In May 2015, singer Shankar Mahadevan nearly lost his voice; he had been singing non-stop, for nearly 48 hours. He had a performance coming up and had to take some heavy-duty drugs to recover from the exhaustion. Surprisingly, however, he doesn’t regret it. “I was jamming for two days with artists from across the country. It was madness and a wonderful experience,” he says.
The “jamming” he refers to was the preparation for a recital — then called Kaleidoscope: Musical Heritage of India — that premiered at Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay in Singapore. The concert saw folk artists from across India team up with Mahadevan, and, together, they traced the geography of India through “the single common thread that binds India into one cultural entity: music”.
Set to premiere in the city this weekend, the concert has been re-christened My Country, My Music and will additionally explore influences of folk music on mainstream Bollywood music.
The sound of the soil
For Mahadevan, the desire to bring authentic folk music into the limelight was the focus of this venture. “Folk has been performed internationally for years. And while that has always been a matter of pride, I always believed the performances were touristy... they felt like advertisements. I wanted to create something that would retain the original, rustic essence of Indian music,” he says. To execute this vision, Mahadevan invited acclaimed folk artists such as Mame Khan, a Rajasthani folk musician who previously worked with Mahadevan on Luck by Chance (2009). The line-up also includes Ganesh Chandan Shive, a PhD holder in Marathi folk theatre, and veteran south Indian singer Manikka Vinayagam.
The structure of the concert will have you travelling pan India: “Our aim is to transport people across different regions in the country simply through the sound. If you close your eyes, we hope to show you India.” And so, the two-hour show will have you travel across Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Punjab, Kashmir, Assam, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu, among other states.
Fittingly, the recital will also trace the journey of Bollywood through folk music. “In India, we have a folk song for every occasion, be it happy or sad. It’s such an intrinsic part of our history and culture. So, it is only natural that even Bollywood music is heavily influenced by it,” says Mahadevan.
For instance, while performing the traditional music of Uttar Pradesh, the troupe will meander through genres such as dadra, thumri and qawwalis. The climax of this segment will be Manna Dey’s classic song Chalat Musafir Moh Liya from the 1967 hit Teesri Kasam. Similarly, the Punjab leg of the concert will see modern numbers like Jhoom Barabar Jhoom (2007).
Mahadevan also hopes to highlight the contemporary fusion wave that has gained momentum in India over the last few years. As a result, a few of the folk songs will be performed to the background music of a bass guitar and saxophones. “That’s how versatile and fluid folk music is. It can encompass every other genre and create something beautiful,” says Mahadevan.
What: My Country, My Music will take place on January 23 and 24, 6.30pm onward
Where: Jamshed Bhabha Theatre, NCPA, Nariman Point
Call: 6622 3737
Tickets: Rs 500 onward on bookmyshow.com