The rustic magic of Lahooti Live Sessions
Presently in its third year, Lahooti Live Sessions is the one program that has consistently delivered on its promise. In a sea of corporate-backed shows that are focused on covering urban music primarily and established artists, here is an initiative that looks for talent that is found in rural villages. They have managed to feature the best of indigenous music as well as some contemporary acts without compromising on aesthetics or ideas.
The series, produced by The Sketches and recorded in Jamshoro, takes great pride in featuring artists who sing in different languages and represent various communities, traditions and instruments that are native to this land but remain forgotten and ignored.
Since appearing on the horizon, Lahooti Live Sessions has featured scores of exciting artists such as Mai Dhai, Bell, Arieb Azhar, Mystic the Band, Ali Muhammad, Feroz Roonjho, Mohammad Hassan, Jumman Latif and Group, Roshan Sharma, Umesh Pandit, The Sketches, Bhagat Bhoora Lal, Master Wali, Fakir Zulfiqar and Kentucky Winders.
Fortunately, the third season also looks very promising. The first episode, released late last week, features two artists from two different villages who gathered on the sets of Lahooti for the first time. The episode highlights the tradition of ‘bhagti’ music while the artists include Shamu Bai, who is from Jam-Jani village and Bhagat Bhoora Lal, who is from Goth Chaonro. While the former is making her debut on the series, the latter made his debut appearance in its second season.
Set against the backdrop of rural Sindh, the video opens with Shamu Bai explaining her background. She tells us that her father is her music teacher and she grew up listening to bhajans on television and it inspired her to sing. A devotee of Shree Krishna Bhagwan, she sings bhajans and is the only singer in her village to do so.
We’re also introduced to Bhagat Bhoora Lal who speaks about, among other things, a shrine in his village where Sufi fakirs would gather from all over and play and sing on iktara. Lal goes on to tell us that he is a disciple of Guru Rajab Raza and has been singing for the last 30 years. He was a shepherd and designed his first instrument from wood and would sing on desert dunes. In the backdrop of the video, one can spot children as well as livestock, painting a picture of things as they are and without any overt effort of adding glamour. It’s the simplicity of this video that is so beautiful and memorable.
As for the song, it is called ‘Sartyoon’ and features the poetry of Shah Bhittai and Shree Hans Das. Sung in Sindhi and Hindi, the song rides on the coattails of its incredible vocalists while the sonic structure is eclectic but never overpowers the poetry and the voices. Shamu Bai and Bhagat Bhoora Lal complement each other all the while reminding us that there is so much music out there that we haven’t even begun to discover.
Speaking to Instep about the third season of Lahooti Live Session, Saif Samejo (The Sketches) explained that Sindhi folk is very diverse and has various dimensions.
“In Sindhi folk, Sufi poetry is sung which is one style,” said Samejo. “What we hear in this song is Bhagti style. In this particular region of Sindh, various religions have come and gone such as Buddhism and so on. But there came a period of bhagti music and whether you’re Hindu or Christian or Muslim, you would revere your guru (teacher). The guru was not restricted to one particular religious ideal. The realization of God comes from within and you would respect your internal desire and dreams. A time came for the Bhagti movement and it is still alive in India even today but has diminished in Sindh. It was started by Mohan Bhagat; Guru Nanak and Kanwar Ram have highlighted it as well. What we did was we made a short-list of musicians who still sung bhagti music. It includes a mixture of Hindus and Muslims. They sing Bulleh Shah in the shade of bhagti music. So, this time we decided that a sizable part of Lahooti Live Sessions would be dedicated to the promotion of bhagti music. You praise the lord you love and it is not about one particular sect.”
Samejo went on to state that when Lahooti Live Sessions began many moons ago, they recorded over 100 artists from a number of villages. During that period Bhagat Bhoora Lal was also recorded but it was not a final recording. “We had invited Shamu Bai to perform at Lahooti Melo and decided to work with her as well.”
While the show is funded through Samejo’s salary – he works at a newspaper – and through the earnings of music group Sketches, the artists who appear on the show are paid.
With one single down, seven more songs are scheduled to release as part of the third season. Explaining the frequency with which the episodes will appear, Samejo said on parting note, “Every ten days we will release a single.”