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Can you tell us about your work?

Tipriti aka Tips, is the lead singer of Shillong based blues band Soulmate.When Tipriti Kharbangar sings, her voice hits you like a whiplash! With every number she croons, her vocal cords start to pump sounds varying in pitch and the power behind it is that of a juggernaut — an inexplicable force that makes you bow down in wonder at the magic of her voice.
 
Your background?

However, there’s a story behind Tipriti, one that will take us to the lush hills of Shillong in Northeast India and to Dr Graham’s Homes School located in Kalimpong, West Bengal. Tipriti is a Khasi and belongs to the Kharbangar tribe. Her home is in Malki, Shillong.
“I grew up in a musically-inclined family, listening to my father’s music collection. My cousins are also singers and I was a part of the Malki Presbyterian church choir,” says Tipriti in a nonchalant way. Her indifference to an interviewer’s question is not studied, it’s just how she is. Tipriti in many ways is an extension of the persona she’s on stage — a thorough professional,  who takes a little time to really open up to the audience.

How did you choose such an offbeat, unconventional and cool career path?
To understand what shaped Tipriti into a powerhouse performer, we need to look at things that inspired her. Shillong would be first on the list — every second person you meet there knows how to play the guitar. Besides, it’s a region where people are blessed with amazing voices. Secondly, her stint at Dr Graham’s Homes School (DGH) seems to have done wonders to boost her morale as a performer.
Started by Scottish missionary John Anderson Graham, DGH looks like a Scottish village and staring luminously at the school, is the entire Kanchenjunga range. “It was in DGH that I took off as a singer. I won singing competitions at the school and the former principal of the boarding school L J Fuller presented me with a guitar. Besides, I sang for the DGH choir that’s directed by a British choirmaster Simon Mainwaring,” says Tipriti. DGH, annually hosts inter-cottage singing competitions. Tipriti represented Thorburn Cottage in the singing fests.

Although she studied in the school for only two years, ‘97 and ‘98, some of her most cherished memories stem out of the time she spent at DGH and when she feels like unwinding, she finds her footfalls taking her close to places near the institute. “I have lots of friends in Darjeeling and Sikkim. Whenever I need a break, I visit these places all by myself. Usually, I meet up with friends and jam with them,” adds Tipriti. She is planning to visit DGH with her batchmates in 2012 for the school reunion.

What did you do after DGH?

After leaving DGH, she went back to Shillong. Back home, Tipriti was destined to forge a career in music. At one point, she was the backup vocalist of the Shillongbased rock act Mojo. Still, destiny had not played the ace up its sleeve — the meeting between songwriter and guitarist of Soulmate, Rudy Wallang and Tipriti. During the conversation Rudy adds, “I was recording for a gospel album. Tips was one of the singers and when I heard her sing, I just knew that she was the person for my next project.” As for Tipriti, she not only found a mentor in Rudy who taught her about guitaring, but she was also injust in her genes. “To be precise, Tipriti’s singing ability is a gift. It’s one of those things you can’t explain.” Tipriti has her own take on her vocal ability. “My voice comes from the soul,” she says, sounding philosophical and then jokes, “I think my vocal power also comes from shouting at my younger brothers when I’m at home.”How did Soulmate come about?

Soulmate started swinging in 2003 and with it stories of Tipriti’s legendary voice trickled down from the hills in Shillong to the plains. Today, she’s undisputedly one of the best blues singer India has ever produced! That apart, Rudy is a legit blues guitarist, who’s able to emote his feelings through the six strings of an electric guitar. Tipriti’s love for the blues is infectious. “We play the same songs over and over again, but I never get tired of them. Our performances are different all the time. That’s because the blues is such a dynamic genre that you have to keep improvising,” says Tipriti. With her gig hours on the rise, Tipriti’s reputation as a formidable blues vocalist keeps rising, but then what next for her and the band? Looking at way things are going, Soulmate is here for the long haul and coming back to what we started off with — an insular look at Tipriti — it will be long time before her voice gets muted by the wheels of time.
troduced to the blues.”
“Before Soulmate, I sang covers by aritistes like Alanis Morissette and Whitney Houston. I enjoyed doing that stuff, but when I got immersed in the blues, the experience was unique,” adds Tipriti. Her voice, apart from her elfin good looks is always the topic of discussion.