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‘O Gaanewali’: An ode to Indian music traditions and women artistes | Mumbai News


At a time when the pandemic-induced restrictions had stalled all live performances, “O Gaanewali” was conceptualised as a virtual show for Mumbai-based Harkat Studios, with a grant from the Goethe Institut. Singer Avanti Patel devoted a year’s time to research and collect old compositions to create this show with the intention of shining the light on the forgotten genres of Thumri, Dadra and its allied forms as well as celebrating the women who have pioneered them.

The first major task before Patel was to put the right team together. “All the 0musicians on the team are truly amazing and eager to try new things on stage,” she says. To research on the subject, she tapped into her background in sociology and anthropology. “The script keeps evolving with any new information I may come across. The same holds true for our set list,” she adds.

Next, she roped in Meghana AT and Mallika Singh, the show’s directors. “Since none of us are actors, conducting oneself on stage and delivering the lines was something we all had to work on. We also put in extra thought into the costumes and representation of the Gaanewalis,” shares Patel, who was among the top ten finalists of Indian Idol 10.

Speaking of her approach to such a musically-rich show, Meghana says: “We’ve tried to create something like the baithaks of the past; where people are connected in an intimate setting. Between the beautiful songs, we’ve woven stories and contexts of these music legends, in the hope that we can make these forms accessible to all.”

One of the challenges of presenting “O Gaanewali” on stage was to ensure that the music they presented should not be influenced by popular choices. “We definitely want the audience to go back with some amount of nostalgia. We curated the music in such a way that there is some familiarity yet newness,” says Patel.

Festive offer

Such artistic challenges aside, the show has received some backlash over its title. “Venues have conveniently not mentioned the name or refused to programme us if we didn’t change the name of the show. Ironically, that is the very thing we are trying to fight for — removing the stigma attached to the words ‘gaanewali’, ‘naachnewali’ and ‘tawaif’,” she adds. Vocalist Rutuja Lad too performs with Patel during the show along with musicians Akshay Jadhav, Gopal Prabhu and Vanraj Shastri. Patel strongly believes that the classical heritage, which gaanewalis and naachnewalis represent, continues to be celebrated.

(O Gaanewali show is on December 7 at 7:30pm at The Royal Opera House; Tickets available on bookmyshow.com. )





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