Sona Mohapatra on music’s changing landscape with blending of folk tradition

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Playback singer Sona Mohapatra’s love for exploring folk music has given music lovers some of the most memorable tracks including hits like ‘Ambarsariya’ and ‘Rangabati’ (Coke Studio Season 4).

Her recently released track titled ‘Noor’ is an extension of her constant pursuit to bring something new to the table.

The track, which boasts elements of Punjabi folk, shayari and dancehall, has been composed by her husband and creative partner Ram Sampath and presents a vivid story that appeals to the heart of the listeners. In a recent conversation with IANS, the playback singer spoke about her latest song, veteran singer Lata Mangeshkar, how folk is mixing with mainstream music and changing the dynamics of the music consumption patterns, and how the pandemic has been hard on the folk artiste community.

Although she’s the face of the song, the singer doesn’t hold back from showering praises on her team that has helped her put the song together, “I have an incredible team in place because of whose collaboration we have reached here. The beat used in ‘Noor’ is a dancehall beat and with Punjabi folk at its heart. Ram Sampath is a kind of music producer who marries cultures from around the world and creates something very unique. ‘Noor’ is actually my sister song to ‘Ambarsariya’ (another folk track with pop vibes).

She feels lucky to have partnered with the music label Warner Music for the song, “I feel so happy that I found a partner in Warner Music, I feel lucky because the aesthetics of Warner music and the artistes who are present all around the world bring a lot of quality to the table.”

Looking at the state of Indian mainstream music currently, one would assume that despite such rich music and culturally diverse landscape of the country folk is unable to cut through the layers of mainstream music but Sona likes to differ, “It is not that folk music has not mixed into the mainstream culture, it is very well into the mainstream culture.”

Recollecting her earlier stint at Coke Studio India, she mentions, “When Coke Studio started in India, Ram Sampath and I did an episode called ‘Devi’ where we presented Bhanwari Devi, who is a superstar from Rajasthan. If you see her right now she has been earning way more than a lot of reality singing show participants.”

Talking about her ambitions with regards to music restoration and preservation, she says, “I have Omgrown Studio where we archive a lot of folk music. We had a really important conversation recently about how to preserve someone’s music especially when they pass away. Lata ji was a Saraswati as she had sung around 36,000 songs but these songs should be preserved in their original sound so that the coming generations could be inspired from these songs to get acquainted with the excellence which Lata ji possessed.”

She then makes a thought – provoking remark about the hardships that the folk artiste community has been suffering for over two years now, “During the times of pandemic, everybody had their own issues to raise and everybody had their own political stand over one issue or another. However, I have never seen anyone who came forward to raise this issue of folk musicians or folk artists dying of Hunger or dying because they could not provide for themselves or their families.”

“They carry the vocal tradition of our country, the vocal tradition of different cultures which need to be desperately preserved. I feel lucky that we have been able to help a lot of musicians during the pandemic but it’s not enough and I hope there are many more important people listening to this conversation who can try to make sure that their artiste or their musician friends would not go hungry”, she signs off.

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