Mustafa Ali Jat
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Mustafa Ali Jat


Band World Folk




"Songs of the soil"

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 m - Buissness Standard, New Delhi Sep 29, 2010


"Glimpse of Kutchi Music"



Mustafa Ali Jat, a vocalist from Kutch, has inherited beautiful Sufi form called Bheth form his ancestors - Jat muslims, the cattle herders, who brought it from Iran to India. Bheth is the rarest of music genres in India not only in terms of the character of its singing, but also because the quaint art of playing the Surando which provides the lehra (successive playing of same melody to create a continuous milieu for the vocals) for Bheth singing perhaps has only one living exponent named Osman Jat. Mustafa Ali sings haunting melodies in a high pitch but a soft, sonorous voice and rendering long, sustained notes is typical of his episodic, philosophical recitals.