CAMBRIDGE, MA– Falu’s Bollywood Orchestra will perform on Nov. 3 in Cambridge, MA, to benefit Desai Foundation, a Burlington, MA-based non-profit organization that empowers women and children through community programs to elevate health and livelihood in the United States and India.
Falguni Shah, popularly known as Falu, is the founder of Falu’s Bollywood Orchestra. Internationally recognized for her ability to blend modern inventive style with an Indian classically-shaped vocal talent, Shah is a singer and songwriter who has collaborated on “Silk Road” project with Yo-Yo Ma and with A.R. Rahman on the “Slumdog Millionaire” soundtrack. In addition, Shah has released two albums with Falu’s Bollywood Orchestra band.
On Nov. 3, Indian-born Shah will perform in a concert to benefit Desai Foundation. The show will be held at the Middle East in Cambridge, MA, and will start at 8:00 pm. Tickets are: $40 per person in advance; $45 at the door; and VIP tickets: $101.
In an exclusive online interview with INDIA New England News, Shah talks about her journey and performing in the United States.
INDIA New England News: What brought you to United States?
Falguni Shah: While studying Indian Classical Music, I also wanted to explore and learn different genres of music, like jazz, pop, and rock. That quest to learn more and expand my musical imprint is what ultimately brought me to the States. I also wanted to find the right person with whom to start my journey in music and life.
INE: How has living in the United States changed your outlook on your music and music in general?
FS: While I never forget my Indian Classical roots, living in the U.S. has enabled me to expand and go deeper into my music. The U.S. embraced my culture openly, while adding its own flavor of diversity — in many ways, this fusion has enriched the culture of Indian music for me. I’ve also learned to appreciate different cultures and genres more quickly and easily, as it’s considered cool to do something different here. I am more exposed to various styles of music in the U.S. — it’s easily available, and I can learn it faster.
Culturally, it’s different than India, as well, so I had to learn how to adapt in order to get by. That experience has cultivated awareness and has taught me something I would not otherwise have had a chance to learn.
INE: You have a range of styles, but curious how you become so interested in Thumrie?
FS: One of my Gurus, Kaumudi Munshi, is a direct disciple of Smt Siddheshwari Devi, who is considered to be the Queen of Thumrie. Through her, I was exposed to that style right from childhood and learned it like I would learn to play hide and seek. The lyrics and melodies of thumrie immediately attracted me to that style of music.
INE: How did you connect with Desai Foundation?
FS: I have actually been connected with the Desai Foundation since I moved to the United States. When the Desai Foundation was a private foundation, and one of its goals was to promote Indian culture in America, they actually helped me produce my first album! Samir Desai has been a huge supporter and inspiration for us. Later, when I was ready to produce my third album, Megha Desai, with her company MSD, helped to produce all the creative elements around the album. I guess you can say we have been collaborating for over a decade!
What has been most incredible over the past years, has been to see the Desai Foundation grow. Three years ago when they transitioned into a public foundation, I was honored to sing at their first event in NYC. Their work has always inspired me. Their approach to grassroots community development and their commitment to women has always deeply resonated with me. One of my favorite programs is an incredibly empowering initiative that teaches women to sew, and then guarantees them a job with a nearby factory. It’s this type of training that can really help to change not only the life of that one woman, but of her entire family.
I also love that their programs are both in the US and in India – I find that commitment to both of their communities to be inspiring. We have all come here to make a home for ourselves, and it’s important that we connect with the community. Ultimately, the Desai Foundation is all about girl power! They focus so much of their work on empowering women! It’s always been a huge part of what motivates me – so I really connect with that.
INE: What the Boston audience should expect?
FS: A really fun and high-energy night with a full 11-piece band transporting the Boston community through the years of Bollywood magic! The Desai Foundation always puts on incredible events – and this will be no different! And the Middle East Nightclub is a big part of the Boston music scene. I can assure you that when we opened up for Asha Bhosle with this show – we had the entire crowd on their feet. The show on November 3rd will be just as much fun! And there will be lots of dancing!
INE: Who are the other artists who will be playing with you in Boston?
FS: The other musicians joining me are Gaurav Shah, Soumya Chatterjee, Deep Singh, Greg Gonzalez, Bryan Vargas, Danny Blume, Pala Garcia, John Popham, Elzibieta Weyman, and Anna Elashvili.
INE: How has your musical journey been so far and what are your goals in the near future?
FS: My journey has been quite deep and interesting. I oftentimes learn so many new and cool things while I’m creating music. I’ve learned to take risks and let go of my fears in music, and I’ve learned that there is no right or wrong in music, as it is very subjective. My journey has been an eye opening one and a soul searching one. I have several goals, but one of them is that one day, Indian Music will be on every radio just like Pop/Rock. I also want to do more humanitarian work through my music. If I can achieve ten percent for India like what Bono has done for Africa, I will be really satisfied. I’m grateful that the Desai Foundation helps me achieve some of my first steps in that goal.