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Folk singer Malini Awasthi - Padma Shri Award winner

Folk singer Malini Awasthi – Padma Shri Award winner

Folk singer Malini Awasthi is the recipient of Padma Shri 2016 and the award has made her happy not only for the recognition of her art but also for the genre she dabbles in.

“I have long felt the pain as folk music does not get recognised as much as our other traditional art forms. The award means that the Government of India values country’s folk and I feel indebted for it.” In Chandigarh, on the invite of the Chandigarh Sangeet Natak Akademi, Malini talks of what music means to her and what made her pick up folk over classical that she is duly trained in.

Classic to folksy to filmi

Malini started learning classical music at the age of 5 under various gurus. Learning from legendary singers Shujaat Husain Khan and Rahat Ali Khan, she has been learning under legendary Hindustani classical singer Girija Devi.

“I am still her student,” shares the singer who aims at remaining a serious student all her life. Having spent much of her childhood in eastern Uttar Pradesh – Banaras and Gorakhpur, she took a liking to folk. “At home both my Tayi jis (aunts) sung fabulous folk songs at family functions. My mother encouraged me to join them, and it gives me immense pleasure when I sing those very numbers on stage.”

Married to a UP-cadre bureaucrat, Malini travelled to wherever her husband’s postings took her and she got to listen to different types of folk music. “I was so influenced by the artistes and how they talked of everyday life, but sadly nobody talked or wrote about them.” Malini first planned a book, but being a trained singer, she thought of becoming the voice of this dying genre and bring it to the forefront, a move that she was hugely discouraged about.

“Most people close to me tried to talk me out of it, but I wondered why couldn’t people see the intrinsic beauty in those tradition songs.”

In her high pitch voice, Malini has sung the songs of the soil, women, traditions on stage, made audience dance to her beats and also in Bollywood. “My songs bring out the stories of rural women who despite the struggles at hand carry on with a smile on their face.”

It’s on stage that her heart lies, she admits, but is open to sing for films for the reach is immense. “I am not as much a studio person but I have enjoyed playback singing when ever I was given a folk number.”

The singer, who gave her voice for popular remix Dil Mera Muft Ka (Agent Vinod), shares her experience, “It was Pritam ji, who approached me. He was looking for the kind of voice texture as mine and I was amazed how the remix became a huge hit.”

Along with her performances, Malini also runs an organisation called Son Chiraiya that provides a platform to traditional folk artistes like hers.

She dreams of an institute that records and archives folk music and hopes to keep art alive by delivering lecture demonstrations. “It’s not just the folk of UP that I want to preserve but the entire country’s,” says this woman who is exceptionally fond of Rajasthani and Bhojpuri folk.

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