TNT EXCLUSIVE | Shillong, July
By Rachel Syiemlieh
Shillong-based 4th Element has been around long enough to be right up there in the list of music pioneers in the city. An ensemble formed in the capital city of Shillong in 2007, 4th Element juxtaposes elements of jazz, funk, soul and RnB to create a contemporary, eclectic brand of music. The band has lived to actually witness Shillong’s musical growth itself, having celebrated its 10th anniversary last year and still shows no signs of slowing down, having recently been the only Indian band to ever play at the Belize International Jazz Festival in Central America. TNT – The Northeast Today speaks to band front-man and keyboardist Ribor MB, who has also played with renowned bands, Mojo and Soulmate, to discuss its decade-old music, Shillong’s growing music scene and their Carribean experience at the Belize International Jazz Festival.
TNT: We know the band name ‘4th Element’ has nothing to do with the classical elements – earth, wind, water, fire. Mind telling us where it’s derived from?
RM: The music of 4th Element is based on the elements of Funk, Jazz, R’n’B and Soul.
TNT: You guys have been around since 2007. In what ways have the music and the audience in Meghalaya changed in the last decade?
RM: When the band started, the music of 4th Element was a new experience altogether, and the audience were kind of surprised to hear this kind of music. It didn’t take much time for this kind of music to be accepted here in Shillong and over the years the band has also influenced younger musicians to try and play this kind of music. We see a whole lot of variety of music being played and performed in Shillong now. The music scene in Shillong is definitely better.
TNT: Do you remember the first few records that had a lasting impression on you guys as a band?
RM: There are too many to name but here are a few:
Joe Sample, Lalh Hatahaway, Randy Crawford, The Crusaders, Earth, wind and fire, Incognito, Brian Culberston , Mezzoforte, Quincy Jones, James Taylor quartet…
TNT: The band has seen notable line-up changes over the years, the latest of which is vocalist, Sara Lee. Are we going to see her back any time soon?
RB: The band is like a football team, if one of the members is not free then a substitute is needed to fill in and the show must go on. Yes we’ve had a lot of session musicians who’ve played with us, over the years. Sarah Lee is still very much associated with band, as the album in which she sang will be out soon by the end of the year. She will be featured in some upcoming shows as well; we wish her luck and success for her projects as a solo act.
TNT: Amabel Susngi has since joined the band and together you guys performed at the Belize International Jazz Festival in Central America. Tell us about the grand Caribbean experience.
RB: Amabel joined the band in March 2017 and we’ve done a couple of shows with her in Shillong, New Delhi, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Sikkim and the most recent The International Jazz Festival in Belize and a pub gig in Mexico as well.
The band had to travel four days to get to Belize and the moment we stepped foot in Belize we fell in love with this beautiful Caribbean country. 4th Element was really honoured to share the stage with incredible musicians from around the world. The festival was a big success as well as for the band, as our music was highly appreciated by the audience and fellow musicians. The organisers of the festival have already hinted that they want 4th Element back next year.
TNT: This is the first time the festival has featured a band from India. How does that feel?
RB: Honoured! To be the first band from India to perform not just at The Belize International Jazz Festival but also the first band from India in Belize itself.
TNT: You guys have played in a number of festivals across the globe. Tell us about your most memorable performance.
RB: Every where we’ve played has its own special memories and experience. The people – musicians and the audience we’ve met will always have a place in our memories. Meeting, and seeing musicians from all over the world perform has inspired us towards better aims and goals as musicians and as a band. We look forward to more festivals in the coming years
TNT: Khasi culture has a strong historical connection with music. Does it reflect the prominence of music in the region?
RB: It depends what kind of music you’re talking about but we do see nowadays that a lot of youngsters are trying to get back to singing the old Khasi folk traditional songs and also picking up indigenous instruments. This is a good sign as this will help in preserving the Khasi culture especially in the music context.
TNT: Shillong’s music scene is making strides – improving by the day. Will we see Fourth Element collaborating with local artists any time soon?
RB: No doubt the music scene is getting better. In the past the band had collaborated with a few local artists and we are always open to do the same in the future.
TNT: Tell us about your current projects. What is the band up to at the moment? Any gigs we need to mark on our calendars?
RB: A few shows are lined up for July, August and September in Delhi, Chandigarh and Guwahati as well as Shillong. The final stage for the album is also under the process and we hope to release this as soon as it’s ready.
Thank you for giving us your time. We look forward to more talks with you.
The interviewer can be reached at rachelsyiemlieh18