A Folk-Packed Lineup To Take Stage In Mumbai This Week
The Raghu Dixit Project, Papon, Suhail Yusuf Khan with Akshay Raheja, Imphal Talkies’ Akhu, Tetseo Sisters, Ruhaniyat and Saurav Moni get together for Folk Nations
Just last month, a crowd of over 1,000 music enthusiasts gathered at Mumbai’s Cross Maidan for the first Folk Nations concert featuring artists from London, Cross Hands, Glasgow and New Delhi. Ross Ainslie, a young, buzzed-about piper from Glasgow, seemed to know his audience well. The multi-instrumentalist [Ainslie plays the bagpipes, flute, cittern and mandolin] recently collaborated with Assamese singer Papon [see video below]. “Indians like bagpipes,” said Ainslie launching into “Lullaby For Mel,” an evocative homage to a friend. As predicted, the tinny sound of his border bagpipes had the crowd hooting for more. What the crowd didn’t expect much later was Ainslie’s rousing version of AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” that gave them more reason to cheer. Few in the audience were in the know that Ainslie understood his audience so well because he is also part of India Alba, a four-member folk fusion band formed back in 2003, two of whose members are based in New Delhi.
To spotlight and set up more such collaborations, British Council of India, in association with Glasgow’s folk music festival Celtic Connections, Rolling Stone India and Blue Frog, has launched a three-year folk music project titled Folk Nations. In one of the more exciting lineups to take stage in the city, the Folk Nations show this Friday will bring together The Raghu Dixit Project, Papon and The East India Company, Akhu Chingangbam of Imphal Talkies, Kolkata Sufi Baul group Ruhaniyat, the Tetseo Sisters from Nagaland, Delhi fusion folk band, Advaita’s Suhail Yusuf Khan with former Faridkot keyboardist Akshay Raheja and Kolkata-based folk singer Saurav Moni. The day-long gig, which kicks off in the afternoon, is also a showcase for the artistic director of Celtic Connections, Donald Shaw, who will be in the city scouting for Indian folk artists. Shaw hopes to find local artists who can be perform at Celtic Connections in 2014 since India is one of the partnering countries at the festival next year. Singer Angaraag Papon Mahanta has already collaborated with Ainslie and singer Rachel Sermanni, both from Scotland says of Folk Nations, “Such collaborations helps artists gain musically and understand different philosophies and cultures. But most importantly, we tell stories and when we connect like this from different parts of the world, we realize that is the same story being told everywhere.”
For Akhu, frontman and founder of Imphal Talkies, collaborations such as Folk Nations are the reason why he kicked off the The Imphal Music Project. “I didn’t really think of myself as a folk musician, although I have quite a few folk tunes with contemporary lyrics in my repertoire now,” says Akhu, who will perform tracks such as “Eche” that he wrote back in 2010 when Manipuri social activist Irom Sharmila had completed 10 years of her protest against the the Armed Forces [Special Powers] Act [AFSPA, 1958]. Akhu will also bring along the Pena, a traditional string instrument from Manipur, for his 45-minute set.
Also making their debut at the Mumbai showcase are Nagaland’s Tetseo Sisters and Ruhaniyat, a Baul folk group from Kolkata. Ruhaniyat includes percussionist Rabi Mandal, vocalist Satyaki Banerjee and guitarist Tajdar Junaid, who is familiar with the Mumbai gigging circuit having collaborated with the likes of Warren Mendonsa. “We’ll be doing traditional folk songs and a doha by Kabir as well,” says Junaid. Adds Banerjee, “Folk never died, it just has changed form.”
All bands on the Folk Nations stage on Friday will agree with Banerjee. Whether it’s a song about a civilian losing his life to military violence, a love song set in Mysore or an Assamese boat song, folk music has given younger audiences a reason to connect with their roots and it’s time it was feted with due ceremony.
Folk Nations will be held on March 22nd at Blue Frog. Entry: 4-8pm Rs 400/Rs 1,000 full cover, 8 pm onwards Rs 800/Rs 1500 full cover.
A look at the first Folk Nations show at Kala Ghoda in February 2013
Watch Ruhaniyat’s “Bolo Paaki”
Watch Saurav Moni on [email protected] Studio
Watch Tetseo Sisters at Hornbill Festival
Watch Papon, Karsh Kale, Carl Barat and Ross Ainslie’s “The Minstrel’s Tale” on Dewarists Season 2