Published: 15th September 2021
This cover band of Jharkhand is trying to make Santhali music reach other parts of India and beyond
Santhali is one of the 22 languages recognised in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution. According to the 2011 census, there are 64,69,600 Santhali speakers, which make up 0.63 per cent of the total
If la vie en rose has ever been on your playlist, you might just end up playing Lantiti on repeat — a Santhali song written by Lal Sushant Soren of the Santhal tribe, it was released on cassettes in the early 2000s. But since then its reach remained limited. All of that changed when the pandemic hit last year, Soren’s three daughters —Amrita Monalisha Soren, Neha Ankita Soren, Nicky Angel Soren— and their two cousins in Jharkhand have brought the song back to life through YouTube and social media. In just a year, their channel ‘The notebook unofficial’ has more than eight thousand subscribers and their videos get almost 40,000 views.
Lal passed away in 2018, his niece Shruti Soren (19) says, “He was not a musician for a very long time but he got really popular amongst Santhali speakers. We decided to carry forward his legacy.” Shruti is often seen singing with a Ukulele or a guitar in hand, she says, “We had a very beautiful, musical environment in our house but we never thought of coming up as a band.”
The five of them were together in their village of Dumka and it was a spontaneous decision to start a cover band. “We initially uploaded a Hindi song on Instagram which got really popular but it was only when we started uploading our songs in Santhali that there was a big demand for a YouTube channel,” Shruti says.
Shruti Soren (19) gave her NEET exam on September 12 | Pic: via Shruti
None of the cousins have formal training in music, all are self-taught. “We learnt instruments like guitar and ukelele online, we had some friends who played it and we picked up a little from them as well,” Shruti says. “We don’t even know the guitar chords, all of it is trial and error.”
In some of their songs, one of the Soren cousins is seen with a Cajon. Shruti says, “One day we noticed that she is good with rhythm so we just went ahead and bought her Cajon.”
First in their family
“We are the first generation that is putting our music so out in the open and the reason is that we want people to know about our language and our culture,” Shruti says. Several people reached out to the band asking for the meaning of Lantiti when it was first uploaded. Shurti said that the song is essentially about a young boy who is trying to explain the feeling of falling in love, the word ‘lantiti’ in Santhali can be translated to a beautiful bird, which in the song is a metaphor for a girl.
Santhali is one of the 22 languages recognised in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution. According to the 2011 census, there are 64,69,600 Santhali speakers, which make up 0.63 per cent of the total Indian population. The tribe is spread across Jharkhand, Assam, Odisha, West Bengal and some in parts of Chattisgarh. “Music has been an integral part of our community. Even when someone dies, people sing as they are speaking. I mean, they speak in a way which sounds like a song,” Shruti says.
Songs in Santhali
“Videos of Santhali songs can be cringy but if you just listen to the song, they are quite nice and meaningful,” Shruti says. However, she adds that the new songs that are being made in Santhali are trying to be too Bollywood. But, she adds, that there are also songs like that of her uncle’s which speak of socio-political issues. For instance, in one song Sidho Kanhu Kin Hohoe, her uncle calls on the community to look after each other and says that there is nobody else who would do that. Shruti sent ahead a rough translation of the song in which one line reads, “Come wake up and look after your community. For, they are lagging behind.”
Where are the other four?
“Initially, we were consistent and uploaded at least two or three videos a month but now everyone is busy but we are planning on putting out another song in a month,” says Shruti. In fact, due to logistical difficulty and the personal priorities of other band members, only Shruti was available for this conversation. While some of them continue to put up individual song covers on Instagram, the band has been on hold. All the Soren cousins are preparing for their competitive exams, Shruti gave her National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (UG) on September 12. But, she says, “We will be back at it next month.”