A bunch of young local musicians and label Amarrass Records have come together to give music enthusiasts an unforgettable experience of qawwali, Kumaoni music and cuisine with river Kalsa serving as the picturesque backdrop.
Amarrass Records Music Tour, organised at a serene riverside resort in village Chanfi, about 18 kms from Bhimtal, is a two-day experience that ditches the crowded music festival format for a more intimate and informal experience where listeners and artists can bond over music and food.
The one-of-a-kind musical tour is curated by Amarrass Records, launched in 2010 by Delhi-based Ashutosh Sharma and Ankur Malhotra, who is settled in Wisconsin, US.
The label, known for releasing an album by Rajasthani folk group The Manganiyar Seduction, has since worked with Rajasthani musicians Lakha Khan and Padma Shri awardee Sakar Khan and backed Barmer Boys.
Sharma said he was inspired to come up with the idea of a music tour a decade ago when he started working with Sakar Khan and realised that after a certain age, it is not possible for local artists to travel.
“We thought why not take the audiences to the artists in small groups and provide them with an exclusive experience. We did some random tours…. the idea was to organise it properly, but then Covid happened and the plan got delayed,” he told PTI.
Just before the pandemic, Sharma met 28-year-old Sarvjeet Tamta from Uttarakhand’s Almora and signed his qawwali group Rehmat-e-Nusrat with the label Amarrass Records.
Sharma said Tamta’s interest in Kumaoni folk music as well as cuisine inspired him to organise the music tour in the Nainital region, over 360 kms away from the national capital.
“We thought we could start the tour in the hills as well as Rajasthan…. So we planned both the regions but we were able to launch the hill tour first. Hopefully by October, we will start in Rajasthan,” he added.
Tamta considers legendary Pakistani sufi-qawwali singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan as his guru. He said through his band, he wants to pay tribute to his teacher.
“I want people to understand the story, the reason behind the local music of Kumaon,” the singer-instrumentalist added.
Tamta left his home at the age of 16 to pursue music and formed his band Rehmat-e-Nusrat in 2014. Besides Amarrass Nights, a monthly event devoted to Indian and fusion music at Sunder Nursery near Humayun’s Tomb here, the group has performed at the Jaipur Literature Festival and Arunachal Pradesh’s Ziro Music Festival.
The singer said after audiences started warming up to their qawwali band, he decided to work on the folk tunes of Kumaon and created another group HimaliMou with the same members.
The Amarrass Records Music Tour, which takes place at the Soulitude By The Riverside resort in Chanfi, gives Rehmat-e-Nusrat an opportunity to enthral the audiences with classic poetry and sufi kalams such as Amir Khusro-penned “Man Kunto Maula”, “Aaj Rang Hai”, “Ali Maula” and “Shahe Marda”, among others.
As HimaliMou, the band presents folk compositions from different regions of Kumaon such as ‘Chapeli, ‘Jhoda’ and ‘Niyoli’. They also play songs from the Garhwal area of Uttarakhand, and border areas of Nepal, from where many have migrated in search of work.
The experience also sees Tamta showcasing his culinary skills and preparing special local delicacies for the visitors.
To reach the peaceful location, nestled in the middle of green hills, music enthusiasts have to trek a kilometer on rocky terrain from Chanfi bridge, which is the nearest road-access area.
Sharma said he spent a lot of time scouting for the location, which not only compliments but also enhances the soulful experience of listening to Tamta’s music.
“This beautiful riverside place enhances the experience. It gives a context… The difference is just like buying Bandhani in Delhi and buying it from Jaipur.”
The property comprises seven cottages and Sharma said their plans are to keep the music tours intimate rather than converting it into a festival.
“The idea is to have peaceful sessions with people having interactions with the artists. It’s not a come and go kind of situation… It’s an experience we want people to remember.”
The future for Sharma involves connecting with folk artists from other parts of the country and expanding the concept of music tours.
“Currently we are focusing on this, but going forward the aim is to give stage to as many artists as possible,” he added.
The Amarrass Records has already hosted successful hill tours in February, March, and April. They will return with the May edition from May 26-28.
This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.