Folk tunes to the fore

The rusticness and earthy rhythms of folk music drew classical singer Runki Goswami to it, and she trained herself to sing in 13 regional languages. On May 30 this year, the singer will present a concert at London’s Nehru Centre, the cultural wing of the High Commission of India, to celebrate Indian folk music in its original form.

“This is crude unadulterated folk music,” Runki reiterates during our conversation. “There are no remixes.” She will sing 20 songs in over 10 languages including Kannada, Telugu, Bengali, Oriya, Punjabi, Assamese, Gujarati, Garhwali, Himachali, Kashmiri, and Rajasthani.

A trained Hindustani musician, Runki always found herself inclined towards various languages. “Even the bandish-es we learn and sing in classical music are in languages like Braj and Maithili,” she points out. A Bengali raised in Ranchi, her schooling in music was with teachers in the city, as also her grandmother Snehalata Laik, a popular singer of her time. Numerous stage performances, AIR recordings and other private shows came her way over the years. Runki’s Bengali devotional album ‘Debobeena’ and two other Hindi albums, ‘Manmarzian’ and ‘Odhi Chunar Dhaani’, have been an experience in experimenting with genres. Geet, ghazal and bhajan are other genres she likes to sing.

Self-taught, self-trained

The sociocultural depictions of everyday life that form the crux of folk songs are what attracted her, she says. “I have heard so many Bengali folk songs being sung in my family,” says Runki, whose lawyer-father is also a hobby musician.

She has sung in various languages and traditions including the Rajasthani gorbandh, jhoomar and maand styles, original Mirzapuri kajris of UP, naktas of Bihar, bihu, baul, jatra, dandiya, lavani and others. Wherever she travels, she picks up lok geet CDs.

She is self-trained in folk music. “These are things no teacher can teach you. There are so many online resources for folk music. I read and research, I write about it, I discuss it with other musicians. I also reach out to people on social media, especially on Facebook, when I need help with any folk song of any region. People always help. And then there is enough translation software available on the Internet…”

There’s longing

Currently residing in Delhi, Runki’s recent stage performances in India Habitat Centre have been appreciated by the audience. “People still seem to long for original folk tunes... that curiosity is still there.” When she approached the High Commission with a link to this concert, they agreed to the London concert, says Runki.

When she moved to Hyderabad, she was working on a private Bengali album in 2013 at the recording studio when she bumped into a Telugu film director, who asked her to compose music for his film. What followed was her launch as a Telugu film music director in Writer-Theadavaste Writer. She then composed music for Trivikraman. “My genre is melody. I can’t converse in Telugu… but music is all about emotions. I have also sung many of the songs in these films. I take the help of software to get my diction right,” explains Runki. Her super-hit composition ‘Teen Maar Beatulakki’ is still a favourite with Telangana’s rural mass.

Armed with an executive management degree from ISB Hyderabad, and a Masters in Communication & Journalism, Runki also holds a senior position in an MNC, juggling work and music. She is now set to compose music for her third Telugu film.

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