May 13, 2011

Nagaland's Imli Imchen: Guitars, Fingerstyle, Fingerflair

Nagaland’s first Fingerstyle instrumentalist I believe

When his debut album hits the stores in June in Mumbai, the least of reactions in Nagaland would be vigorously nodding heads agreeing that his brand of music is the first of the kind ever to come out from the Naga talent pool. In a state where traditional guitar playing-styles – such as contemporary rock guitar playing and the classical guitar – are as common as smoked pork, Imli Imchen’s acoustic instrumental music will stand out stark and indisputable.

21 year old Imli Imchen – a devout Andy McKee addict and acoustic junkie – plays Fingerstyle and his tunes are centuries away from the normal fingerboard menu 12 lakh Nagas have been playing since the age of the dinosaurs. On his album release, Imchen shall be solely blamed for shoving Wes Borland and Joe Satriani out of Nagaland and introducing Bucky Pizzarelli and Guy Van Duser here.

Imchen, a 5’9 tall monster sparkling with dexterity even a young George Winston would appreciate, played to select patrons at Dimapur’s Jumping Bean, Wednesday May 11. He treated the patrons to his gift, playing a guitar style that has taken the American and European music industry by storm –Fingerstyle. He could be making history. Wait and watch.

Fingerstyle for Dummies

For those who came in late, Fingerstyle or Fingerstyle Guitar is a recent and highly specialized guitar style. In contrast to traditional guitar styles such as flat-picking (eg., the contemporary rock style) or chord repertoire (eg., the classical guitar style) Fingerstyle’s chief characteristics are the use of entire digits accentuated mainly by percussive and open tunes as opposed to picking individual notes, repertoire or strumming. Artificial harmonics, hammer-ons or pull-offs in open fretting and yes, using the acoustic body of the guitar as percussion, used alternatively with playing the notes, are some of the main features of the technique. A recent boost for the Fingerstyle movement (also called New Age Fingerstyle for modern arrangements) was the Grammy for the Eurells – John Eurell Sr. and John Eurell Jr. Guitar enthusiasts will know Andy McKee’s ‘Rylyn.’

 (Right: Guitarist Imli Imchen)

Jumping Gaga 

A little jumpy Imli Imchen – nervous to the point of apologizing – and baby sister Nukshinaro Imchen performed a gig of covers and numbers from the guitarist’s yet untitled album. His nervous mutterings notwithstanding, Imchen’s special skill with the guitar, and his originals made sure he was swiftly forgiven for getting jumpy. A dulcet Nukshi accompanied her brother on Chandler’s’  ‘I know you’re there’ before retouching John Mayer’s 2005 Grammy Song of the Year ‘Daughters.’  On the higher pitches, Nukshinaro actually sounds like American singer Anastasia. The brother-sister duo then nailed the patrons good with Coldplay’s ‘Fix You’ and of course one unidentified flying number that even had  Lady Gaga helping out in the chorus.    

However, Imchen’s originals were the main course. An incredibly beautiful, emotional and poignant instrumental Imchen played was ‘Kohima Night Sky’ – a tribute to his missing home when in Mumbai. The piece was replete with all theatrics even a rock guitarist would envy – double-handed harmonics in the middle of repertoire; soaring ascensions and flowery arpeggios; exquisite layering. ‘Kohima Night Sky’ is destined for greatness, especially for ringtone junkies. ‘Since that Day,’ another original from his upcoming album, was next – an instrumental powerfully reminiscent of the iconic ‘Midsummer’s Daydream’ (Rick Emmet).  You could see jaws were having a day off when Imchen played his originals.

Promoted by, a Naga website, Imchen’s debut is scheduled for summer. For all his dexterity and fine musical sensibilities are worth, Imli Imchen could be the first of the new breed of Naga guitarists who have renounced worldly pleasures such as the rock styles and dedicated their lives to more fingerly pursuits.

Photo: Soreishim Mahong


  1. seen tis guy in kohima, he rocks!

  2. finherstyle guitar technique is a hard music style. Evn in India only a few guitarists play it. I've listened to "Ryylyne" by Andy Mckee. So awesome. it's great to know nagaland still dominates as a big share of music talent states in India

  3. Imli's music is unique.. a style Ive never encountered. simply awesome!