When Falguni Shah was six years old, she got into a bicycle accident in her native Bombay, India, and was admitted to the hospital. She remembers lying in bed, screaming in pain, when her mom came into her room and, said “Falu, just sing. Just sing, and this will take away all your pain.”
So Falu started singing.
“My mind shifted from the pain to music, and I felt better,” she said. “I said, ‘Mom, this is the only thing I want to do.’”
Has she ever.
In 2000, now known as Falu, she moved to the U.S. and became a world music star, collaborating with a who’s-who of the music industry: Wyclef Jean, Ricky Martin, Yo Yo Ma, Phillip Glass and others. She was appointed Carnegie Hall’s ambassador of Indian Music, and performed for the Obamas at the White House.
Seven years ago, Falu had a son, Nishaad, who inspired her to make her first children’s album as Falu’s Bazaar. On it, she sings in English, Hindi and Gujarati, with songs about food, South Asian culture and more. This Saturday, she and her band will bring “indie Hindi” music for kids to WTMD’s Saturday Morning Tunes kids’ concert series.
Chatting with Falguni Shah, Falu’s Bazzar
Tell me how you came up with the idea for Falu’s Bazaar.
I became a mom, and there’s a saying, ‘When a baby is born, a mother is born.’ When my child became 3 or 4 years old, he started asking me really wonderful questions which caused me to wonder: ‘Mom, why is our food yellow? Mom, why don’t I say the same language in school? Why do I have to learn two languages?’
All these curiosities, questions and confusion led me to start writing songs for Falu’s Bazaar. And now he proudly sings with me on stage.
What did he think of the record?
Oh my God, he loves it so much. He is glued to it, every day. I’m bored with it now. Every day, 20 times the same songs are playing in the house. I’m like, ‘Stop, stop I can’t listen to it now.’ He says, ‘Mommy, but it’s our album!’ He doesn’t get tired. I get tired!
You have an insane resume.
(Laughs) Thank you.
What was it like performing at the White House for the Obamas?
Oh my god. You know, people have dreams, and this was beyond any dream I had ever dreamt. I got a call from A.R. Rahman’s company. He’s a superstar composer. First, he invited me to sing with him at the Time 100 Gala, where he was nominated as one of the 100 Most Influential People. I think Mrs. Obama and Oprah Winfrey saw me there performing with him. So when the state dinner came with the Indian prime minster, Mrs. Obama requested that I accompany Rahman to the White House.
I read about the Yo Yo Ma collaboration, but Ricky Martin – what was that all about?
So I was 7 and a half months pregnant and I get this email or call from Ricky Martin’s producer back then, and he needs an Indian vocalist. He flew from Miami just for this one little piece they wanted me to record. I went in the studio and it was in Spanish, and I don’t sing Spanish. They were like, ‘Now you will.’
They made me sing little pieces in a very Indian way, and that was very cool. I’d never done anything like that. But see my classical music training is so broad, you can put it in any genre, be it with Wyclef (Jean), be it with Yo Yo Ma, be it with Philip Glass, or Ricky Martin — anybody.
Did you ever see yourself recording an album of music for children?
No, I didn’t. I never did. I didn’t even know this industry existed, that there was a family music scene.
When my son started asking me questions, I went to see in the library what I could find so I could give him the South Asian cultural background. Be it a book or a CD or a movie, or animated movie – something I could show him to make him feel part of America, a part of a community. And I didn’t find one. So I decided to create my own.
See Falu’s Bazaar at WTMD on Saturday, April 7th!
Tickets forFalu’s Bazaar at WTMD’s Saturday Morning Tunes concert on April 7th are available here. The opener ellen cherry, goes on at 9:30 AM and Falu and her band will be on from 10 AM – 11 AM. Don’t miss the next concert in WTMD’s Saturday Morning Tunes series! Their first ever Mini Masquerade Ball is May 5 at the Modell Lyric in Baltimore. Concerts are held in WTMD’s kid-friendly space, at 1 Olympic Place in Towson. Doors open at 9 a.m. and the music runs from 9:30 a.m.-11 a.m. Each performance has an opening act as well as a headliner. Snacks (organic fig bars and fruit strips) as well as drinks (Horizon milk and Honest juice) are included for all kids. The series is sponsored by Garrison Forest School, The Walters Art Museum, Eddie’s of Roland Park, Race Pace Bicycles, (cool) progeny, and Maryland Excels. Kids under 2 are free!