If you walk into Chandraprakash Mittal’s house in Juhu next week, you will witness a music session that will perhaps take you by surprise. Folk singers from Malwa and Ujjain will be singing devotional songs, as an urban group of 25 to 30 people listen to them and perhaps, even sing along.
Deene Khan’s show at Clanergy Studios in Malad, a session by Food, Friends and Folk music
A higher ground
This session is not the first of its kind in the city. It is in fact the second such session that Mittal will be hosting in his home. Mittal is part of a group that was started by music lover Priti Turakhia about two years ago, which brings down folk musicians to Mumbai for satsangs in people’s homes. What changed in the last year or so is that more people like Mittal have opened up their homes to these artists from rural India. Today, there are several such people who are hosting such sessions in their homes.
Moora Lala and Kaluram Bamaniya at Anupama Bose’s residence at Goregaon
“When people attend such sessions, many get inspired and feel like wanting to have sessions in their own homes. They usually invite their friends over, and group numbers increase,” says 61-year-old Turakhia, who along with many others has successfully hosted two Kabir Festivals in the city. Most people cannot accommodate more than 15 to 30 people in their homes, so if they want to hold sessions, they offer their place for the next meeting.
“The idea is that more and more people can listen to this music. It is also to encourage people to hold sessions in their homes, where their circles can also become a part of this,” says Turakhia, who adds, “We have been seeing several new faces at these sessions.” The initiative, which started with a small group, has a current database of 400 to 450 people. “Everyone doesn’t attend all sessions but they are in the loop with what’s happening. It is growing, organically,” she elaborates.
It’s not just Devotional music, but Folk music at large that is witnessing an increasing audience. Folk, Friends and Folk Music (F3M) is a group that was started in March this year. It invites and brings down Folk musicians from across India, to perform in the city. Presently, they have a Mumbai and a Delhi chapter. The Mumbai sessions were held over three days at the end of last month. “All of us who were involved in F3M have been wanting to set up cultural hubs for a while. In fact, we were all dabbling in similar stuff, individually... till one day after a musical soiree, we simply decided to action these thoughts...and F3M was born,” says Anupama Bose, a core member of F3M.
“The idea is to bring to the metro-scape, indigenous sounds, rhythms and songs which are intrinsically ours. We hope to give back in some form to these folk artists — because frankly, they are actually guardians of an treasure house of music, poetry, sounds, literature and a truly secular tradition that might die out, otherwise,” she maintains. The response to the sessions held so far have been great and Bose says that there have been many people who have come forward to share their homes and spaces for performances and she feels there is a growing audience for Folk music in the city.
From India, for Mumbai
Folk artists from different parts of the country had come down to be part of the sessions were hosted by F3M. Kaluram Bamaniya from Malwa in MP, Moora Lala from Kutch, Gujarat and Deene Khan Manganiya have performed here. Apart from this, many artists like Prahladji Tippanya and Mukhtiyar Ali have sung very often in Mumbai’s homes. “I think it’s always important for people to know their own ethos. An understanding of this music would also bring with it an awareness of the rich and varied literature and poetry that’s integral to them,” stresses Bose.
“For example, it is very enlightening to listen to Bhojpuri folk and realise how liberal it is and how most of the classical khayal bandishes, thumris and chaitis that classical musicians sing as a part of their repertoire is actually Bhojpuri oral tradition. On the other hand, if we travel to Bengal, and further into Sylhet (now in Bangladesh), we find a rich tapestry of music and poetry apart from Baul and Bhatiyaar. Through these influences one discovers wonderful synergies between Hindu as well as Muslim sub-cultures from across the sub-continent. Across the north one hears not just Kabir but all the great poets and saints, Khusrau, Bulle Shah, Baba Farid, re-interpreted in the local dialects — such that they have become part of local tradition,” she adds.
More the merrier
So, what is it that draws Mumbaikars to this kind of music? “Some are drawn to the sound, while others are drawn to the words. For me it was both. Any music gets you thinking and the words of saints like Kabir are very powerful,” says Turakhia. And, this is not restricted to a particular age group. “Young people are very interested in music. More youngsters are getting involved too,” adds Mittal. “One can draw from these folk musicians their ability to assimilate and co-exist. So, in that sense it would impact us positively. If understood in context one would become far more tolerant, liberal and socially responsible and basically more evolved,” Bose concludes.
The city listens...
The city is witnessing a rising number of events and performances of Devotional and Folk music. The Kabir-Khusrau festival hosted earlier this month by Banyan Tree Events saw a very large audience. “People want to listen to fresh music from folk artists,” says Mahesh Babu, director of Banyan Tree Events. Taal India is another concept, which features folk percussionists from across the country and it is extremely popular with the masses. Ruhaniyat that is hosted by them is one of the most looked-forward to Sufi festivals of the country. “Ruhaniyat is about mystic music. But I soon hope to host a pure folk festival, where it is exclusively folk music from different parts of the country,” explains Babu.