Gypsy queen

From Montreal to Mumbai, Rupa and her ‘April Fishes’ are wowing the world with their unique blend of folk music

In the era of dumbed-down commercial music, only fools can hope for a nomadic music outfit to come up trumps. And only real fools can pull it off. “A fool dares to speak the truth without caring for the world,” says Rupa Marya, 36, renegade songstress-guitarist of the multicultural Rupa & The April Fishes. To the curious, she has explained her band name a thousand times: “In France, April Fool is called April Fish and children stick fish pictures on their friends’ back and call out — April Fish! The fool is always right and if speaking against global Coca Cola-commercialism makes us fools, we are happy.”
Up on the stage set inside Jodhpur’s Mehrangarh fort, Rupa whispers, wails, sings and screams into the mic while her fingers makelove to the nylon strings of her classical guitar. Her body grooves instinctually to her band’s gypsy swing. As the sextet dives into a riotous folk-rock version of ‘Ina mina dika’, the Spanish ‘En la mar’, the French ‘Maintenant’ and other eclectic numbers to gift this year’s Rajasthan folk fest its most memorable performance, a dust storm is kicked up by the frolicking, dancing audience, joined in even by Jodhpur’s Maharaja Gaj Singh II. Rupa’s brand of ‘boundary-smashing global agit-pop’ is a pastiche of French chanson, San Francisco street sounds, gypsy swing, Latin grooves, jazz, tango and Indian ragas translated into musical magic by cello, upright bass, accordion, trumpet, drums, guitars and Rupa’s charismatic voice. The lyrics are mostly French or Spanish and at times, Hindi and English. It is much like a bowl of hot Minestrone — a grand, multi-ingredient soup with no fixed recipe. For Rupa, growing up in different cultures (She was born to an Indian couple in San Francisco Bay Area and grew up in India, France and the US) caused a multiple identity awakening, eventually spawning the ‘political’ band’s music in 2006. A self-taught guitarist, Rupa prefers the piano to compose her songs. While she confesses she is not technically suave, her musical instinct makes up for that. “Our music embodies this spirit of putting home above homeland, humans above race, religion or political affiliation. To see people come together in shared celebration thrills us. I explore how I can move the melody to make it sound as an embodiment of what I feel.” To pen her verses, Rupa delves into a sea of themes; from indigenous Mexicans to the Romanis (gypsies), the USMexican border to the migrants’ woes, and also, the patients she meets and treats. A doctor, who works half of the year at San Francisco’s medical centre and the other half doing concerts, offers a standard response when asked how she manages both: “I was not a good doctor without music and I’m not a good musician without being a doctor.” Just as their music reflects the gypsy sensibilities, they have wandered across world music fests and have toured the US, Europe and now India. Rupa says, “Everywhere, people are demanding their voices be heard and respected. This is an extraordinary time to be a touring musician, to bring hope and a voice to the sound of another way.”








source – anand.holla


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