One of the exciting things happening in Indian music at the moment is a resurgence in genuine folk music. Everyone knows about classical and Bollywood and qawwali but there are dozens if not hundreds of other regional and local musical styles and forms that are rarely heard in other parts India let alone the world.
Young music lovers and entrepreneurs are starting to use modern technologies and sensibilities to produce this ‘authentic’ folk and promote it to new audiences. It is an exciting time, indeed!
One of the recent discoveries I’ve been enjoying immensely of late is Noora.
Her family belonged to Lyallpur (Faisalabad) in present day Pakistan but the moved to India at the time of the Partition and Swarn Noora was born close to Amritsar. Her musical training came by default from her mother Bibi Noora, a nationally acclaimed singer of sufiana kalam, though she regards her later husband Sohan Lal to be her true guru.
Noora was interested in singing even as a little girl, but her mother did not consider it a fit line for her daughter and didn’t encourage her to train professionally. She was married at the age of 21, and though her husband also belonged to a family of singers who regularly did perform professional, mostly qawwali programs, she would never accompany them. Noora says she fell seriously ill with an inexplicable illness and it is then that her husband, having tried all kinds of medicines and failed, asked her what she was really sad about. She then expressed her desire to sing professionally. He immediately agreed and began to train her to sing with a dholak and tabla, to prepare her to perform in front of audiences. That was her journey into professional singing and she hasn’t looked back since. Her husband passed away a few years ago, she now sings with her son Dilbahar, who accompanies her on vocals and harmonium. Her eldest son, Gulshan, is a composer and has set many of the compositions she sings to tune, and the second son, Gulzar, is a dholak player.
This is a family affair. Noora’s voice is powerful and commands instant respect and attention. The rhythms kept by the dholak and harmonium are absolutely pristine. Unpretentious but gloriously Punjabi. The songs cover spiritual themes, folklore and love stories. The highpoint for me is O Mere Dataji a 12 minute paean to one of Punjab’s great sufi masters, Datasahib Ganj-e-Shakar, to bring blessings and transformation.
01 Bahana Tera Tak Len De
02 Mera Ranjha Palle Vich Pa De
03 Jee Ve Soneya Jee
04 Kaccha Vekh Na Leya
05 Tumba Vajda Na
06 Bue Khushiyan Ne Dhole De
07 O Mere Dataji