Let’s talk folk

With his new docu-series called PaDa Project, music composer Vasu Dixit celebrates folk music

KOCHI: It was during a high school dance drama event that Vasu Dixit picked up a liking for folk songs. Growing up in Mysuru also played a role as he evoked his passion for folk music. Over the years, he has also induced folk flavour in most of his musical performances, and his audience gets to see more of it.

Dixit, in collaboration with Believe, a digital music company, and NGO Snehadhara Foundation, has launched a new musical project called PaDa Project which aims to recognise and celebrate folk music in India. ‘Pada’ in Kannada means word and Pa and Da are also important swaras in Indian classical music.
The project is a five-part docu-series featuring five folk artistes from different parts of India including Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Sikkim, Manipur and Meghalaya. Directed by Dixit himself, the project aims to recognise the several folk musicians across the country, starting with Karnataka. In fact, the musician has already released the first episode featuring Mohan Kumar, a folk artiste from Tumkur who sings Tagaru, a folk song that represents the Kadugalla tribal community.

Speaking to CE, Dixit explains, “The folk songs are not just forms of art but an identity. It represents their culture, occupation, and region which are deeply rooted in their ethos.” The artiste points out that he always had the idea of bringing folk music to the mainstream music scene. “I wanted to bring forward the least recognised ones in Southern India and North East India to the mainstream music scene but lacked financial support. Through this initiative, we want to tell the stories of folk artists and musicians,” he adds.
Similarly, the project documents the folk artistes Sithirai Senana from Madurai, Mickma Tshering Lepcha from Sikkim, Dalrariti Kamaior from Shillong and Mangka Mayanglambam from Imphal. The series chronicles folklore, how folk music and their occupation complement each other and also contextualises their work in the present times.

Dixit feels that the mega outreach of films has diminished the scope of folk music. “The film industry has grown leaps and bounds and most of the artistic work falls under the shadows of films, diminishing the scope of folk music. There are preconceived notions that folk music is a dying art and only the older generation practices them. Therefore, this project features many young artists in their 30s who are taking over the legacy of folk music,” says Dixit, who adds that folk songs are always centered around the folk singer’s lifestyle.

“A folk artiste bases his song on real-life experiences and elements such as forest, water, floods, and banks very less on imagination.”During the project, Dixit also learnt about the vast differences and nuances that every folk community has such as the Southern folk artistes using cow skin on their instruments and the North East artistes using the sheepskin.

“The folk communities across India are very distinguished in their way. But the bottom line is all of them have a story to tell through their folk music. They are all deeply rooted in their lifestyle and that is what reflects even on their creative side,” says Dixit, who is also planning a folk festival in Bengaluru called ‘Folkluru’ to bring different folk communities under one roof.

The upcoming episodes will be available on Vasu Dixit’s YouTube channel.

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The New Indian Express