There is beauty in variety

Updated: Jul 05, 2020, 09:01 IST | Aastha Atray Banan | Mumbai

That's what Rahi wants to say in his latest song, with Kashmiri music and Garo lyrics

Rahi with team Sarmast
Rahi with team Sarmast

Kashmiri singer-songwriter Rahi was brought up in Pulwama, the nondescript Jammu and Kashmir district that became infamous after the February 2019 attacks, but knew that some day he would travel the country to make music.

Now based in Mumbai, where he is looking for film projects to work in, he continues to work on and release indie material. His latest single, Sarmast, sees him collaborate with the indigenous Garo community of Arunachal Pradesh. The song is characterised by Rahi's mellifluous voice, as the Garo lyrics go beautifully with Kashmir folk music.


Rahi discusses his time in the North East, and why he chose a song that's about falling in love with diversity.

Edited excerpts from the interview.

How did a Kashmiri end up singing Garo lyrics?
I was in the North East as a mentor at the Centre of Excellence in Indian Classical and Western Music. I was travelling with my guru and programme director of the Institute, Sucheta Bhattacharjee and Booma Hangsing, the guitarist of Boomerang, to this hilly town called Tura in Meghalaya with a population of barely 70,000. The plan was to teach kids Sufi music, Urdu poetry and songwriting. I was humming this tune while travelling through the mountains, when I passed by a Garo settlement. This was when I realised that regardless of differences, what we all have in common is love. I was inspired by their culture, language and how warm and hospitable they were. The song was recorded live since we wanted to keep it raw. They lost all the audio stems, so the song was never mixed and mastered to keep it authentic and real.

Was this your first encounter with the Meghalaya community?
I knew nothing about the North East prior to my visit. I learnt about the soundscape, their musical traditions and instruments—it opened up my world. I've also collaborated on another song with the Khasi community in Shillong.

How do you feel about how Sarmast has turned out?
A phrase to describe it would be, Unke rang mein rang jaana. I urge everyone to travel to experience cultures, traditions and fall in love with the diversity around us, instead of venturing to a new place for a holiday. We are all travellers in this life and the universal language we encounter is love. I want this song to reach everybody who needs a bit of love right now in these tough times. We are grappling with a plethora of emotions—depression, mental stress, insecurity. I want to be able to tell people's stories through my songs.

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