I feel my efforts were worth it,” says celebrated folk singer Malini Awasthi, who was recently awarded the Padma Shri. Awasthi, who says she is proud of her contribution to Uttar Pradesh’s (UP) folk music, has dedicated this award to her state. “I feel honoured to be the one to bring this esteemed honour by the Government of India to UP after 27 years,” says the artiste, who has also been a student of veteran classical singer Girija Devi.
Apart from popularising folk genres like kajri and thumri in India, Awasthi has also been instrumental in taking this music to the world. “My mission in life has always been to carry forward these genres; I want to reinvent UP’s folk music. And this form of music getting honoured in 2016 says a lot,” she says.
Not many know that these folk genres, which depict the nuances and qualities of rural India, are received very well globally too. “Many people used to warn me about this dying art. But I would like to believe that my efforts have helped keep these genres alive. Many of my contemporaries have taken up fusion, fearing the future of these music forms. But today, many NRIs enjoy my concerts,” says Awasthi.
She feels that people who live abroad like to stay connected to their country, and these genres help them stay in touch with their roots. “When NRIs think of their country, their nostalgia only makes them imagine things that the folk music I sing is about. That’s why people enjoy themselves when I perform at Holi concerts in places like Dubai, Mauritius and California (USA),” says the singer.
Ask her what makes UP’s folk music so popular, and she goes on to explain, “UP’s folk music has been the richest in the country. It’s a complete representation of India. This is the reason why Awadhi (UP’s folk music) is popular across the country. I perform at so many concerts in places like Hyderabad, Srinagar, Guwahati and Chandigarh.”
Besides singing folk music, Awasthi has also sung a few songs for Bollywood films. She last sang ‘Sunder susheel’ for Dum Laga Ke Haisha (2015). Ask her if Bollywood music also interests her the way folk music does, and the Lucknow-based artiste says, “Of course it does. In fact, I recently finished recording a few songs for a couple of films. I feel glad that my songs make music composers approach me. I am sure if I was living in Mumbai, I would have received more opportunities to sing for films. But I like to stay connected to my roots.”
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