Folk Studio

Bollywood composers lend authenticity to films through their experiments with regional music.

Written by Dipti Nagpaul D'souza | Published: December 7, 2013 3:52 am

Director Imtiaz Ali and his crew came across the Manganiars while shooting for upcoming film Highway. While they knew of these travelling folk musicians,they had not heard their music live before. They decided to capture the moment without directing the sequence. “The footage is now part of the film,” says Ali. A film that maps the route of characters across six northern states,Highway was made on the go. The Manganiars’ performance fitted in beautifully,lending a unique soundscape to that part of the film.

Even as filmmakers recreate the life of a region through costumes and sets,local music too is incorporated. Taking this a step further are efforts like Ali’s.

During his visits to Kutch for a recce and pre-production of Goliyon Ki Raasleela — Ram-Leela,Sanjay Leela Bhansali came across folk songs by Osman Mir. His raw and earthy voice stayed with the director. A year later,when Bhansali was finalising singers for the film’s soundtrack,he travelled to Gujarat and brought Mir on board for Nagada and Mor Bani Thangat. “Folk singers give the songs a sense of raw passion,something that trained musicians may not be able to replicate,as Osman did with Ram-Leela,” says Aditi Paul who sang Mor Bani Thangat with Mir.

Working with folk singers also requires an understanding of the genre. A case in point is Vishal Bhardwaj’s familiarity with north-Indian folk music that has seeped into the tracks of Omkara and Ishqiya. His work in Matru Ki Bijli Ka Mandola earlier this year,where he has fused Haryanvi folk with African tribal music,reiterates the fact. “There is an urgent need to reconnect with our roots since villages get wiped away by land mafia. This musical legacy will soon be lost too,” Bhardwaj had told The Indian Express in an earlier interview. Folk singer Prem Dehati,who sang Khamakha,Sharara-rara-ra and Badal Uthiya in Matru…,also appeared in a few scenes in the film as did Africa Umoja,the group of African musicians.

Although city-bred Sneha Khanwalkar and Amit Trivedi extensively work with electronic music,their music reflects their eagerness to explore the country’s original soundscape. Khanwalkar got little-known names from Bihar,such as Manish Tipu,Vedesh Sokoo and Ranjeet Kumar Baal Party as playback singers for the music of Gangs of Wasseypur.

Trivedi,who has worked with Mame Khan in several films,says that sometimes,it takes a while for folk musicians to adapt to the New Age music and technology but they are always open-minded. “The greatest advantage is their experience. They are immersed in their genre of music since childhood. Sometimes,their unique interpretation of the lyrics and music can add great value to a song,as it did with the song Aitbaar in No One Killed Jessica,” he says.

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