As celebrations across the globe take centre stage to commemorate World Music Day, we at StageCulture take this opportunity to hail the spirit of some of our young revolutionary musicians. That multi-talented lot who have time and again taken us back to our roots. Given us some golden moments to revisit our musical heritage and paid a humble homage to folk in their own contemporary way.
Folk music in India
Whether it’s the songs of the saints and poets or the songs of the common man to voice opinion, folk music in India has been one of the strongest mediums of expression. The rich cultural diversity of our country has produced a celebratory lineage of folk music, with every state contributing its own style.
So while Bhangra and Bihugeet essentially portray the festival mood in Punjab and Assam, the Bauls of Bengal spread mysticism through their folk songs. Then there’s Bhavageet or emotion poetry, which talks intensely about nature, philosophy and love among other things.
In India we have a folk song for every occasion. Young musicians derive inspiration from it even today. Folk has not only successfully blended with pop, rock and the classical but also stood its ground independently.
The New Age Folk Artistes
With an ektara in her hand, khamak or duggi strapped around her shoulder and chilambu metallic anklets, Parvathy performs with such spiritual grace that it has consistently left her audience in India and world over spellbound. The doyen of Baul, folk music from Bengal, Parvathy has spent her entire life, learning, practicing, performing and teaching the Baul tradition through her non-profit educational institution Ekathara Kalari in Kerala.
With a pitch perfect voice, she is a quite a treat to watch as she sings mystic songs dating back to 8th C. AD playing multiple instruments, dancing and even painting while performing. As we write, she is all set to perform at the World Music Day Concert in Kolkata, followed by a string of performances in UK, Denmark and Italy.
One of the leading folk-rock music bands in India, Swarathma is known to give a rocking twist to everything folk and classical. Whether it’s a revamp of a Bhajan in their song Yeshu Allah aur Krishna or a Baul style retake of Rabindranath Tagore’s classic Ekla Chalo Re.
Their unconventional collaborations with folk artists from remote areas within the country and across the globe has resulted in breath-taking productions. Their initiative to get Tavil players from the temples in Tamil Nadu to collaborate with them alongside notable saxophonists from France is only one such example. They are also known to use their music to make sound socio-political comment.
Known as one of the pioneers of ‘Asian Underground’. A musical style that emerged abroad in the mid-1990, Karsh Kale has been living up to this fusion style of Western underground dance music and traditional Asian music (Indian folk and classical). He is one of the most sought after and acclaimed musicians in America and has even impressed the likes of Barrack Obama.
Tabla being a predominant instrument in his tracks, Kale is essentially an electro-fusion artist. He combines the sound of folk instruments like tabla and flute with other percussion instruments to create a mesmerizing fusion of electronica, Indian folk and classical, rock, jazz and hip hop.
His album Cinema walked away with the Best Fusion Album award at the Global Indian Music Academy Awards 2012. He has collaborated with everyone from sitar player Anoushka Shankar to the Indian electro-bhangra group Midival Punditz.
Papon aka Angaraag Mahanta
He may now be popular for singing soulful Bollywood melodies but Papon’s training as a musician is deep rooted in Assamese folk music and Indian classical. He has not only learnt devotional Assamese lyrical songs – Borgeet – and the festive Bihugeet but also plays folk instruments like khol and tabla along with playing the harmonium and guitar.
Keeping his traditional learning alive through his band Papon and the East India Company, the singer, instrumentalist, composer and producer frequently produces music belonging to the genres of acoustic folk, Indian classical and ambient electronic. Watch him sing the Tokari geet on MTV’s Coke Studio, yet another Assamese folk song traditionally sung playing a tokari (a single stringed guitar) which the musician plays himself.