Shankar Mahdevan all set to present India's Folk music on an international stage

Updated: Jan 05, 2017, 13:52 IST | Wriddhaayan bhattacharyya

Singer-composer Shankar Mahadevan is keen to go international with his new initiative that celebrates India's Folk music

Shankar Mahadevan captures the crowd with his artistes after the NH7 Weekender gig in Pune

Folk music in India, with its ancient roots, surfaced from folk tales, expressionist poetry and social issues. The nation being a miscellany of languages, collecting sounds from every region seems unattainable, but well-known vocalist and composer Shankar Mahadevan has enrolled for the mission. Following a successful gig with his new initiative, My Country My Music — a band of Folk artistes — at the NH7 Weekender recently, the 49-year-old is up for going international to illustrate Indian culture.

How it began
Mahadevan nursed the idea while touring in the remote parts of India. "For a long time, I have been performing for the Andhra market, the Tamil market, in Kerala and Satara-Sangli-Kolhapur in Maharashtra. These regions had so much music that I wanted audiences to witness all of it on one stage," he says.

The contingent comprises artistes like Maame Khan (Rajasthan), Anindita Paul (Assam), Manikka Vinayagam (Tamil Nadu) and noted flautist cum vocalist, Rasika Chandrashekhar. "People won't have to worry about language, for the music is universal," adds Mahadevan, who also composed a few tracks for
the project.

Original scores
"I wrote a song on the Kerala boat race. It is about how they hum and chant while rowing. It is an interesting musical and visual experience with stage lighting. I also wrote a Tamil song called Rasathi, which means a beautiful girl. To weave Bengal into the project, I composed an introductory piece to Rabindranath Tagore's Ekla Cholo Re to bring out the old Baul essence," informs Mahadevan, who intends to have a Baul musician by his side soon. "Time is an issue. So, instead of too many dishes, seven or eight delicious dishes are better," says Mahadevan, overjoyed after the response at the Weekender gig. "At a show like NH7, the age group is between 16 and 24, and the way they embraced our music helped me realise that kids are open to experiments. It is not only item songs that they want to listen to. I wanted to bind the musicians into a contemporary band so that the listeners can connect to the sound," he adds.

Genres and layers
The artistes have been exploring Rajasthani Folk, Kashmiri Folk, Bihu, Punjabi Folk, Thumri, Kajari, Bhajan and more. "People only associate Bhangra with Punjabi music but there is so much more — Heer, for example. I also did a geet, earlier performed by Ghulam Ali Khan saheb with a traditional harmonium and a tabla," he says.

The second layer of the endeavour is to emphasise the connection between traditional Folk and Bollywood music. "In Uttar Pradesh, Qawwali is a prominent form which we use in our films," says Mahadevan, who easily brings in a Jhoom Barabar Jhoom in the midst of a conventional Punjabi song.

His artistes draw inspiration from old Indian practices like composing a song for every occasion. "In Gujarat, there is a song for when crops are destroyed by locusts. There is another song when crops are harvested. There is another tune for when the dead are being carried for cremation. I wanted to test them all. The audience is lapping it up. This is an image of India. I want to take this music all over the world with pride," adds Mahadevan.

Mahadevan in performance with Rajasthani €ˆFolk singer Maame Khan

Music from Shankar's folklore

  •  Kesariya Balam
  •  Bumbro
  •  Muniya
  •  Baawre
  •  Daiyya Re Daiyya

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