Murra Lala Fafal
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Murra Lala Fafal

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De Kulture, a music company, is coming up with over 25 albums featuring undiscovered artistes from Punjab, Rajasthan and Kutch

Folk music in the US gathered momentum in the early 1950s and captured the imagination of the world with singers like Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie. Traditional folk music in India has had a different journey. Despite its many regional variants, indigenous music has never been a mainstream interest. For urban populations growing up on pop culture and MTV, it is associated with bastardised renditions featured in Bollwood films and pop albums.

De Kulture Music, a record label, is trying to change this and strengthen people’s engagement with their own music. Its founder, Sambhav Bohra (29) left a lucrative job in Mumbai where he programmed music for Bollywood films and composed jingles for news channels to this end.
The objective of the company, founded in 2005, is to promote state-of-the-art authentic but “undiscovered” Indian music. “Working in Mumbai was very mechanical and after a period of time it bored me. Everybody was just out to promote their own music,” says Bohra. He left Mumbai in 2005 with recording professionals after researching folk artistes in Rajasthan and set out to record them. The first album Rajasthan was recorded in a contemporary studio with over 250 artistes from various cultural groups like the Nayak, Manganiar, Langa, Meerasi, Jat, Harijan and Bhopa, among others.

Since then, De Kulture recorded extensively in Rajasthan and Kutch and came out with 30 albums. However, Bohra changed the recording technique. Realising that the natural surroundings like thatched huts provided better acoustics, the company now records in an artiste’s natural habitat and has a mobile recording studio.

De Kulture recently finished recording in Punjab for the first time. “We covered over 25 districts in Punjab and recorded more than 25 instruments on the verge of extinction,” says Bohra.

The albums from Punjab will include previously unheard-of artistes and music. “We have a genre called Kavishir in which the artistes sing songs on social issues in a poem form. We will also be featuring bhangra like never heard before. One of our albums called Jangam will feature songs sung in praise of Lord Shiva,” says Bohra. De Kulture will be releasing around 25 albums featuring singers from Punjab, Rajasthan and Gujarat in the next four months.

In a way De Kulture also ends up providing a documentation of India’s extensive folk tradition. Every album has a write-up explaining the musical instruments used with a background of the artistes. Bohra is also quick to explain that De Kulture is not all about folk music. “It’s easy to categorise all music coming from rural or small town India as folk. But there are many genres that we have recorded. Putting them under the umbrella of folk music would be an over simplification,” he explains.

In another four years the company hopes to record over 1,000 artistes from all over the country. Bohra maintains that working with folk artistes and musicians is a rewarding experience. “They are better than most professional singers and we usually record a song in a single take and prefer to let the musicians decide the songs,” he says.

It’s not always easy to convince artistes to sing, since music is a way of life for them, not a means of livelihood. “They also fear exploitation,” explains Bohra. De Kulture provides a 12.5 per cent royalty for the artistes and pays them a fee. The company sold around 50,000 albums in the last financial year.

Albums under the De Kulture brand are priced between Rs 195 and Rs 1,200. But to make traditional music accessible to its regional audience, the company publishes albums at an affordable price range of Rs 30-Rs 90 under the brand Dhun. The Dhun brand focuses on creating economically-packaged albums and unlike, De Kulture, produces albums in Hindi and vernacular languages. Bohra says that though the brand has not yet mad - Buissness Standard, New Delhi Sep 29, 2010


PRAGYA TIWARI


Photo: KP JAYASANKAR
“WILL THIS film benefit us, you think?” Mura Lala Fafal asks his brother. “The world will see how little we have and how we embrace our life,” he answers, “if they understand”. KP Jayasankar and Anjali Monteiro’s Two Day Fair is a chronicle of two days in the lives of Mura and his nephew Kanji — musicians, wage labourers and farmers of the Dalit community of Meghwals living along the Indo-Pak border in the Rann of Kutch.

With any such film, the primary benefit is always to the audience who engages with a world so starkly different from theirs, interfaced by the filmmakers’ inherently limited interpretation of it. Monteiro and Jayasankar present the two lives as an aesthete’s portrait, casting the long, languid gaze of an outsider through their camera. The viewer enraptured by the landscape, music and innate beauty of the people, is agreeably not offered an easily palatable narrative of lament or pity. The subjects are poor, exploited, discarded by the democracy that was shaped by carving out a large section of their native land into an enemy state. But they also live outside its maladies — like Mura points out quietly — “We don’t have diseases here. We don’t consume what the TV tells us to consume. There are no goods here, no advertisements.” Woven with the camera’s unmistakable love for the landscape, these words tinge our understanding with a sense of longing and distance that is a necessary antidote to clichéd ways of looking across the rural-urban divide.

While Mura and Kanji talk about their passion for music, visuals of them toiling hard for a meagre wage grate in contrast. On cue, the desert fills in to lend the music an irreplaceable context. A perfect backdrop for what the film leaves out of its scope — the articulation of issues that confront folk singers. The art is endangered by a number of factors augmented by rapid changes in a modernising society that is not willing to compensate enough. If the culture is to survive, a sustainable model for preservation and growth has to be set up as a self-sufficient creative economy in their native lands. This case argues itself when you hear Mura explain the words of Sufi and Bhakti saints, his tattered garb transforming itself from a testimony of destitution to the pride of a minstrel. They have Kabir. We have his songs on a CD. - From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 7, Issue 11, Dated March 20, 2010


“Nothing in the world will last – it is but a two day fair” sings Mura Lala Fafal, drawing inspiration from the Sufi traditions of Sant Kabir and Abdul Lateef Bhita’i. He is accompanied on the Jodiya Pava (double flute) by his nephew Kanji Rana Sanjot. Kanji taught himself to play and make his own flutes after hearing the music on the radio. Mura and Kanji are Meghwals, a pastoral Dalit community that lives on the edge of the Great Rann of Kutch, in the Western Indian state of Gujarat. They are both daily wage labourers and subsistence farmers in an arid zone. The film is a a two day journey into the music and every day life of this uncle-nephew duo, set against the backdrop of the Rann.



The Great Rann of Kutch is a vast salt marsh/desert that separates India and Pakistan. Before the Partition the Meghwals moved freely across the Rann, between Sindh (now in Pakistan) and Kutch. The music and culture of the region is a rich tapestry of many traditions and faiths, an affirmation of the syncretic wisdom of the marginalised comunities that live in this spectacular and yet fragile area. - http://atwodayfair.wordpress.com/


Discography

"Glimpse Of Kutchi Music"
"Kutch I"
"Kutch II"
"Sounds of Kutch"

Photos

Bio

Murra Lala Fafal is a Kafi singer living in the desert region of Gujarat, India. His unique voice is high pitched with a texture rooted in the soil of his motherland. The Kafis sung by him are Sufi songs influenced by devotional and philosophical music of India. Murra Lala sings about separation and union of lovers and also performs the philosophical verses of Indian and Sufi Saints.
Accompanying him, Noor Mohammad, a proficient musician, plays folk tunes and Sufi devotional melodies on Jodia Pawa (paired flute). Dana Bharmal, assisting Murra on percussion instruments, is also a singer, whose songs speak of love and amalgamation of cultures.