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Megha Sriram Dalton
Megha Sriram Dalton

Ballads about love and longing

A musical presentation of folk songs from Jharkhand, Punjab, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra

Folk artiste Megha Sriram Dalton breaks into song in the middle of a sentence. “Pehle bole koi nahi/Aaj kyon bole aadhi (You didn’t bother talking to me before/Why do you speak to me now)?" she sings. “That was a chaiti," she says. “It is sung by the women of Jharkhand. The songs are generally about husbands and wives, and their expressions of love and longing," she explains.

This style of singing interspersed with brief explanation is also one she wants to follow during her 3 August performance at the India Habitat Centre (IHC). “I find people are able to better appreciate what they are hearing if they know the meaning and the context," Sriram Dalton says.

The IHC is hosting its fifth Lok Sangeet Sammelan this weekend. On Saturday, Sriram Dalton will take the stage, followed by the Punjab-based Dhad Sarangi musician Deshraj Lacchkani. On Sunday, there will be a Pandavani performance by Padma Bhushan awardee Teejan Bai from Chhattisgarh, in which she will enact sections from the Mahabharat epic, and a Marathi Natyageet performance by Suhasini Koratkar.

The Habitat World at IHC is also celebrating 15 years of hosting cultural shows this month. It has lined up performances through August, including the Love Ballads From India programme at the Lok Sangeet Sammelan, a performance by the Delhi-based fusion group Advaita (7 August), and a sarod recital by Ayaan Ali Khan (9 August).

Lacchkani, who has just finished recording for the forthcoming season of Coke Studio@MTV in Mumbai, says he will perform kaliyan, or sections, from the tragic love story of Heer-Ranjha during his show on Saturday. He can’t resist giving examples of the range of emotions in the story, from the playful to the extremely sad. “Like when Ranjha comes to Heer’s town, the girls at the village well can’t stop admiring him. They stare at him and forget all about their earthenware pots. They exclaim how gorgeous he is," he says in Punjabi.

Lacchkani, who sang the Jugni song in the film Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!, has been performing on the dhad sarangi string instrument for more than 50 years, and has also inducted his grandsons. He says it is part of their tradition to learn the art, and his grandchildren also showed interest and skill. Never mind that there is little money or appreciation for the style outside of a small pocket of patrons.

Sriram Dalton, who performed in the first season of Coke Studio in India in 2011, and was also the soulful voice behind the Karmaari Duniya song in That Girl in Yellow Boots, says she will be performing songs in the kajri tradition, songs about saawan (monsoon), and songs in the malhaar style. “We have songs about everything from birth to death," she says. “My attempt will be to keep my songs true to tradition."

The Love Ballads From India, IHC Lok Sangeet Sammelan, 7pm, 3-4 August, at the Stein Auditorium, IHC, Lodhi Road (43663333).

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