"Quiet Storm: A Blues Phenomenon Erupts from Jaintia Hills, Winning Hearts and Mahindra Blues Band Hunt 2020"
By Prasanta Phukon
Quiet Storm was brewing since 2018 and two years after, it blew everyone’s mind. The blues band from Jaintia Hills came to the limelight when it won the Mahindra Blues band hunt 2020, the biggest event of the genre in Asia. The band members chose the name to symbolise patience, passion and dedication, and they are living up to it.
Starly Chullai, the lead singer and guitarist, was an established musician even before the band was formed. He had been playing in bands like Little Rock Band, Fleet Street, Feed Back, Blue Tone, Band’s Men and 4th Element since 1986. He had also shared the stage with Ehsaan Noorani, Rudy Wallang and Lou Majaw. Music runs in Starly’s family. His youngest son Ian Lynthong plays rhythm and lead and nephew Dami Nongpluh is a bassist. Another nephew, Maximillan Chullai, is a drummer and all four of them performed Gospel music for seven years before forming the band. Ian is also one of the vocalists.
The idea to form the band started taking shape a long time ago when Starly saw the unique talent of Dami and Ian, both of whom are driven by the same passion for blues music. “We began to jam together. Later, we decided to call Maximillian for he had the ability and talent as a blues drummer,” recollected Starly. The four began to record originals in Starly’s jam room. “After the first few songs, we realised that together we had something worthwhile. Dami, Ian and Maximillian just clicked as a full-fledged band and they all knew that the time was right to bring the blues, R’n’B, soul, funk and blues rock back. When the band was formed, we agreed on music as a full-time career,” said the ace guitarist. The band plays traditional, classic and modern blues. While Starly got into the blues groove in 1994, the younger members in the band chose the genre in 2017. “Blues originated in the Deep South of the United States around the 1870s by African-Americans from roots in African musical traditions, African-American work songs and spirituals,” said Starly, adding that Quiet Storm is influenced by BB King, Albert Collins, Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Albert King, among others. “BB King is our idol. In fact, we had the privilege to meet several international blues artistes like Buddy Guy, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Keb Mo, Larkin Poe, Chris Layton (Stevie Ray Vaughan’s drummer),” said Dami. Talking about the band’s recognition in the Asian music arena, Starly said, “It was a wonderful journey to be the winner of the Mahindra Blues band hunt 2020.” There were about 30 bands in the competition of which three were selected for the final round. A week after Quiet Storm won the title, it performed at The Mahindra Blues Festival in Mumbai. The band has done 10 shows across the country so far. The band members unanimously agreed that The Road I’m On is their best original song. It is about a person’s addiction and urge to become a better person.
Their other songs include You Don’t Love Me Baby and Hard-hearted Woman, which are available on YouTube. The musicians are planning to record an album soon. Despite the fame and talent, fund remains a major problem for the band that does not even have enough money to buy proper musical instruments. The members had signed up with TVAlly — an online platform for discovering musicians and artistes and connecting them with listeners — to ease their financial pangs to some extent. “There is no response till date,” Starly said. But none of the members loses heart because Quiet Storm is all about resilience and growing in strength through the rigours of life. “A journey that must be travelled no matter how hard the road and accommodations, music will lift another dimension,” Starly and his fellow musicians believe. They also feel that “one needs to understand that music is all about love” if one has to grow as a musician. “So have patience and maintain discipline. Practice every day and love what you do, what you love,” was Starly’s advice to the young and upcoming musicians.
The ongoing lockdown has affected life and everything good about it, including music. So the band members want people to understand the gravity of the threat and cooperate accordingly with the government and respective district administration. The lockdown has also stalled the band’s plans to hold concerts.
Photo courtesy: Quiet Storm