Om Prakash Rana aka OPR is a regular 19-year-old musician,who is spotted roaming around with an Apple notebook in the slick Peninsula Studios based in Noida. He is busy listening to the fine-tuned version of the tracks he has to sing for a select audience. Until now,Rana had only sung at the railway platform in the sleepy village of Barmer in Rajasthan apart from the weddings and funerals in the neighbourhood. Earlier I would sing to eat. Ab main maze ke liye aur famous hone ke liye gaata hoon (Now I sing to enjoy and become famous), says a shy Rana,who has been hand-picked by Nokia Music Theatre a platform for the folk artistes of various states in the country to showcase their talent by being unshackled by concerns of dialects,in order to bring something reflective and interesting. This is being done by recording them in a studio and putting out their albums in the market. Rana begins to play the famous Amir Khusrau qawwali,Chhap tilak for us along with his friends Kutla Khan and Dayam Khan. The full-throated rendition of the song rises above his reticence,and the audience breaks into an applause.
These musicians have invaded our consciousness in a big way in the past. What is required is to curate music,nurture and facilitate them to record. They need to be valued the way any other mainstream artiste is, says Subroto Chattopadhyay,founder of Peninsula Studios.
The first album under the Nokia Music Theatre,titled Asha,Discovery of the Peninsula- Rajasthan (Universal Music,Rs 175) was released earlier this week. Now,the theatres music team is ready to travel to UP,and later,scout for talent in Punjab,West Bengal and Maharashtra. We have created this out of passion. A passion that comes as an inspiration from the Abbey Road Studio in London,where the audience used to sit and watch live performances. We plan something similar, says Chattopadhyay.
Recording history and heritage has never been a part of Indias DNA. As for the folk music archives,they are still the victims of the fusty red tape. With a concept like Coke Studio India failing miserably owing to the Bollywood-isation of the whole idea,a huge let down by way of the sound mix,inconsistent performances and the flashing disco dandiya lights,Nokia Music Theatre comes as a whiff of fresh air and finally,a platform only for folk artistes.
The entire process began in in May 2011,when the music teams of Nokia Theatre went out looking for folk musicians along with Neel Adhikari,the composer of the group,who recently came back from London after mastering and mixing Asha there. But does singing on a set track confine them and their music? Says Adhikari,Production is not only about recording and technology. It is a lot about psychology. I try to make this alien,slick atmosphere comfortable for them and give them the feel of the rustic feel they would experience in their village,
According to Devraj Sanyal,MD,India and SAARC,Universal Music Group,it is all about marketing the product right and not letting it dust away in the back shelves of the music stores. We have 1200 stores. A store in Bhopal will also have this album along with a store in a posh Delhi mall. Why should any art form be less marketed,or given a shoddier marketing deal as compared to a major artiste. This is an effort to get India to hear what already exists as a part of the heritage and allowing it to reach a younger audience, he says.