Falu Shah: Will be the voice of every South Asian musician

Updated: Sep 16, 2019, 07:47 IST | Sonia Lulla | Mumbai

Delighted to be appointed governor of the Grammy's recording community, Indian origin musician Falu Shah on the changes she plans to introduce

Falu Shah
Falu Shah

The last time we spoke to Falu Shah, she was in the midst of deciding on an ensemble for the Grammy Awards 2019. Finding herself among the few Indian musicians who were nominated at the global platform, Shah had discussed working on Falu's Bazaar — her album for children — that playfully introduced them to elements from the kitchens of Indian households. She may not have won the title, but she did earn a spot as governor of the platform's recording academy.

Tasked with the job of representing South Asian musicians, Shah, in an interview with mid-day, discusses how she plans to give a boost to artistes.

Can you discuss what your appointment to this role implies for South Asians?

I lost the Grammys but got selected on the board of the governors. I will represent South Asian [musicians] at a prominent level at the Grammys. I can be the voice of each one of them and aid in deciding which music must be considered. Also, if south Asians have any concern with regard to the platform, I can be their go-to person.

I will not be reviewing any work. I will create awareness of our presence, and our music. I also hope to represent Indian classical music at the world level. I can [enable them] to make a category, or create genres, like, a Bollywood section, or a thumri section, if needed.

When you were chosen for this role, were there any additions you were instantly eager to introduce?

I wanted to [promote] classical and semi-classical music, because that's what I'm trained in. I have to come up with a plan and arrive at the genre that must be introduced.

How abreast are you with the developments in South Asian music, given that, as a resident of America, you're not immediately exposed to it?

I am connected with Bollywood [music]. My brother lives in India. Ever so often, he'll send across clips of exciting things happening there. Also, I have social media to help me stay connected with India. I also want to work in Bollywood and am constantly seeking opportunities to see how [I can work there]. I have been following movies, and several directors have caught my eye. Directors like Ashutosh Gowariker and Sanjay Leela Bhansali are making mind- blowing movies; those that are not just entertaining but ones which make our history relevant.

If I have to represent something, I have to work in that field. If I have to discuss a genre, I would like to dabble in indie Hindi. I want to see how we can do rock combinations with classical music, because they are both beautiful genres.

Can you discuss what the Social Justice programme at Carnegie Hall is currently working on?

I've been associated with it for over 15 years. We believe that music is also a tool to heal people, and one that can bring about positive change in society. I work with the Sing Sing Correctional Facility in New York. We teach prisoners song writing and music, so that the next time any of those men are angry, they can write about how they feel instead of pulling out a gun and hurting someone. It's a way of converting that aggression into something meaningful. We had one person who is set to be released from prison on October 23. He had murdered someone 25 years ago. He changed his life, entirely. He must have been 21 years old when he came to the prison as an angry individual. Through music, he has rehabilitated himself in such a way that he is now an example for every inmate. Once he is out, he will head to Carnegie Hall for a performance.

How hard was it for you to connect with him?

I find that the men [in prison] reciprocate extremely easily, because they are there to change themselves, because they are ashamed of what they have done. We simply become instruments to facilitate that. We work with the juvenile justice systems too, dealing with kids between 11 and 19 years of age, and also with pregnant mothers who may not have homes to stay. Music helps them deal with their pain.

Can you discuss what's in the pipeline for you?

Given that I speak and sing in 10 Indian languages, I can present South Asia well. I performed at Chicago's Lollapalooza festival. There were 1,50,000 people there and I was the only Indian who got to perform. Our music is so loved and welcomed. The festival is known for being mostly rock-oriented and one that's attended by young people. Being loved by the young drives an artiste to such a great extent. I am also working on another album. Unlike Falu's Bazaar, this is for adults. It's in the indie Hindi genre. The songs are in English, but are based on ragas. We plan to finish it by February.

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