'My conviction doesn't allow me to deviate'

'My conviction doesn't allow me to deviate'

Having touched numerous hearts with her versatile and powerful voice and yet not be swept away by the industry incentives – that is folk singer Malini Awasthi for you, credited for reviving the fading Indian folk tradition and giving it its due recognition nationally and internationally.

The singer who hails from Lucknow, has shifted to Delhi and will be performing here in coming days. Squeezing some time out for Metrolife in between her shifting arrangements, the “cultural activist” of folk tradition shares her passion for music.
A post graduate in Hindustani classical music from Bhatkhande University, Lucknow, Malini Awasthi is revered for her fluency in ghazal and sufi singing, banking on the sound knowledge of Urdu derived from her legendary teachers Rahat Ali Khan and Shujaat Husain Khan. She then became a dedicated student of the legendary Hindustani classical singer, Vidhushi Girija Devi. Highly acclaimed for singing diverse folk forms – like thumri, dadra, sohar, banna, jhoola, jajri, holi, chaiti, vivaah, dhobiya, nirgun – Malini mainly sings in local dialects like Awadhi, Bundelkhandi and Bhojpuri.

The singer has extensively propagated Indian folk by singing for Bollywood films like Agent Vinod (Dil mera muft ka), Rajpal Yadav’s Ata Pata Lapata, Bum Bum Bole, etc. She has also worked with Medieval Pandits who composed music for the film Soundtrack in which Malini sang Ye jeewan hai’s recreated version. “Bollywood is very big. Any new song reaches out very fast. Though I never thought of singing for films, I took it as it came. Appreciation from legendary Bollywood musicians like Lataji and Pyarelalji gave me confidence to carry on what I set out to do,” she says, adding, “There were lots of temptations (to sing commercially big songs). But my conviction doesn’t allow me to deviate as I feel very strongly for my identity; so I stuck to it. I am happy that I am being accepted like this.”

Malini has spread the magic of India’s rich heritage of folk music across the world including countries like Pakistan, USA, UK, Holland and Mauritius. “I agree with all artistes who say that there is immense respect for Indian culture abroad. The audience there eagerly awaits your performance by mentally and emotionally preparing for it days in advance,” Malini candidly shares.

“Cultural roots are still very strong abroad. Those who have never been to India, still preserve the legacy that their previous generations took there, passing it on further. That is the strength of folk music; it passes on not through written word, but by oral tradition.” Despite being an active promoter of Indian folk globally, Malini is saddened by its state in its country of origin. “I am very disappointed that nobody has done justice to pure folk. Everybody wants business and a commercial angle.”

Signing off on a hopeful note, the singer adds, “The net has emerged as the best medium to connect with masses, especially youth. The fact that YouTube has numerous videos of pure folk songs, with many comments and likes is a very positive trend. It shows that the young respect our rich heritage.”

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