“ What India is made of, is in its folk music. It has such deep mystery and the music is magical!”
With International Women's day this month, we had conversations with some of our patrons who always inspire us - our first conversation was with the very amazing Nirali Kartik. A truly gifted Indian Classical vocalist and musician and someone we really look up to for bringing together folk and modern sound with beauty and care.
We want to start by saying the whole team at MeMeraki are some of your biggest fans, it is always such a joy to see how you are taking Indian traditional and folk music forward in new ways - we would love for our community at MeMeraki to know more about how Maati Baani started and your vision and mission behind Maati Baani.
Nirali: Thank you so much Yosha, it means a lot! To tell you about how Maati Baani started - Kartik and I are married and we both love music but we come from very different musical backgrounds. I come from a classical background and Kartik is from ‘everything other than classical’ background so it was very natural for us to create music that merges both our backgrounds together. While the mission for our work is very vast and it’s always evolving, however, the core of Maati Baani has always been ‘collaboration’ since the very start because we felt that music is the one thing that can unite people and cultures and countries .Even now after collaborating with more than 200 artists, we do feel fascinated by how all these differences just blur when we create music together. In our latest EP which is called Nomad songs, we have collaborated with people from very unique musical backgrounds and we have artists from countries like Paraguay and Sweden. So this fascination of exploring cultures through music has always been the core so I would say the vision is exploring different cultures through music and having fun at the same time. Every song is a new adventure, a new story, and a new journey. Maati Baani is also a place where Kartik and I completely let loose our imagination so it's a mix or an amalgamation of a lot of things that we want to do and we always move ahead with the belief that we will.
How has this year been for Maati Baani - you have always been so proficient at remote collaborations, did a lot more of that happen this year?
Nirali: This year has been a mixed bag. We’ve missed being onstage and we’ve missed the energy we get from our audience. But also, at the same time we have enjoyed creating music as well as going deep into our craft, having the time to think more deeply about what we really want to represent through Maati Baani , how can our work really make a difference, not just in the world of music but in terms of how we perceive humanity. People are divided at so many levels right now but when people see all these musicians coming together and having fun, creating something beautiful, I think that is what we stand for. During lockdown we have collaborated a lot more than usual and have created a new EP where some of our old songs like Boondan are reimagined and there are new ones as well in collaboration with multiple artists from multiple countries. This has been such a fruitful process that we now have more conviction than ever before with what we can do in Maati Baani.
Can you tell us about some of your collaborations with folk musicians across India - what have been your challenges while working with folk musicians and what have been the high points?
Nirali : Whenever we have collaborated with folk musicians, our heart and soul has been filled with joy. Collaborations with folk musicians are some of our most precious memories- like the one with Mooralala or Noor Mohammad or our upcoming one with Salim Khan. The folk music of India is the soul of India -what India is made of is in its folk music, it has a deep mystery and it sounds so earthy and pleasant.hat combination in folk music is like magic and when we collaborate or create music with folk artists, we want to capture this magic. Our attempt is to keep it as authentic as possible- a lot of thought goes into fusing different genres of music. There is this cliche that ‘fusion is confusion’ and yes many times a lot of musicians do it quite carelessly. Just getting drummers, bassists and sitar players and a vocalist and jamming together is not fusion - fusion is a big responsibility. Real fusion requires a lot of time and effort - but when we hear the final result it really is a very fulfilling feeling.
We would love to know if you find yourself making intersections between life, art and music?
Nirali: There are many parallels in life and in music. Music is an intellectual art which requires a lot of concentration - at the same time, it also requires a lot of love and affection . Like in life one needs a good balance of mind and heart only then life is good, similarly, music is mind and heart in the right proportion. And like in music, when you go onstage nothing matters - you are responsible to your audience and the show must always go on, the same goes with life, you have to fulfill your duties and responsibilities well as that is your show time.
How does art inspire/motivate you? Any favourite folk/traditional art painting styles and why? Do you think it’s important to preserve these traditional and folk art styles? If yes, why?
Nirali: If I wonder what I would be if not a musician, I would definitely be doing something that would involve folk art and my crazy passion is folk art and textiles. So what you’re doing Yosha is amazing, it is incredible and inspiring and so essential in these times because it’s very easy to be carried away with what’s working the best, what trends are there but you’re going against the trends and making people aware of how beautiful our heritage is and you’re not just making people aware by selling stuff, you’re also educating them by conducting workshops which is even better as you are helping nurture true patrons of art. All the workshops you do, I love them actually and all the paintings and art forms you have are showcased in your workshop whether they are Warli or Kalamkari or Miniature Paintings, anything to do with folk art I’m in love with because just like in folk music there is heart and soul in it. There is a human being with emotions who has mastered these arts and is creating beautiful work and that I think that makes it priceless and so special and thank you so much for doing this wonderful work, it is truly incredible.
Tell us about your favourites below (and why they are your favourites)
Your favorite female artist/artists (referring to painters here)
Nirali: My favourite female artist referring to painters I remember you had highlighted the work of artist Pratima Bharti on MeMeraki, who said ‘meine toh abhi kuch bhi nahi kiya, mei Padmashree awardee ban na chahungi’ I love that attitude and I love women like her who are from villages and even in small towns or cities, it is so difficult to pursue an art form so just imagine a female pursuing an art in a village and trying to make a career out of it. So I admire and respect all the female artists from villages and from small towns who are just following their heart and passions notwithstanding the opposition to what they’re doing.
Your favorite female musician
Nirali: To say who my favourite female musician is would be a bit limiting because I have learnt so much from listening to many, many, many women artists of the past and of the present. In the past, in fact I just wrote an article after doing a lot of research on how women in the past took singing and dancing against cultural norms then at the great personal risk of being called ‘loose’. That was an eye opener for me and I felt so grateful that I am born at a time when I can pursue my art, there was a time when women just couldn’t do that and it is those women who have paved the way for us, the women artists of today to take up our art and pursue it fearlessly. My deepest respects to all the women musicians of the past who’ve paved the way for us to pursue our music with dignity.
Your favourite female writer/author
Nirali: Where my latest obsession in writers is Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. I’m obsessed with all her books -Palace of illusions,Enchantress of the forest and the latest one. I think she has a beautiful way of portraying women with power with a lot of empathy and grace. She’s able to retain the power of these women even in their weak moments which I feel is very striking about this wonderful author. I like to read all Indian women authors but Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is my favourite.
Women who inspire you
Nirali: There are a lot of women who inspire me and everyday I draw inspiration from women from varied backgrounds. For me, a woman who has the conviction to stand by her choices and has the courage to live life on her own terms is very aspirational If you read history, women have always been pushed into the lower rung and it is about time that we take the reigns in our own hands and not let anybody else lead our lives and not let anybody tell us what is right and what is wrong. It is our choice and if we have the conviction to stand by our rights and wrongs then I believe we are leading our lives with awareness and dignity. I love women who live life on their own terms and who create their own rules. They may not always be right or wrong but I take inspiration from a lot of women and they could be artists or they could be working women or housewives or domestic helpers, they are all so dignified in the way they live. So I admire women who live life on their own terms.
If you had one wish, what would you wish could change for women?
Nirali: What I would change for women is the worth we put in how a woman looks. A woman is not just her outer appearance, she is not just beautiful by her appearance but by what are her values, how she is leading her life, what are the things she believes in. I think all of these things are what make a woman beautiful and not just her looks so what i wish would change is how the world values woman by how she looks.
And if you'd like to listen to Maati Baani's latest original, go checkout Nomad Songs ❤️