My Bluegrass Bollywood Heart

When it comes to musical marriages, many genres have been successfully combined to produce some truly ear-bending sounds. Remember when new wave pioneers Blondie featured rap in their 1981 single “Rapture?” (If you don’t, you should definitely check it out.) That song become the first rap-influenced single to reach #1 on the US Billboard Chart, and it proved that there is indeed an audience for new and interesting musical mixtures. Personally I’m a big fan of experimentation and trying new things, so my delight-o-meter nearly went through the roof when I discovered a recent EP that seamlessly blends bluegrass-tinged folk with traditional Indian music.

Bluegrass is part of my blood, being a born and bred East Tennessee farm gal. To be fair, I didn’t fully appreciate the genre until my twenties, as up to that point I was in the oh-so-popular teen angst phase of life where rebellion was a daily rite of passage. That rebellion included hating everything around me, especially anything that hinted at my country roots. Luckily I got over that, and I credit my darling hippie college in North Carolina for opening my ears to the beautiful stylings of bluegrass. There were impromptu concerts all over campus, usually after dinner, and quite often the president of the college was playing with the other musicians. After college, when I began my world travels, bluegrass music was a tiny token of home that I could carry around with me and listen to whenever I missed my family. The recent flurry of bluegrass-y folk bands that have sprung up in the past few years has tickled my musical palette to no end, Mumford & Sons being one such beloved band. As for traditional Indian music, I’ll write more about my connections to that in an upcoming post. While there is no definitive time or place that I can point to as a springboard for my love of the genre,  it exists, and it is strong, and it truly stirs my soul.

Mumford & Sons have joined together with fellow British folk darling Laura Marling and the traditional Rajasthani folk collective The Dharohar Project to produce a self-titled EP of four extraordinary songs. Take a listen to the live version of my personal favourite, entitled “Devil’s Spoke/Sneh Ko Marg:”

This song has a little bit of everything: gritty rolling strings that all but demand foot stomping, lovely and varied vocals, and a building tension that causes you to listen with bated breath to see how it all ends. This was my first introduction to The Dharohar Project, and further investigation produced this information, taken from the collective’s website:

Dharohar’ is a Sanskrit word meaning legacy. This unique group of musicians formed at the Jaipur Virasat Foundation is a creative collective from the UK and Rajasthan. Inspired by the great mystic poet Kabir, indeed carrying on his legacy, the Rajasthani element are an intriguing mixture of Hindus and Muslims, made up of differing religions and castes, working to overcome tensions between themselves and disapproval faced within sections of society. Their belief is that music can overcome differences and creates true unity.

Their music, insofar as this collaboration, is a joyful testament to that belief. Check it out if you love folk, or bluegrass, or Indian music, or like me, all of the above. I hope to hear much more from these talented folks in the near future.

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