Owing to India’s diversity, every region in this expansive land has a local and folk tradition that while culturally specific has the ability to enrapture collective imaginations. When it comes to folk music in the modern-day, many bands are giving it their own unique touch, sometimes to experiment with the music they grew up with, sometimes to make it reach a wider audience and sometimes just for the love of music.
Whatever the reason might be, these folk bands have been able to create a cultural impact unlike any other and have made us fall in love with the diverse range of India’s folk music. So here are our favourite picks that we know you’ll love too.
Rajasthani folk is immensely popular throughout the expanse of India and the instant image our mind conjures when we think of folk music is that of men donning traditional attire with colourful turbans as they perform with their instruments (a look predominately owned by Manganiyars and Langas). Now a new generation of Manganiyars and Langa musicians, the Rajasthani folk band Raitila is reworking the old compositions of their community and trying to give them a contemporary touch without losing the essence of the folk culture of the region. Bringing their local folk music to the forefront, the band describes itself as “A folk music band from the land of Thar, Sarangi and Meera Bai.”
One of India’s leading folk-rock music bands, Swatharma is a cultural moment in itself when it comes to the Indian music scene. Sonically experimentative, their music is a blend of genres and music styles that seamlessly fuse elements of reggae, Indian folk, jazz, blues and rock which has over the years allowed them to uniquely position themselves in the independent music scene. Their masterful and impactful lyricism that ofttimes has a social or political message along with their cheerful demeanor makes them a band unlike any other and has helped them carve a niche for themselves, even when it comes to their live performances.
III. Tetseo Sisters
Perhaps the folk band that has had the largest cultural impact in modern times is Tetseo Sisters, considered to be Nagaland’s greatest cultural exports, the Chakhesang Naga tribe siblings — sisters Mütsevelü (Mercy), Azine (Azi), Kuvelü (Kuku) and Alüne (Lulu), as well as their brother Mhaseve (MKT) were always surrounded by music while growing up in Kohima.
Taking the Naga folk tradition and its music beyond India to countries like China, South Korea, the UK, the USA, and Thailand, their artistic journey is a testament to not only their inherent interest in music but also their capability to take their folk music to the world stage.
Singing mostly in the language of Li or folk singing in the Chokri Naga dialect, their songs are a celebration of life, storytelling, and the natural world that surrounds them.
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