Singer and music director Runki Goswami hails from West Bengal. She recently performed a live set dedicated entirely to folk songs at Delhi’s India International Centre. Through her songs, she introduced the audiences to an unchanging legacy of different Indian cultures which have all invested great creative resources into their respective folk tunes. Guardian 20 speaks to the versatile musician.

Q. Tell us more about your foray into folk music. Which form of singing, between folk and classical, interests you more?

A. Music happened naturally to me as I come from a family of musicians. So it was easy for me to get into folk music. I sing both folk and classical songs. Classical singing is the base of all folk music, the foundational learning for every established singer. I would call myself a classical singer because my background is that of a classical musician.  I want to sing in both the mediums, so that I can explore as much as I can in the music fraternity.

Q. Your musical roots—how have they moulded you? What have been your major influences?

A. Early musical influences were my grandmother’s renditions of various classical ragas followed by my dad’s violin recitals. Hindustani classical music was a part of my upbringing. Informal training started while I was three and then progressed as formal training. I am blessed to have been born into a family of musicians. I am the fifth or sixth generation following this trend: my grandmother, mother, father, uncle, aunts are all singers. And so, it has been a blessing for me, since childhood.  My family has played a pivotal role in strengthening my musical foundation. I gave my first concert when I was six. To be introduced to audiences and the stage at that age is a feeling worth remembering.

Q. Your recent performance involved 17 regional songs in as many as 17 languages! Are you aiming to develop a new style in music?

A. I don’t wish to develop a new style in music, but yes, I wish to revive folk music which is lost somewhere. I hope to create a mark for myself when it comes to folk forms of music.

Q.  Could you share some insights you might have garnered from the folk music scene in various parts of the country?

A. Traditional folk music still has a very loyal following and massive reach in India. We have superstars in the folk music scene that the mainstream doesn’t know about. There are melas and rural festivals in the hinterlands where such artistes perform for several lakhs of people over three days. But due to the general ignorance of folk music, the talent of these artistes remains unnoticed.

Q.  What needs to be done to promote folk music in India?

A. Indian classical is anyway well-known across the globe. The forms that are fading away are thumri, tappa and kajri. These are gems and we should definitely do something to keep these forms intact. We can spread the knowledge and create awareness on these forms. Singers may use folk melodies in their composition to promote folk music.

“My aim is to promote folk music on the global platform. There is an urgent need to promote regional folk music to bridge the gap between the youth and our culture. It is a form that will never go out of fashion. It is here to stay.”

Q. What about your professional life? How do you manage singing—a discipline which needs complete dedication, along with your job in a multinational company? What is your schedule like, and how do you balance music with work?

A. Because of my busy schedule it does get hectic for me but music is my passion. So, I make sure that I take some time out to do my riyaaz daily. I find no difficulty in balancing my music with my job, as I love music. I usually perform on weekends or at night after my working hours. I add music in my schedule by listening to songs of different genres when I am not working.

Q.  What do you consider the highlight of your career thus far?

A. When my composition “Teen Maar Beatulakki” became an instant hit among the masses, I was delighted. Apart from films, my Bengali devotional album Debobeena and two other Hindi albums Manmarzian and Odhi Chunar Dhaani have been very well received by the audience. These were the turning points of my musical career.

Q. Are you composing any new songs? Could you fill us in on the details?

A. I am working on a few compositions but have not yet finalised them. When the time is right, I will definitely share it.

Q. Are you also open to collaborating with regional folk artistes for your compositions?

A. I have always looked up with great respect to our local artistes, and I would be honoured to have the chance to perform with them, so that I can genuinely know about that region and thereby enhance my knowledge about that particular form of music.

Q.   How do you write your songs? Give us a glimpse of your creative process.

A. Songs are written under many circumstances. Sometimes they are written out of love, heartbreak, beauty and other aspects of human emotions and surroundings. Each song has a depth of inspiration. Folk music has been an integral part of my childhood. As a result, I was always inclined towards it. It captivated my interest and gradually I started composing music. But true inspiration for composing struck when my dad gave me a few Bengali devotional music compositions and then I thought about it and worked on it.

Q. Why did you choose the Telugu film industry as a music director? And how was that experience?

A. I had already composed music for Bengali albums and it was through them that film director M. Balu came across my music. It was all destiny that I met with M. Balu and got a chance to work for Thedavaste Fighter. The shift from the small Bengali albums to super commercial Telugu cinema was interesting because the two are so different. There were slight hiccups in the beginning but I had a lot of help and direction. I also had language problems, but now I’ve picked up some Telugu and can even speak a little bit. I have been fortunate enough to work with young, energetic, like-minded people. So my overall experience has been great in Telugu films.

Q. How do you feel your music has progressed over time, and what direction do you see yourself heading in over the next few years?

A. My music was well accepted in regional cinema down south. Today’s generation has completely lost interest in classical and folk music. My aim is to promote folk music on the global platform. There is an urgent need to promote regional folk music to bridge the gap between the youth and our culture. It is a form that will never go out of fashion. It is here to stay.


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