situation’- a Naga band with a Naga creative director battling it out in Bombay and I thought you were all here in Nagaland…
DC – Yes!!! And we went for the auditions, got selected…  then we all met in Bombay finished the fight and now  back in Nagaland.. and this interview now …
Ate – I was….then I got a call from Wizcraft, the production house and MTV in August end to come and work as the creative director on the show… and that was that!!!

2. Morung Express: We saw the finale on air last night… congratulations… how does it feel to be the winner….how did you feel when your name was announced.
Ate – When they won, I said, “right now I’m not the creative director. I am simply a very happy Naga!!!”
DC-Our first thought was ‘Thank you Lord’..we just prayed and gave thanks to the Lord.

3.  Morung Express: Tell me about your early struggling years? How did DC start?
Obed- Well DC was formed in the year2004, previously we were all with other bands Mhathung and I were with the band Oleanders which was also quite popular.
Mhathung- Actually the story goes like this… our drummer in Oleanders shifted to Dimapur chasing another career. At this time I also felt the need to be in a Christian band (we were doing secular music earlier) So with a few friends we started DC. Of course like any band we had our share of problems like this one time our guitarist got married and could not give enough time to the band…this was also when we were doing promotional stuff for our first album and we were truly stranded. Then Divine Intervention- there was a contest in Dimapur..a sort of a guitar solo contest sponsored by Gibson…well we decided to head down and hunt from among the contestants…this is how our guitarist Lichen joined us..DC.
Lichen- It was almost a fairytale I would say (laughs) I came all the way from Mokokchung I didn’t have money so I borrowed the bus fare.. on reaching Dimapur I didn’t even have money to take an auto to the venue…there I was a 19year old with only my dreams to encourage me was some journey.
Mhathung- Yeah I saw some pretty good guitarist but they had all given commitments to other bands….I finally gave Lichen a call because he somehow fitted into our criteria… that’s how he came to us. It was God's perfect timing. The next day he came up to kohima and we started jamming. I remember we toured 11 districts that year. We were paid 3000 per head for our first show..I remember we were over the moon(laughs)
Ate – I heard DC in one of the Hornbill rock contest and I loved them… I happened to work with Bendang (the drummer) in 2008 when I staged ‘The Prodigal Son’.. When I heard that Bendang had joined DC, I thought, perfect!!!!!!
Lichen- I remember those days before joining DC I would play for entire concerts in Mokokchung and got paid not in cash but in….. ‘ kholar/kuchu’ etc(laughs out loud) I  knew DC from a previous concert in Mokokchung but I  never understood their kind of music I was only into  70s and 80s rock. DC opened me up to other kinds of music metal and all.
Bendang- Well Mhathung contacted me he sent me an sms n I told him that I would think about it ..I never took it seriously you know I had my own thing going so..
Obed- When Bendang eventually played with us I personally thought we would never be able to work with him. He had this ‘disappearing act’ syndrome  in fact  we nicknamed him ‘jungle murgi ’(Laughs out loud) .I remember one time he left us stranded before an important act  in Ukhrul  (laughs)  but God works in mysterious ways I we are closer than brothers.
Bendang-Hey I went to some funeral cut me some slack..ok seriously after everything I sat down and thought and I just felt that DC was the right band for me.. I remember my first major gig with them was in Kolkata then Pattaya.I grew up watching DC. It’s a privilege playing with them.

4. Morung Express: How did the name DC come up?
Mhathung- We had a lot of names so we cast lots and came up with this because we found it’s actually about a relationship between God and men and also between men and men.

5. Morung Express: Tell me more about the auditions where it all began.
Mhathung- In Oct last year we had a concert in Shillong so we were coming down to Dmp when we got a call from Guwahati they wanted us to audition for rock on…we practiced our first song in Hindi at Shillong in 2days time..I believe we sang a song from ‘karthik calling karthik’. We were the first band to audition in Shillong. During the auditions I heard a familiar voice… (laughs)..who else could it be..Ate Kevichusa of course…she was the creative director for the entire thing.
Ate- They were the first band to audition for the show because Shillong was the first stop. Call it divine appointment.

6. Morung Express: Ate you were there through the whole process of the show starting from the audition process. How was it when you met them first in Shillong?
Ate- I walked in and it was a pretty dark room I saw Bendang first and the first thing I said was ‘yate ki kuri ase’ (laughs)
DC- That’s what we told her also (laughs)
Ate- Initially I felt that a band of such stature should not be competing in this, then I reasoned that it would give them good publicity and exposure…guess it all  goes to show  nothing is too small..but I had no doubts that they would sail through
DC- We always wanted to go to Bombay even otherwise because the music scene here is limited sometimes.

7. Morung Express: How did it feel when you got the news that you had been selected? Were you confident that you were going to make it or did it come as a surprise?
Mhathung- It really wasn’t a surprise we were somewhat confident. we were happy though of course.
Ate- whether DC should be selected or not  never arose they were that good.

8. Morung Express: I understand there were 10 bands in fact a total of 52 people. How were all of you accommodated?
Obed-  We thought the accommodation would be better I mean the hotel was nice and all but the surroundings were dirty. We reached around midnight. We were hungry and tired and got small snacks to eat (laughs out loud) no it wasn’t kurkure. Later we learnt that we got the worst room in the hotel … the first night there was no running water .I guess we reached late that’s why we got the last room available. But of course I am not complaining…before leaving for Bombay we had decided that we would face whatever hardships came our way…we were very happy to see our jamming rooms though..Four jamming rooms in the same hotel we were putting up that ways things were convenient. I recall a bad lift experience..As soon as we got on the lift it just started falling on its own god that was scary!!
Ate- Well that was the only hotel allowing jam rooms to be built on the top we had to make do.
Bendang- Well we agreed not to complain but the food was something else (l aughs) being a Naga I missed home food, I mean anyone would if they were eating the same thing for three months..(Laughs)I went crazy!
Obed- But overall the arrangements were systematic I mean we could never do anything like that here you know. We were picked up on time at the airport/hotels etc everything had a routine, a schedule and it was followed strictly.
Bendang-Ya I know I felt like a robot (laughs out loud)

9. Morung Express: So what were your routines like you know about practice timings/rehearsals and stuff like that?
Mhathung-Initially we were given two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening. The hardest part was practicing at 10 in the morning. We were always tired our minds were not fresh even our acoustics were not arranged. You see we had time slots for each band and for some reason we always got the 10am slot. That was tough.
Obed- Our core ideas always started in our bedrooms. Bendang would hit the bed imagining it to be drums (laughs). We had one acoustic guitar and we practiced on that in turns. We made our structures in the bedroom and polished it in the jam room.
Bendang-Actually we found an electric drum in the jam room which no one used so i utilized that to get the feel of playing drums…you know practicing the drum action.
Obed- I guess we got an edge over the others because behind the closed door of our bedrooms we never wasted any time our minds were always at work.
Mhathung- Frankly I would like to say that it takes sacrifice and discipline to make it. Unfortunately most of our Naga bands don’t have that…I am not denouncing anyone here I’m just saying something that I have seen myself..we either become slaves to alcohol or other substances..and that’s sad because we are a talented lot.

10. Morung Express: I assume the routine was punishing. What was a normal day like. How many hours of practice did you get in a day? Did a time ever come when you were just so tired of it all?
DC- Breakfast started at 9am then rehearsals were done and then it was straight to practice. It was that over and over again and again and again (laughs) . The people involved in the show really put us through a tough schedule. starting with breakfast , a normal day was filled with practice, costume fittings, and of course reality cameras shoved in our faces throughout the day
Bendang-  Well you can imagine looking at each other’s faces for three months (Laughs)I mean everyone was always in your face… we had our clashes too but we forgive quickly also I guess that’s  our survival tool. As a band we are always straightforward with each other.
Mhathung-We don’t drag our issues with us. We react quickly but also forgive quickly. That is the only way..we were there for something bigger you see.
Obed- The travelling was something we never looked forward to… from the hotel to the studio the distance is like the distance between kohima and Dimapur and the traffic was terrible. I recall one time  we got up at 5am on Monday (those are the shooting days) and returned to our hotels at 3am on Tuesday.

11. Morung Express: I understand you were given about 3days to learn new songs that too in Hindi and yes even in Punjabi. How was that for you as a band? It must have been difficult improvising, coming up with new ideas about songs that you must have probably heard for the first time? How was that experience?
Obed- In a word’ frustrating’ .We didn’t even know if the songs were in Hindi or Punjabi (Laughs) It could have been Greek ! First we have group meetings where all the bands, people from production etc come and the songs  are given out two songs each.Then we listen to the audio .It was like appearing for final exams twice in a week!! i t wasn’t the songs only but the themes we followed.The whole show had themes am sure you noticed.I had to memorize the songs on headphones I needed extra time. We all did extra work. Sometimes songs are even given at the last moment .I remember this one episode where I was given the wrong song and after all the practice I had to start all over again.
lichen- We were given songs chosen by the production two songs each and while other bands applauded at their songs we were like ‘ok gana paishe’! because we had never even listened to the songs forget lyrics and other technicals. We had to work double hard we started from zero really
Ate- All the songs had to be okayed by me before they could be given to the bands..(LOL)I was in the same predicament because my knowledge  of Hindi music is also a bit on the negative side... so, even I had to listen to listen to every song because just the title of the song was of no help to me but I guess we all managed.
Bendang-I hope you thought of us then (LOL)
Ate-Ii thought of poor Obed (Laughs) I remember Obed’ moving his hand like how Indian classical singers do.. But it was tough on all the bands. We were shooting every seventh day and these guys had to prepare two songs for the two episodes shoot. Practically, they had only about 2-3 practice days..  a day would be kept for sound technical and a day for the video technical and then would get their new songs on the 3rd day after the previous shoot… so.. do the math now… 2-3 days????
Mhathung – Max 3 days if were were lucky and if your crew wasn’t following us with their camera (LOL)
Bendang – Her crew never left us!!!
Obed- We had to summarize the whole song in 3mins I mean everything you could or could not do had to be done in that time slot. We were scared of overdoing and also underdoing. it was stressful if not frustrating.

12. Morung Express: Has this experience broadened your musical horizons you know being exposed to  a different type of music which is a far cry from what you guys normally do. what is your opinion on that?
Obed-We learnt that whether we like it or not we should always try and learn all genres of music that our country has…be versatile. I never wanted to learn hindi songs or listen to them…we tend to feel superior..but I realized that  the technical aspects of Indian  classcical music is too good… impossible for us Nagas.
Mhathung- Coming from a musician who plays a certain instrument I don’t think bollywood or the Indian industry has much  for me… anyway I’m a bass guitarist which is basically western…the same thing applies to Lichen and Bendang also I guess…but its interesting to collaborate with Indian instruments like the dholak and the sitar. If I get a chance I would jump to it I look forward to doing that someday.
Bendang- The dholak is something else…its awesome..if the dholak player has a sense of music and collaborates with the drummer.. I mean if they are in sync then its awesome i realized that.

13. Morung Express: Coming back to the actual performances you guys seemed pretty confident. i recall a footage where Obed says that experience wise they are much ahead. Can you elaborate on that?
Mhathung - Obed and I are have more than 15yrs of music behind us. I guess that’s why Obed said that.
Obed- Our confidence level was there because we are very used to live performances we are comfortable on stage. The other bands were pretty nervous sometimes that’s natural too I guess.
Bendang-We trust each other on stage that’s where a part of our confidence comes from.
Obed- The episode where I sang with Rahul Ram (episode 9) would be an example of how much we trust each other as a band.We had fixed all our pitches and stuff then he comes and joins now everything was messed again because he found the pitch too high we had to go down two pitches. When the chord changes the whole structure changes and no musician would dare to do that on stage..but lichen and Mhathung pulled it off..i have the highest regard for my friends.

14. Morung Express : Did you get a lot of female attention in bombay? How did you deal with that ?
Mhathung- Lichen made some good friends in Bombay( lol) but we never had that I guess people knew that we were not focusing on that
Ate- Well my crew loved all of you. I’ll give you that.

15. Morung Express: I noticed that when you guys were performing the led screen behind the drummer had a lot of footage. what was that about? tell me more mhathung-we were given handycams to shoot each other and that was displayed.
lichen- one day everyone was sleeping and there was nothing to shoot so I just shot some bible verses…that went down well with the Christian community there.
Ate- yeah we  had a few laughs watching all the bands’ footage.. guys rolling on the bed together… guys piled on top of each other... it looked like a happy gay ‘rock on’ community
Obed-all of us, and I mean all the bands… we had totally run out of ideas and locations to shoot ourselves…but in the end, it was a good experience because that made us less camera shy..we learnt so many poses( lol)

16. Morung Express: ok heres a fun question about the costumes. did you like them?
Bendang- We were given good clothes( lol)
Ate- some guys were very difficult to style i won’t name this guy from this band but poor guy no matter what he wore, he always looked “wrong number”lol
Mhathung- Well our stylist didn’t have much problems with us I guess we Nagas can carry anything off we have a natural sense of style really.

17. Morung Express: what kind of rapport did you share with the judges? Ate can you kindly give me an insider’s point of view too?
Mhathung- We had God's favour that’s it. The judges expected something because we came from north east and Rahul Ram's sense of humor was in sync with us.
obed-We also tried our best to be nice also. that way we made a real effort.
Mhathung -No but we didn’t try to gain favor by pleasing them too.
Ate-The judges loved them. The whole country knows that  Pritam is in love with Obed…but in all seriousness, the judges loved them. Rahul told me something real nice. He said, that they are not just great musicians, but they are good human beings. I’d like to believe that it’s this that endeared them to a lot of people. but not just the judges, but even my crew, my colleagues, my editors, down to my spot boys loved Divine Connection. one spot boy told me, “Madam, divine connection ka music mein jaddu hain…”

18. Morung Express: Ate I’m sure you must have gone through periods when people might say that you were being partial or biased to DC? What is your take on that?
Ate- The only accusation that came my way was that I spend more time with them… which was true because I know them from before. But we have all seen and we all heard them on TV. They were better. Let me put it this way…. even if I hated these guys, I would not be able to keep them away from winning the show… they are that good!
DC – The producers would cut into our practice schedule with their reality cameras, saying “Ate wants this, Ate wants that…” and well… it was annoying….
Ate – But it’s true… they…. We were all doing our jobs… they would have to answer to me you see…

19. Morung Express: I saw this footage where DC is helping out axis(a band from guwahati) thats rare in a cut throat competition. Why would you do that?
Mhathung- For us it was never about youknow not helping because it’s a competition..we helped because that is in our see someone in need you help…simple!

20. Morung Express: Overall how was the entire experience?  What was it like working with ate?
Mhathung- Shes very professional. I think the only Naga who works on this level
obed-We Nagas should learn from her. I was telling my friends also she deserves the governor's medal or something like that for heaven’s sake. She also has so much of experience she could do anything you know.
Mhathung- She has to stick at home and work here…btw she pays well too makes you feel appreciated really
Ate – There seems to be a mutual admiration society going on here…

21. Morung Express: how has life changed for you? you’ve been felicitated everywhere i mean you guys are in vogue. hows the euphoria?
Bendang-We have realized that we have to improve more.. musically and all
Mhathung- Lifewise we are still the same…maybe our fan base has broadened. I remember on our way from Chungtiayimsen( Lichen's village) ..this old couple recognized me and were so excited …imagine this old guy…ya there are moments!

22. Morung Express: Is there anything you would like to say to youngsters who look up to you?
Mhathung- I would like to say that music is good but there is a time for everything..its always a good idea to finish your education first. I mean none of us are college graduates and we really felt the pinch when we went to Bombay..I tell you education gives you an edge…
Obed- and to the older folks…let your children be themselves…all won’t get govt jobs and that’s not the end of the world…. they can be encouraged to do other things too!

22. Morung Express: what are you currently upto? Are you working on some songs?
Mhathung-we are doing an audio demo in hindi we wrote the song and Rahul Ram translated it for us….when everything is ready you know video, script and all they’ll give us a call and we’ll be off to Bombay again.. it’s a song about society…about why things happen..

23. Morung Express: What are your future plans? What does the future hold for dc?
Mhathung – Ate is going to be managing us from now…
Ate – ‘the good cop-bad cop’ game begins. now, I will take all the blame for Divine Connection. this is going to be one hell of a party!
- Keren Rose Ovung.