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Mohit Chauhan: Folk music is the basis of contemporary music, even in the West

Singer Mohit Chauhan goes back to his folk and Sufi roots and expresses hope that the former will return to mainstream cinema in a big way, soon.

music Updated: Dec 21, 2017 18:20 IST
Henna Rakheja
Henna Rakheja
Hindustan Times
Mohit Chauhan,Bollywood,Rajasthan
Singer Mohit Chauhan says folk music will soon make a big comeback in Hindi movies. (Yogen Shah)

Singer Mohit Chauhan’s first brush with popularity came with the formation of his Indipop band Silk Route, in Delhi in the 1990s. A decade later, the self-taught musician collaborated with composers such as AR Rahman and Pritam, and sang for films such as Love Aaj Kal (2009), Rockstar (2011),and Barfi! (2012).

“Around 300-400 years ago, my ancestors migrated to the mountains. I have been born and brought up in the hills [of Himachal Pradesh]. But, because of my ancestry from Rajasthan, a lot of our traditions and customs are similar to what they have there. As far as music is concerned, I mostly grew up with the folk music of the mountains. And there’s a whole lot of music in the hills for every occasion. Apart from this, I used to listen to a lot of Bollywood film and western music on the radio,” says Chauhan, on the kind of musical influences he’s had.

Apart from getting to jam with Tibetan musicians while still in college, one memory he holds close to his heart is that of persuading his traditionalist grandfather to sing for him. “My grandfather used to sing, but in a closed room. He wasn’t in favour of making music a profession, in those times. So, in that way, he was a traditionalist, but he used to sing a bit of classical, thumri and khayal at home in his room. I still remember that . He probably had some traces of Rajasthani music because that has a lot of classical, too.”

The singer, who will be returning to his Rajasthani roots at the Taalbelia Festival organised by the royal family of Mandawa, Rajasthan, this weekend, says, “Rajasthan has a rich repertoire of folk music” that has time and again been used in Hindi films, for instance, Nimbooda Nimbooda from Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999). That was used very beautifully. Rajasthani music has lent a lot of innocence to Hindi films. Also, Subhash Ghai saab made a film called Taal (1999), and it had a touch of mountain music. So, some colour of local folk music makes your film more beautiful.”

On the lessening prevalence of folk music in Hindi films, Chauhan says, “In the recent times people haven’t really talked about it. Or you know someone hasn’t come up with a project where it was demanded or required. So, I wouldn’t say it’s on the decline. Folk music is the basis. Even in the West, folk is the basis of all the contemporary music that you have. Everything comes from folk music. May be some big feature [film] will use folk music in a big way, soon.”

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First Published: Dec 21, 2017 18:19 IST