Indian origin nominees at the Grammys
A week ahead of America's biggest music award night, mid-day connects with Indian origin nominees Falguni Shah, Prashant Mistry, and Snatam Kaur Khalsa
Snatam Kaur Khalsa
For: New Age Album, Beloved
Decades after she would constantly vie for a spot on the Grammy Awards winners' list, Snatam Kaur Khalsa said she had resigned herself from the attempt, years ago. "I had wanted it at the start of my career since I thought it would help get my music out [to listeners]. But we didn't get it year after year.
I wasn't seeking this nomination. This time, I think it was God's will." Khalsa, known for her new-age Indian devotional music, has won a nomination for her latest album, Beloved, which claims to gift its listeners 'total peace within yourself'.
"My music is rooted in the Sikh tradition. For Beloved, I spent a good amount of time developing the pieces because I wanted each to be one that people could connect with, listen to and chant along to. In the Sikh tradition, there's a reference to [a principle called] call of response. It's not about one person's performance.
There's a community response [that's required]. So, in this album, [I've kept] enough space for people to sing and chant," she says, pointing out that when her creations were ready, she took them to her performances at gurudwaras and temples to see the response it evoked. "I also had the recording done live. There is a certain energy that it lent," she says in a bid to point out why her album was an apt choice for the gala.
Having learnt devotional music from her mother, who trained in India, the kundalini yoga teacher combines her learning across disciplines to create a holistic healing pattern for her followers during workshops. "I first include [methods of] meditation to make them comfortable, and then teach them to chant."
Falu's Bazaar is packed with Indian flavours. Masala has her explain Indian spices to her son, and a Gujarati lullaby has been rendered by her mother
Falguni Shah, aka, Falu
For: Best Children's Album, Falu's Bazaar
Falguni Shah acknowledges that she was a "minorities' minority" when attempting to make a career in music overseas. Once often told that the country "doesn't have a big audience for you", Shah, with her very desi Falu's Bazaar, is now contending for a title in the gala's Best Children's Album category. Packed with Indian flavours like Masala (where she decodes Indian spices for her son), or a Gujarati lullaby crooned by her mother, the 14-track album came about owing to her attempt to answer son Nishaad's questions on why their way of living differed from the rest.
"I followed my child's lead, making this album based on the questions that he would raise. He would ask, 'Ma, why is our food yellow?'. And I thought the best way to answer it is through a song. If he asked me, 'What are the names of these pots and pans in our house that are not in my American friend's homes,' I was inspired to write Pots And Pans to teach children what belan, kadhai and tapeli are," she says of the Hindi, English and Gujrati album. "My son sings the first song and my husband plays the bansuri and harmonium. So, we really made it a family sing-along album."
The Grammy nod, she confesses, is a validation. Shah traces her music journey to the age of three, where she learnt from Kaumudi Munshi, who she returns to for training when in the country even today. "I also learned from Uday Mazumdar, Ustad Sultan Khan, and Kishori Amonkar. I was rigorously trained in Indian classical, semi classical and folk music. I learned how to play the guitar, piano and American [notes] only when I came to America later." Even today, her training is dominated by Indian tunes.
Prashant Mistry. Pics/The Fashtons, Getty Images, Facebook
Prashant Mistry's Engine-Earz Experiment
For: Best Immersive Audio Album, Symbol
London based Prashant Mistry calls his long-in-the-making album, Symbol "a call to empathy in times when powerful forces are trying their best to drive us apart." He lists personal favourites like Light From One, which shines because of collaborator Ane Brun's ability to "sum up the energy of the album beautifully", or Akala's rap in The Truth, which, he says, is reflective of the struggle people face when finding their way in life. Having dedicated the album to the deceased father of the band's percussionist, Kabir, Kuldip, he reveals, was an inspiration for them. "Symbol seems to have the same cathartic effect on those listeners experiencing loss, or going through a difficult time. I feel honoured that it could serve them."
Symbol has been in the pipeline for several years, and Mistry argues he did not wish to release it unless it "felt truly finished". Among the few Indian-origin musicians to make a flourishing career in electronic music overseas, he says his work is reflective of his learning from this country. "Indian sounds are an intrinsic part of my palette. I grew up with [Indian] instruments, which are as much a part of my musical make-up as electronic music."
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