When Falguni Shah's — better known by her stage name Falu — son Nishaad turned four and started pre-school, he began asking questions children of Indians living in America do. "Why is our food yellow? Why do we speak a different language at home?" he wanted to know. It was then that Falu decided to answer his questions in a way she knows best — through music.
The result was a family sing-along album, Falu’s Bazaar, which won a Grammy nomination this year. “I wasn't expecting any of this. I made music that was straight from a mother's heart for her child, to show him and teach him his roots. Also, in the US, there is no children’s music that crosses between Indian and American culture. I am proud just to have achieved this,” she says.
The 10-track album Falu’s Bazaar features fusion music and touches upon concepts of shape, numbers and colours. Falu’s son, Nishaad and her mother—she has sung a Gujarati lullaby—also feature in the album. “It is such a blessing that my mother agreed to sing for it as she was the source of so much of my musical upbringing. My husband also plays bansuri and harmonium and sings in it, so it's truly a family sing-along album,” she says.
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Falu, who grew up in Mumbai, hails from a family of musicians and has trained in the Jaipur gharana of music. Classical music, then, is engrained in every project she takes up, and she considers fusion her strength. Making a children’s album was challenging as Falu found very little awareness about India or Indian music in the US. “But I can also say that there is also a big appetite for diversity. And certainly, musicians from India have contributed a lot. I am so proud of the work to date by so many, and hope barriers will continue to break. Who would have thought that having my mother sing an old children’s lullaby from India would get a response from parents in America? It just shows the common bonds we all share, regardless of being Indian or not," she says.
Next, Falu is keen on working in Bollywood and bring everything she’s learnt from the other side of the world back home.