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Different strokes for different folks


Musical diversity is one thing. But when it comes to Indian folk traditions, it’s the lyrical structures that often paint the varied hues of this country. The tunes, at least across North India, are borrowed from a set palette based on Hindustani ragas. A Maithili song from Bihar would thus have a sonic resonance with a traditional Punjabi track. But the words would talk about the different slices of life that existed in the two regions when people wrote the music. One might be about golden fields of wheat. But the other might be about the tragedy of a barren farm after a poor monsoon.

That’s the diversity that Mumbai-based vocalist Pranita Nair Pandurangi brings forth with her debut album, Rang. It has six tracks that reflect different types of Indian folk songs. Aail phagunwa, for instance, is a Bhojpuri melody that is about two women discussing how much fun they have during Holi. It paints scenes of men and women being innocently playful with each other, with the sound of clanking bangles merging with the music. But on the other hand, Peelo peelo ghagharo — a Rajasthani ghoomar tune — talks about a newly married bride having a conversation with her sister-in-law, indicating how this particular relationship was a source of solace for women in an otherwise patriarchal society.

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There are Kabir-inspired songs and a modern take on a ghazal thrown in as well. But the one that’s most personal to Pandurangi is Aata kote dhaave mann, a song composed on a poem by Sant Tukaram. The singer says, “It’s a Marathi abhang that’s really special to me because I hail from Pandharpur, and I have been listening to abhangs since my childhood.” She adds that she’s now given a slightly contemporary twist to that upbringing with Rang. “I wanted the songs to appeal to younger people as well, and not just the elderly who already know about it,” Pandurangi says, indicating how this album can work as education for a generation brought up on Bollywood and Billboard chartbusters, who might think that ‘abhang’ is a typo for what people get high on on Holi.

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