Aditya Bhasin’s Rajasthan Roots Is A band taking village folk tunes to global music audience.
Much as he dislikes the name ‘folk fusion’ for the genre of music he literally pioneered in India, Aditya Bhasin, band member and founder of Rajasthan Roots, humbly boxes his own music in the genre while talking about the band. He understands he has to let everyone make sense of why he and his fellow band members started introducing guitar and drum frequencies to traditional folk music from Rajasthan. When they started their band in 2005, people had forgotten the power and beauty of indigenous folk music in India. “Folk music is generally high pitched. Layering it with warmer tones created a sound which was appreciated, and people could connect with it”, he says nonchalantly. Having introduced the Morchang Studio that made live recordings of songs even before Coke Studio had launched, Aditya is grateful for his success, although he feels he is not even halfway to where he wants to go.
It all began for Aditya when as a child, he would borrow his father’s tape recorder to record songs he had made. That he would grow up to live his childhood passion in working capacity was not something he had envisioned for himself back then. For several years, he had chosen to make hotel management his career and was satisfied with his life - travelling and being a part of different hotel chains in the country. And then he met John Singh, his inspiration, to explore the musical lineages of Rajasthan. This chance meeting changed the course of his life. The next day, Aditya quit his job in Delhi, packed his bags, and drove back to Jaipur. He didn’t even call John until two days later. And then, John himself asked Aditya to join him in his quest to take talent from Rajasthan to global heights. John believed, and Aditya was convinced as well, that the musical potential of Rajasthan equals to that of Africa, where genres such as African blues were pioneered. They had a dream that one day, the desert state of Rajasthan would produce shining examples of groundbreaking musical departures from the conventional and the mainstream.
Tryst with Rajasthan
In his travels to villages in Rajasthan with John, Aditya discovered some amazing talent and musical content, spread out most ordinarily in the everyday of the desert land. He met the extraordinary Bhanwari Devi sitting under the shade of a tree, undiscovered and content with her lot in the world. Still elsewhere, he witnessed other-worldly performances where cobras danced to music played by folk artists. Such was the range and plethora of talent that he encountered in his tryst with the desert.
He knows he hasn’t even touched midway in his journey with his band, Rajasthan Roots, even though the band itself has done hundreds of gigs abroad and thousands in the country, with some of the best musical talents that the world has to offer. All the members of the band have unique individual identities as artists. They all come together to make the core of the band. Kutle Khan, Nathoo Lal Solanki, and Bismillah Khan are all familiar names to music lovers who form the roots of the band.
Rooted to the Future
Even though the band has made innumerable songs, it is yet to produce an album. For now, Aditya is satisfied living in the moment. Exploring, collaborating, and performing keeps him invigorated and alive. Rajasthan Roots also has to go to perform at wedding extravaganzas in Rajasthan. Aditya calls these patrons at the weddings the new jajmaans of the music community. “In the olden days, music communities would dedicate their entire performances to the jajmaans. These jajmaans were either the warrior or the land-owning communities in villages, and they patronized the particular music community’s art form. As a result, the folk artists would sing entire histories of the jajmaan communities at weddings and occasions”.
His only contention with the modern rendition of folk artists performing at weddings is that it has become extremely commercialized. Gone are the various other exchanges between communities, the nourishment of folk music, and the appreciation of art forms. The only value in a wedding transaction that now exists in money, which to Aditya, is the drawback of what could potentially be a thriving practice if there was some return to the older forms of jajmaan patronage.
Back to the Lab
Nevertheless, Aditya is optimistic about the future of music from Rajasthan, and his Rajasthan Root’s role in bringing forth a new wave of musical traditions in the country. “It’s all about timing though”, he says. When the time is right, we hope to see a whole lot more of Aditya and his core team, pioneering their way to Aditya’s vision of taking this music to the scales of immortality. Till then, he lives a quiet life away from the din and noise of the city somewhere close to Jaipur, content yet ambitious, all at once.
When the time is right then.