Folk singer Rachel Sermanni has merged music from
the Scottish highlands with Indian tunes
Touted as the protege of Grammy-nominated British folk music outfit,Mumford and Sons,19-year-old Scottish vocalist Rachel Sermmanni 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 even if they said I would be 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, says Sermanni,who was spotted playing a gig in Brighton,early last year,by some British Council members from India.
Her musical style,overpowered by folk,which borders 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,who adds that his role will be less of a tabla player and more of a multi-instrumentalist and arranger in this collaboration.
As for Sermanni,she felt strong parallels with the two musicians in terms of the musical styles. Unlike other western classical forms,folk styles are passed down orally,which is similar to Indian classical music. 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 forward 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 people keen to look out for fellow musicians. I was one of the lucky ones to find myself jamming with them at a festival in Scotland. I am very grateful for the opportunities they have provided recording in London and the tour support. I am also 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.
In one of Sermannis song,What is waiting,an earthy tune with elements of bluegrass,Ghosh has layered Tan man mohana,an Indian bhajan in raga Bhairavis scale. This gave us a starting point. The audience will be dumbfounded by the similarities between our music, says Ghosh.
Sermanni,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. Ive also learnt simple warm-up techniques used by Indian singers,which will inevitably aid my breathing. The experience has been worthwhile. However,I am yet to master the tabla,the king of all drums, she says.