Narendra Kusnur Writes About Folk Fusion Music Showcased Through The OTT Docu-series Equals

Narendra Kusnur Writes About Folk Fusion Music Showcased Through The OTT Docu-series Equals

The seven-part series created by Greater Noida-based Anahad Foundation is a natural extension of their Equals Sessions concept

Narendra KusnurUpdated: Thursday, February 08, 2024, 08:25 PM IST
article-image

DESPITE a slowdown during the Pandemic, there have been quite a few efforts over the past decade to promote Indian folk-fusion. Though the broader sound has existed in certain film songs for years, and popularised by bands like Indian Ocean and later Advaita and Swarathma, the following has increased slowly. The TV series Coke Studio introduced many such acts to the mass audience, and festivals like the multi-city Ruhaniyat, Rajasthan International Folk Festival in Jodhpur, and Paddy Fields and last year’s Mahindra Roots Festival in Mumbai have attracted folk and semi-classical forms from different regions.

Besides many one-off events, there are also the regular Amarrass Nights in New Delhi. In October, the Koshur Fankar musical show was held in Kashmir to promote folk music from that region. The forthcoming Kasauli Music Festival in Kasauli, Himachal Pradesh, on March 29 and 30 has Rajasthani music by Kutle Khan, Sufi tunes by Kavita Seth, classical fusion by Ajay Pohankar, folk-fusion band Himalayan Routes and Punjabi and Himachali folk by Jasleen Aulakh, among others.

Folk-fusion involves blending local ethnic music with modern arrangements or western flavours. Besides the scope of being musically innovative, the idea is to cater to new listeners, and expose them to rich sounds from different states. After live performances or studio recordings, the next natural step was to prepare a documentary, or specifically, an OTT docu-series. Greater Noida-based Anahad Foundation, founded in 2013 by Abhinav Agrawal, took up this task by releasing the seven-part series Equals on Jio Cinema on January 25.

First, a bit about Anahad. This writer first met Agrawal in 2019, and he pointed out that though 70 per cent of Indian music was folk, only two per cent of revenues went to this form. He also said many folk artistes remained unknown, except in their immediate surroundings, and those in villages were unaware of recording technology or copyright.

Anahad looked at new ways to promote Indi-folk. They used the concept of backpack studios, taking equipment that fit into a backpack, and training folk musicians on composition, song recording techniques and copyright laws. “Basically, we decided to take the studios to their villages,” says Agrawal. As of today, Anahad has worked with 7,000 musicians through this route.

Anahad’s other project was called Equals Sessions. Under this, a folk group or artiste was trained for five days by known indie acts. They then recorded a song. For instance, Punjabi folk quartet Rangle Sardar teamed up with Kochi band When Chai Met Toast on the song Karam. Jaisalmer-based singer Bagga Khan collaborated with Delhi jazz-funk band Syncopation on the track Kashi. Six such videos were prepared.

The new docu-series Equals is a natural extension of the Equals Sessions concept. But rather than just release a video, each part actually tells the musician’s story. In the opening episode, Varanasi-based thumri artiste Sucharita Gupta collaborates with Mumbai band The Yellow Diary to create the song Raasta Sapnon Ka. The episode talks of her journey, her thoughts about music, and what’s special about thumri. The Yellow Diary is introduced mid-way and the two ‘parties’ discuss how to work together.

Each episode has a different set of musicians. Besides thumri, the series covers the Punjabi form of dhadi (by Des Raj Lachkhani), Rajasthani Mewati (Jumma Jogi), Bengali Baul (Rina Das), Assamese Jhumur (Dulal Manki), Kabir (Prahlad Singh Tipaniya) and qawwali (Warsi Brothers). The collaborators are Faridkot, Swarathma, Aswekeepsearching, Shadow & Light, flautist Rasika Shekhar and Grammy-winning composer Ricky Kej, who is joined by singer Abby V. Besides telling tales of musical dreams and paths, the series is educational as each artiste talks of their genre’s nuances.

In today’s OTT times, this series is a welcome step forward. Simultaneously, one looks forward to more folk-fusion festivals, and that would need more interest from event organisers, sponsors, venues and the media. Mahindra Roots Festival, held in February last year, has been put off for logistical reasons, and Paddy Fields last took place in 2019. One hopes they will return to cater to the folk fans.

RECENT STORIES

Mythical Showdown: Who's The Real Ninth Avatar Of Lord Vishnu - Buddha Or Pandurang?

Mythical Showdown: Who's The Real Ninth Avatar Of Lord Vishnu - Buddha Or Pandurang?

Want To Become An Author? These Tips Will Help You Accomplish Your Dreams

Want To Become An Author? These Tips Will Help You Accomplish Your Dreams

Sonal Motla Talks About Sheikh’s Karwaan Odyssey

Sonal Motla Talks About Sheikh’s Karwaan Odyssey

How Aware Are You About The Dashavatar?

How Aware Are You About The Dashavatar?

The Rise of Kalki: What You Need to Know About the Final Avatar of Vishnu!

The Rise of Kalki: What You Need to Know About the Final Avatar of Vishnu!