Grammy Winner Falu On How Motherhood And Her Indian Identity Shaped Her Art

When her son, Nishad, was five-years-old and did not know the words like identity, she wrote her first album to make him understand. The album was named after her son.

Ratan Priya
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Falguni Shah, who goes by her stage name Falu, made history when she received the Grammy Award 2022 for the best children's music album of the year. Describing what she felt at the moment when her name was announced, Falu called it unreal.

Falu said, "When your name gets announced on the big stage and the jaws drop, you want to get sunk in the moment and enjoy everything but it's way too exciting and unreal. I'll never forget that moment in my life. "

Her musical journey started when she was just three years old. Falu's mother, who is also a singer, recognised the pitch with which she could sing. Then started her training. Speaking to SheThePeople, Falu says that even as a child, she was very driven towards music. Starting with four to five hours of training in a day, she started dedicating about 15 hours to music every day later. She felt like Arjuna, with her eyes set on the target-perfecting her art. As a child, she was offered rewards by her gurus, Kaumudi Munshi, Ustaad Sultan Khan and Kishori Tai, every time she did more than she was asked to. It helped her get more and more immersed in music. Talking about her gurus, Falu says, "They taught me the best music they could. They were the masters in classical music."

After her master's degree in Indian classical music, the artist moved to America and got herself enrolled in the Berkeley School of Music in Boston. Falu says, "I learned a little bit from Berkeley, a little on my own and some from collaborations at the time." She adds that it was all possible because of the teamwork in all her songs and that she is grateful for everyone who contributed.

Falu Picture credit: Falu

Learning songwriting

Falu also started writing songs for the first time when she went to America. She joined her husband's band, with all Indian-American members, who inspired her to do so. The first song she wrote was titled Hey Baby, it was about love. "Looking at the band members writing their songs, I too started writing. I decided that if nobody likes my songs, I will start again. I turned out to be natural because I knew ragas. Indian classical music is rich with navarasas, ragas and everything. I just started incorporating all of that."


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Some years later, her first album would release and it would be featured in Smithsonian's National Museum Of Natural History's "Beyond Bollywood" exhibition which represented Indian-American voices.

The artist also experienced a huge culture shock in her early days in America. Men would ask her out on dates because they would take her as a single woman. Her husband, who has been brought up in America, helped her get accustomed to the new culture and its customs. He told her to wear a ring to avoid random male attention.

She says, "When I came to America, I was so young. I didn't even know American culture, how my body language is, how I respond to other people. How to treat other band members. When you come to America you have to start from scratch. I had to learn the American lifestyle and how to survive as a woman." The singer-songwriter learned the American ways while wearing her Indian identity on her sleeves.


Motherhood And Indian Identity

"My son would come home from school with so many questions. Why do I eat yellow rice? Why do we speak Gujarati? I would tell him that your family speaks Gujarati, and spices are good for you. But he would say, 'my friends don't speak Gujarati'. I told him you should not be ashamed of your heritage, you can teach Gujarati to your friends. Teach them how to say kemcho (how are you in Gujarati)," Falu says.

When her son, Nishad, was five-years-old and did not know the words like identity, Falu wrote her first album to make him understand. The album was named after her son. The songs in the album were about Indian spices, Indian pots and pans, and numbers in Hindi. When her band members heard the songs, they wanted to record them. It took three to four days to record the album and it became a hit. It also made Falu's son popular among his classmates as many American kids were heard singing, "Mera naam kya hai? mera naam Nishad hai." What is my name? My name is Nishad.

Falu believes that motherhood completely changed her art. She learned to let go and was more aware of what she would leave behind in the world for her son. "I didn't know that I had this magnitude of love and I could love a human being in this way. There is nothing more important than our children. You let go of everything for the little creature you have created. Everything surrounds the child. I started looking at music with a different lens. That would have never happened if I didn't have a child. I became more aware of the climate crisis and started recycling because I want my child to inherit a better world. "

"If you see the universe from the child's point of view, it is such a beautiful place."

The artist went on stage to take her Grammy award with two kids who were part of the album. When asked about the experience of working with children, she praised how transparent they are. She said, "They bring sheer love and joy and are very transparent. We should learn to understand their mindset as much as we can. If you see the universe from the child's point of view, it's such a beautiful place."


Falu Picture credit: Falu

Father as a role model

"The role of a dad is equal to a mom. My father was my pillar."

While giving her winning speech among world-renowned musicians, Falu dedicated her first Grammy to her father, who is no longer alive. She says that he was her world. She describes him as the most generous person she has ever known. Falu and her brother were everything to her father. When she was a child learning music, her mother was an active force and her father was a silent one. Even though he did not understand music, as he was a stockbroker, he would take interest in Falu's training and ask her to sing for him. On every birthday he would buy Falu a new musical instrument, she says.

Falu adds, "The role of a dad is equal to a mom. My father was my pillar. I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for my dad. The security that a child gets from both dad and mom is very important."

Falu believes that if everyone who wants to make it big in the music industry dreams big while believing in themselves, they will find success.

2022 Grammys Falguni Shah