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Newness of the Old

Folktronica singers Hari and Sukhmani talk about their musical journey and the relevance of folk music today

A trained Hindustani classical vocalist from the Rampur Gharana, Sukhmani Malik has a voice dense with character, that doesn’t fail to strike you as powerful. Hari Singh, a producer and audio engineer, has electronic skills tuned finely to appease the ear.

The two-combine eclecticism with a curiously contemporary take on traditional folk songs from the land of Punjab. Their sounds are a blend of folk music fused with ambient electronica. Hari and Sukhmani’s music resonates with their sincere and cultured touch.

Hari & Sukhmani have been touring nationally and internationally since December 2008. They have already appeared on popular shows like The Dewarists, Coke Studio MTV, Fox Traveller’s Sound Trek, Tehelka Music Project. They have collaborated with different artists across the world like –  Noori (Pakistan), Arshad Khan (Israj Player), Thu Le (Vietnam, Western guitarist).

In an interview with Patriot, the duo open up about their journey, the challenges, their inspiration and more. Excerpts:

Your journey as a musical duo has been amazing. What has been the most defining moment in your career so far?

Forming a band together was the most defining moment! We used to play in a venue called the Orchid lounge in Chandigarh, three days a week. An event manager saw us there and asked us if we would like to perform at a wedding function. That was our first performance, and has helped us build this journey.

Your music is a fusion of folk and ambient electronica. But beyond that, how would you like to define your music?

It’s always easier to define retrospectively! When we start producing a track, we try to maintain the sanctity of the message and energy the song is originally giving. It’s never really been about defining it into a particular genre or style. Looking back, soulful urban folktronica comes to mind.

What was the reason behind choosing this unconventional genre?

We didn’t choose it, it chose us!

When it comes to music, what is your source of inspiration and motivation?

Inspiration comes from anywhere. One searches for it, listening to all kinds of music, spending time in the studio, travelling, interactions with people…life in general! Motivation…we love what we do and are lucky to be able to follow our passions. Hence, we try to make the most of it!

Where does folk music stand today in India? And, in what other ways can they be brought to the youth more (like folktronica does)?

That’s a good question. What’s the relevance of folk music today? What’s the relevance of Holi, Diwali, Eid? It’s a message. In a world that’s changing so fast, I don’t think we have the time to really sit back and account for it. Folk music comes from different times and for a brief moment, allows us to take a couple of steps back and resonate with its message.

How can it be brought more to the youth?

The presentation has to be relevant. For that one has to be tuned with what’s going on around the world musically because now everyone is.

What has been your biggest challenges and takeaways from your journey by far?

Staying true to the music. We have been, up until now, fortunate enough that our music has been accepted at face value. Hence, we don’t have to make the choice of trying to make
our music more commercial to make more money or be more popular.

I think that’s now become one of our fortes. The biggest takeaway has been to grow as an artist, trying new ways of music production, collaborating with other artists. We have received that confidence by the people who accept us for who and what we are.

Lastly, what are your upcoming projects?

Gur naalon Ishq mittha. I think all our well-wishers are waiting for us to release this song. Also, we have been dabbling with house and techno to finish our set. Stay tuned!

Hari & Sukhmani will be performing at Ibis, Aerocity, New Delhi on 15th November 2019, 8 pm onwards