Watch When Chai Met Toast Jam with Punjabi Folk Artist Rangle Sardar In New Series
The Equals Sessions, started by music non-profit Anahad Foundation, is a collaborative series which includes rock artists such as Parvaaz, Faridkot and more
When Punjabi and Rajasthani folk music is often squeezed down to the few popular standards that are rehashed to death, it’s refreshing to hear that artists are writing new songs. A new collaboration series called The Equals Sessions brings together indie rock artists to mentor folk musicians from North India, to create music.
New Delhi-based non-profit organization Anahad Foundation, which has been working to support folk music in India, launched the Equals Sessions in July with the ephemeral track “Zubaan,” featuring Bengaluru psychedelic rock band Parvaaz and Manganiyaar singer-composer Gazi Khan. Late in August, they launched “Karam,” the second of five releases, this time pairing Kochi indie/folk act When Chai Met Toast with Punjabi folk act Rangle Sardar.
The philosophical yet upbeat song brings together the signature banjo of Achyuth Jaigopal and folksy arrangements, but also surprises with Azam Khan, Maninder Bitta, Arash Riaz and Sabar Singh Khokhar having a go at seemingly Malayalam vocal harmonizing. Jaigopal recounts that in the span of three days, the musicians met and exchanged tunes, before settling on a song that Khan and the rest of Rangle Sardar wrote in just one day. “We worked on the arrangement and the third day was all in the studio recording everything. Being in the studio was also a new experience for them, in New Delhi,” Jaigopal says.
Recognition and accessibility is a little more certain for folk artists through this collaboration, which also works as a sort of mentorship. Abhinav Agrawal, the founder of Anahad Foundation, says the idea of folk artists having mentors was, however, initially a “bag of mixed experiences.” While he says almost all the time, folk artists are keen to work with western music, there’s some opposition. “The ones with whom we face difficulty is because of their staunch belief that folk music cannot be created in today’s time,” Agrawal says.
As with any collaboration that’s sort of commissioned, a comfort level needs to be in place, that too within a certain timeframe. “We made a rule that, when both indie and folk artists meet we leave them together for an entire day just for the ice breaking and better understanding of each other as a person and their music,” Agrawal says. He adds that getting folk artists into a room to record has also led to a lot more confidence among them to release more material. “After the recording is done they come to the mixing room to listen to how they have performed and when they listen, a different level of confidence arises in them. That is the confidence we want to achieve.”
The forthcoming releases of Equals Sessions also includes New Delhi modern jazz act Syncopation, Mumbai/New Delhi pop-rock band Faridkot and Hindustani classical vocalist-composer Saptak Chatterjee’s collaboration with Rajasthani composer Kasam Khan.