“Folk music has always been popular but recently, contemporary folk has started becoming a little more mainstream,” says Raghu Dixit, who fronts the Bangalore-based contemporary folk band Raghu Dixit Project. Recognising this trend, the British Council conceptualised a three-year programme, titled Folk Nations, to showcase the folk music of South Asia and the UK and to encourage collaborations between artistes of these regions.
With the British folk rock band Mumford & Sons winning the Grammy Award this year, folk music has definitely made its way back to the mainstream overseas.
“But in India, there are only a handful of artistes such as Papon and Raghu Dixit who have gone back to their roots and managed to represent their music internationally. Everyone knows them, but there are 50 others. Through Folk Nations, we hope to highlight these artistes and make folk cool,” reveals Tasneem Vahanvaty, head of business development and music, British Council.
After successfully organising workshops in Bangladesh and a week-long residency for folk artistes in Kolkata, the British Council is bringing Folk Nations to Mumbai. On March 23, 4 pm onwards, Blue Frog will host a selection of folk artistes from across the country, including Raghu Dixit Project, Nagaland’s Tetseo Sisters, Papon, Imphalese Akhu Chingangbam and Saurav Moni, who sings Bengali folk. Four out of the seven performers will be selected to perform at the Scottish festival Celtic Connections next year.
The Tetseo Sisters, who sing in their tribe Chakhesang’s native Li, are excited to showcase their music to new audiences. “We would love to collaborate with other artistes. Our music focuses on vocal harmonies and has very little percussion. Some of our Li will sound great with elements of trance, electronica, carnatic and jazz,” the Tetseo Sisters say.
“While we feel the need to preserve our folk music in its original pure form, we also want to reach out to younger audiences and more ears around the world.
We have audiences who want the pure folk experience and then some who want more progressive or modern twists. Our fans are equally divided on that front and we want to live up to the challenge of performing music that is unique, timeless and beautiful,” they add.
“Music is the easiest tool to bring people together,” believes Vahanvaty. “But we hope to cover textiles, crafts and design next year too.”
In the meantime, Vahanvaty promises to bring a different folk artiste from the UK to the country every month. “The plan is to curate artistes in interesting spaces such as Ahmedabad’s Darpana Academy, or beautiful museums across the country. Interesting backdrops will definitely add to the experience,” she concludes.