Rock Folk

Folk singer Rachel Sermanni has merged music from the Scottish highlands with Indian tunes.

Written by Suanshu Khurana | Published:January 4, 2012 2:27 am

Touted as the protégé of Grammy-nominated British folk music outfit,Mumford and Sons,19-year-old Scottish vocalist Rachel Sermmani is stripping country music right back to its roots — plucking those folk tunes from under the rocks and making them sit snugly in posh London cafes.

Now,Sermanni has chosen India for her music sojourn. “I would have said yes if they said I was collaborating with a cactus,” says Sermanni,who is on a multi-city tour with percussionist Bickram Ghosh and Assamese folk singer Papon. The music from the tour,organised by British Council and Folktronic,is also being recorded as an album titled Troikala (Sony Music),which will release later this year.

“I would never have believed that so many colours and noises could exist in one place. I am absorbing the music and exploring as much as I can. The people are lovely and just as curious to see where we’re from,” says Sermanni,who was spotted by some British Council members from India while she was playing a gig in Brighton early last year.

Her musical style,overpowered by folk,and bordering on alternative rock with bluegrass banjo underpinning acoustic guitars,works for Ghosh and Papon,who say that folk music is universal and can merge with any musical style.

“Folk songs are extremely adaptable,as they are soppy with emotions. With seemingly simple words,there is also an absence of obvious artistic rules by way of tunes. Thanks to this,we are creating a space with Rachel without

going deep into semantics and rigmaroles of classical music,” says Ghosh,adding that his role in this collaboration will be less of a table player and more of a multi-instrumentalist and arranger.

As for Sermanni,she felt strong parallels with the two musicians in terms of the musical styles. “From the minute we all met,we were friends. Everyone,despite different background and style,is like-minded and Bickram and Papon make it very easy to put across ideas,” says Sermanni,who is from Carrbridge,a small village in the highlands of Scotland. Her popular collaboration with Mumford and Sons came about during their tour to Scotland three years ago.

“Mumford are the kind of people who are keenly looking out for fellow musicians. I was one of the lucky ones to find myself jamming with them at a festival in the North of Scotland. I am still very grateful for the opportunities they have provided — recording in London and tour support. I am also very aware that since our meeting,so many more wonderful people have come along to ‘tout’ me and help me,” says Sermanni,who has already recorded seven scratches with Ghosh and Papon.

On one of Sermanni’s song,What is waiting,an earthy tune with elements of bluegrass,Ghosh has layered Tan man mohana,an Indian bhajan in Raag Bhairavi’s scale. “This gave us a starting point. The audience will be dumbfounded by the similarities between our music,” says Ghosh.

Sermani,who is working on a slew of worldwide projects right now,is excited about her upcoming EP,Black Currents,which has songs with some creepy strings and odd noises. She is also kicked about her Delhi outing. “I have been learning how Indian classical musicians train. I’ve also learnt simple warm-up techniques used by Indian singers,which will inevitably aid my breathing. The experience has been worthwhile. It is like something out of an adventure book. However,I am yet to master the tabla,the king of all drums,” she says.

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