The newly-appointed Governor for the Grammy’s Recording Academy’s New York Chapter Board, Falu Shah is India’s pride as she taps into uncharted waters largely for Indian musicians. But that’s what Shah, who is a Mumbai-born artist, has been doing throughout her career. From being the only Indian nominated for the most prestigious music awards The Grammy in 2019 to continue being the only Indian ambassador at Carnegie Hall (The most popular music school in the US), Shah did the unthinkable for an Indian woman musician. She defines what it means to lay one’s own path and walk that. On World Music Day, who else than Falu Shah to speak about the vast ocean that music is today.

“Never imagined Grammy nomination”

Falu, who is a Carnegie Hall regular and has even performed at the White House for former President and First Lady Barack and Michelle Obama with maestro AR Rahman. She recounts how she felt when she got nominated for The Grammy, “It was a huge surprise. I had never imagined being recognised on such a global platform and getting that kind of acknowledgment for the music that I create,” she told SheThePeople.TV. She was nominated in the Best Children’s Music category for her album Falu’s Bazaar which she actually created for her four-year-old son Nishaad. She realised that living in the US, her son faced a bit of a cultural difference as he is growing up in an Indian household while living in a foreign country. To fill this gap of Nishaad’s curiosity about the language, food and identity difference, Falu birthed Falu’s Bazaar.

On what the Grammy nomination means to Indian female artists, she says that it stands for “validation and excitement.” “It feels like our story is heard and it matters. It’s a great feeling when people recognise your hard work and talent and believe in you. I have been enjoying every moment of it,” Falu said.

While her creation Falu’s Bazaar, that she made keeping her son in mind, got a Grammy nomination, it does not drive Falu to make more music in the children’s genre. She truly believes in letting things happen on their own as she says, “I keep writing music from the heart and try not to worry about which genre it falls under. I’ll see what I’ve written six months from now and take it from there!”

Falu Shah performance

Becoming Governor for Grammy’s

Right after her nomination, she was selected as the Governor for The Grammy’s Recording Academy’s New York. She reflected on the achievement and said, “It means more than being nominated. Now I’ve become the voice of minorities and South Asians at the Board level. It is a huge honour and it’s an important responsibility. I have the opportunity to weigh in on the future of one of the most prestigious awards organisations as part of an incredible collective of industry professionals. It’s something I had never even dreamed would happen. It is one thing to sing and compose music, and one thing to be involved in the NY Chapter as a Board Member. I am ready!”

On a lighter note, when asked how she took this announcement and she remembers, “I jumped from my couch and kept jumping for two minutes. I screamed on top of my lungs when I found out about the appointment. We went out and celebrated that night.”

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Falu’s musical connection

She has grown up learning music and basic training for as long as 16 hours a day, Falu’s life has always been surrounded by music. Ask her how her first tryst with music was and she says that she remembers it like it was yesterday. “I was instantly glued to it because I loved the sound of music.”

Since then to now, Falu’s career boasts of a series of brilliant and high-profile collaborations with Yo-Yo Ma, Wyclef Jean, Philip Glass, Ricky Martin, Blues Traveler, and A. R. Rahman among others. Her rare ability to seamlessly blend a signature modern inventive style with a formidable Indian classically-shaped vocal is what has set her apart from the rest.

She says, “Because I am an Indian Classical singer, it has given me such versatility, as our classical music is so rich and deep. It is like a vast ocean I get to draw from, no matter what genre I’m working with. Once you can sing Indian Classical music, you can collaborate with anyone in this world. I work with Rap, Jazz, R&B, Dance music, cover Bob Dylan songs, write and compose. We have so many ragas to draw from as well, which gives me endless compositional inspiration. I give so much credit for my success to my gurus who taught me Indian Classical and semi-classical music. Without them, I would be nowhere.”

Grammys Governor Falu Shah
Global Indian Women: Falu Shah
Picture By: Locating the Sacred

On achieving success

On asking what it feels like to go from Mumbai to the US and be able to achieve what she has along the way, she says, “It feels more than amazing but it truly has been a collective contribution of so many people in my life. My family, my teachers, my musical partners, my colleagues, my team, and my friends and fans have all contributed to my journey. I give all of these people 100% credit.”

A talent like no other, Falu’s day off work will mean her singing a variety of Indian language songs. “Some days I would like to sing in Bengali or a Tagore song, some days a Gujarati Garba and Punjabi Bhangra, some days, straight up jazz, a little rap, or I’ll dive into all Beatles songs.”

“Some days I would like to sing in Bengali or a Tagore song, some days a Gujarati Garba and Punjabi Bhangra, some days, straight up jazz, a little rap, or I’ll dive into all Beatles songs.”

Do women singers have easier access now?

The fact that we have a female role model like Falu and many others who lead a different path, there’s a lot of hope for Indian girls out there wanting to make an unfamiliar path their career. So, does Falu feel that there are enough women artists performing and flourishing now in India than before? “I’m sure having access to the advances in music technology has helped female singers shine more in India,” she believes. However, she maintains that music doesn’t differentiate between a man and a woman. “My teacher once said ‘Music is such that a soul sings and a soul hears.’”

She hasn’t worked in India for the last few years and so she says that she is not as familiar with how Indian markets currently are. She hopes to come back and work here more.

Finally, on asking who does she want to work with dead or alive, Falu is quick to answer, “I would love to work with actor Aamir Khan. He inspires me every day.”

More Stories by Poorvi Gupta

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