In the musical world of
Her young son’s enquiry about his roots prompted Falguni Shah to make music
that put his doubts to rest. Little did she know that it would bring her a Grammy
nomination! Khyati Shah caught up with the music sensation as her album
makes waves in the US
Falguni Shah faced all the usual immigrant issues when she shifted to the US years ago, from Dahod in Gujarat. Surviving the culture shock, she went on to learn western music while holding on to her Indian music learnings. Her four year old son, Nishaad, was dealing with his own struggles as he noticed how different his American school was, from his Indian home, whether it was the food or the language. When he asked his mother why their food was yellow or why it was so spicy, she thought of telling him in the best way she knew – through songs. This was the beginning of Falguni’s Grammy nominated album, Falu’s Bazaar. “My dream is to have him draw the best from both cultures and I have tried to teach him this through my Album, in a funny and elevating way,” says Falu, who is trained in Indian classical music too. Apart from helping Nishad connect with his roots, Falguni also wanted to create some age-appropriate songs for him and this album aims to fulfil that dream too. Falguni’s musical career took turn after she tied the knot with Gaurav Shah of the band, Karyshma. In 2007, she forayed into the music world with her maiden venture ‘Falu’ followed by ‘Foras Road’ in 2013, which was named after the red-light district of Mumbai. The latter with its Indie tunes was also shortlisted for the Grammy Award. During her career she has collaborated with many artists including Philip Glass, A.R. Rahman and Danny Blume. A Grammy award winner himself, Blume says, “Falu’s Bazaar is a revelation.” Though the album is meant for children, it is music with all its complexities, “I don’t believe in dumbing down music or lyrics for children, to make it easily understood,” reveals Falguni, as she tells us more about herself:
Your album, ‘Falu’s Bazaar’ was nominated for the Grammy’s this year in the category of Children’s Music. Tell us a bit about your musical journey.
I remember learning music from the time I was three years old. From a little girl born and raised in India to being nominated for a Grammy here in the US, it has been a long and beautiful road with its own ups and downs. With both, my mom and grandma being singers, music was in my breath from the very beginning. Smt. Kaumudi Munshi was my first guru, followed by Uday Mazumdar, Ustad Sultan Khan and Smt. Kishori Amonkar. There were times during my childhood when I practiced for 16 hours a day! I drowned myself in learning all forms of Indian music – classical, folk and semi-classical. I learnt Western music when I came to NYC, specifically the craft of song writing, piano and guitar after which I formed my band called ‘Falu’. We released three albums, Falu, Foras Road, and Falu’s Bazaar – the last is the album nominated for the Grammy!
What inspires the musician in you?
I get inspired by a lot of things, but nature, children, birds, water and trees always inspire me to write music. My family totally supports me, for which I will always be grateful.
As an Indian, how do you feel on being nominated for the most famous global award in your field?
I am so proud to be an Indian. I think India has offered me so much wisdom and knowledge. India has a rich musical heritage and culture and I feel tremendously grateful that I am able to draw from all these elements and combine it with my learnings in America. The music world is highly competitive in US and to make a name is not just a result of dreaming but draining oneself – day-in and day-out. I have faced rejection
many a time, both in US and India, but I looked at it as a ‘learning curve’ each time. In my current phase of life, I can rejoice with my family, whose contribution to my journey is second to none”. Today, I’m tremendously honoured and humbled by this nomination.
How do you manage the multi-roles of a wife, mother, music teacher and a professional artist?
Striking a balance between all my responsibilities is super hard and something I am learning every day. As a wife, I aspire to be a best friend and a ‘rock’ for my husband. It becomes challenging when career demands come into play. Being a teacher is always an exercise in putting yourself
in the other person’s shoes – I have to fully tune into a students’ level, assess his/her needs and how he/she would benefit from what I am teaching. As a professional artist the pressure is to make sure I inspire people around me and that I’m in sync with people I create music with. I also feel that the music we make always needs to be bigger than one’s self, and that is not always easy. As for the challenges of being a mother, my nature is to give a hundred percent of myself to my child, and I’m mostly falling short of that. But, I also realize that it’s just as powerful for my son to see his mother working hard to fulfil her dreams, and that being a role model is as equally important as the time we do get, to spend together.
What are your future plans?
I plan to turn my music into a tool that can support causes related to social justice. I’m already doing something like that at Carnegie Hall where we workwith inmates in maximum security prisons and help them develop alternate ways to deal with anger or violence – songwriting has proved to be an incredible outlet for them. We have also collaborated and created custom-written lullabies with female inmates to help create stronger bonds between them and their children.
Your favourite things to do apart from music?
Playing with my son, Nishad, in the park, watching movies, going out on long drives and listening to music in my car, reading, spending time with nature and trees and most importantly – with my family. Your message for other artists? Be authentic and never give up.
(Khyati Shah is our special
correspondent based in Atlanta, US.
You can reach her at khyatishah88@
gmail.com, for any US-specific query,
suggestion or contribution)