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This musical performance in Mumbai blends language, music and memories

Updated on: 18 April,2024 09:15 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Shriram Iyengar |

A documentary filmmaker returns to her folk roots with an experimental musical set that blends regional languages like Awadhi and Braj with Spanish and Portuguese compositions

This musical performance in Mumbai blends language, music and memories

Tewari recorded songs and folk music over several trips to Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan

Once a musician, always a musician. Or so it seems with filmmaker Mrinalini Tewari. Growing up in a family with musical roots, she was familiar with the folk tradition through her mother, a singer. But it was not till she returned to her home state of Uttar Pradesh in 2018 for a documentary, that she truly rediscovered her love for music and languages. This weekend, Tewari will join Nitish Ramabhadran (keyboards) and Manasquam Mahanta (guitar) for a unique set, Echoes du Monde, that blends language, music and memories.

“I learnt classical music as a young girl, even before I joined school,” Tewari shares. It was this early inoculation to the art that kept her curiosity going. “Even as a filmmaker, I remain curious about the many cultures of the world. Languages, after all, are also sounds,” she points out. It was these languages that led her to a return to music. Since 2018, she has travelled across UP, MP and Rajasthan recording folk musicians for various documentaries.

“I actually wanted to make a musical documentary. However, it did not happen. I did make one on Kashmir (Echoes From The Soil of Kashmir, 2022),” she says. The experience left a mark. “People often think of Uttar Pradesh as a Hindi heartland. It has a plethora of languages. There is Braj, Awadhi, 

Bundelkhandi to name a few. Each dialect is distinct, and carries a different cultural mark. It also changes from region to region. For instance, Braj is a dialect from northern UP, while Awadhi comes from the East, and Bundelkhandi is more prominent towards southern regions of UP,” she notes. She composed her first original Braj song in the same year. “Jaoo Saiyyan has a sense of longing and love that is common in the folk tradition. Even Blues, for instance, is a folk form. It reflects pain and longing that is unique to this form,” she says.

Manasquam Mahanta; Nitish Ramabhadran; Mrinalini Tewari
Manasquam Mahanta; Nitish Ramabhadran; Mrinalini Tewari

This juxtaposition of seemingly diverse forms comes alive through the set. A compilation of nine to 10 songs, the set will feature original compositions in Awadhi and Braj, as well as songs by the Portuguese singer Cesária Évora. While the songs range from folk with strains of classical, to Brazilian jazz, the form remains folk. This diversity is further emphasised in Ramabhadran and Mahanta, who are known for individualistic jazz creations. “I love the diverse approach to their music. The key is that they share the same vibe for music,” she remarks. The challenge, she admits, will be to balance the compositions, languages and their forms.

While setting out on their first such project together, Tewari remarks, “This is where the title Echoes du Monde comes from. These are sounds from the world. I have always been curious about these sounds, and would like to highlight them through my work — music or films.”

ON April 21; 7.30 pm
At Harkat Studios, Aram Nagar Part 2, Versova, Andheri West. 
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