Over Coffee: Laman Strum Their Passion For Reviving Folk Music

Setting out to revive old folk music, Laman, a folk and semi-classical band from Himachal Pradesh, had the odds stacked against them but their success has defied current trends and succeeded in getting the youth interested in age old hill culture and music.

To the left, Abhishek,vocalist and guitarist. To the right, Shishir, drummer and music composer
Abhishek,vocalist and guitarist (Left) with Shishir, drummer and music composer

According to Abhishek, vocalist and guitarist at Laman:

The youth, who are rapidly losing their indigenous identities to modernization and cultural influences from the west, need to be enlightened about their own rich roots.

Shishir, drummer and music composer adds:

Music by far is the most powerful means to reach out to the young and tell them about forgotten tales of their own land.

Making waves on YouTube, Laman has already released three music videos based on Himachali Folk songs. Shot across scenic landscapes of Kinnaur, the band’s first official video, “Bhole Baba” garnered over 70,000 views on YouTube (organically, without promotion), and it is no surprise, we all have it queued in our playlists.

Within months of its release on 8th Feb, 2014, the song also won 1st prize for the Best Music Video at Shimla Film Festival, in the same year.

So far so good, we at Himachal Media decided to give our readers and all music lovers a firsthand story about founding of Laman.  Over a cup of coffee with Abhishek and Shishir, we tried to trace the evolution of the band and what makes them so different from other bands from Himachal Pradesh.

Introducing the Musicians: Blood and Soul of Laman

Abhiskehk Bisht, vocalist and guitarists, Laman
Abhishek Bisht, vocalist and guitarists – Laman

Abhishek Bisht, vocalist and guitarists, grew up listening to folk songs and bhajans, sung by his granny and father in their hometown, Sundernagar. The songs were fairly simple, nothing very fancy or philosophical, but each one bore a story, which got permanently imprinted in young Abhishek’s memory. He still remembers humming along “shankar sankat harna, ho bhole baba…..,” every time his grandmother would sing it.

Now you know where the song actually came from.

 

Shishir Chauhan, drummer and music composer, Laman
Shishir Chauhan, drummer and music composer – Laman

Shishir Chauhan, drummer and music composer, says his love for music bloomed when he was in class 12. He decided to get formal training and pursued a Masters degree in Music from Himachal Pradesh University. Thereafter, he left for Mumbai where he got a chance to work as a music assistant on movies like Ships of Theseus, and Mirza Punjabi. He has also given background music for several short movies and plays, and has an inclination towards music direction.

Surprisingly, Bhole Baba, as we all thought, is not their first song to go up on YouTube. Instead, the first song was “Raviye,” an unplugged homemade video.  A folk treasure, the song belongs to the far fetched and entrancing lands of Chamba, reposed on the banks of River Ravi. It narrates the feelings of a prisoner inside jail, who urges River Ravi ‘sain sain mat kar o Raviye, ki minjo tera dar lagda… (don’t roar O Ravi, on the other side of Chamba, for it scares me… )

What’s in the name Laman?

The name ‘Laman’ has been derived from a local folklore format, known as “laaman.” The word is synonymous with ‘love’ and as they say, music is all about strong human emotions of love, happiness, pain, sorrow and suffering, all of which are also the essence of songs by the band.  Put in the words of Laman,

We wanted something that reflects our culture and is Pahadi, so we cut-short, Lamaan into Laman.

The duo grin a little naively when showing concern Abhishek says “we were worried about copyrights too.”

Why hasn’t Laman used traditional instruments with folk songs? Does that not impact the sanctity of the songs?

The reason why Laman uses new sounds and modern instruments is because the youth can easily identify with them. “Otherwise, how would we reach out to maximum people?”

The two friends jamming with their guitars
The two friends jamming with their guitars

Also, simultaneously, they are considerate of the sanctity of folk sounds and have plans to collaborate with Pahadi musicians over their next project.

What distinguishes Laman from other contemporary bands in the hill state?

The question draws a smile on Abhishek and Shishir, before Shishir responds, “We don’t have long beards, no ponytails, and no tattoos. So, yes that is one difference.”

 Abhishek pitches in:

The audience wants authenticity and our authenticity is our simplicity. We would not like to change it, and we think people love us exactly for that.

Are there any specific Music Ethos for Laman? What are your views on practices like the use of minus tracks during live performance?

Albeit the band is fusing folk songs with new instruments, the lyrical content and the melody, both remain untouched. “We want to give people original songs, just as they are.”

About, minus track (pre-recorded tracks that play on a lower octave during live performances)

We don’t use music gimmicks – one can actually enjoy making small mistakes during live performances. The audience is always there to cheer you back. We’ve never needed or would use minus tracks.

says Shishir.

Does Laman plan to foray into Hindi Songs?

Growing up in the hills, breathing fresh alpine air, listening to the sounds of gurgling streams and rivers, and trekking through the breathtaking mountains of Himachal Pradesh, has always inspired the duo to also write their songs, most of which are in Hindi.

But in Abhishek’s words:

So far, we’ve played folk songs like the world is ours, and it’s the same magnificence we wish to replicate with Hindi compositions. This task is not so easy, because here we are going to compete with big Bollywood brands, and unless we are not prepared for something so big, our fans will have to wait.

Will Laman cover folk songs from other parts of Indian as well?

The band has certainly started out on a humble journey with Himachali folk songs, but their plans transcend the mountain ranges. In future, they aspire to travel across the hinterlands of culturally rich states like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Bengal and others to discover folk music and bring it up front.

Lastly, what is Laman’s message to music lovers?

We aspire to create meaningful music for our listeners, and if their number is as small as 500 people, or even less, just a group of friends jamming together, we won’t mind singing for them. Our music is a cultural presentation of stories from Himachal, and we hope our listeners to look for their roots through these compositions.

says Abhishek before signing off

On this last note, here’s another song by Laman. Hope our readers will revel to this last treat.

 

 

 

 

3 Comments

  • The best piece put up on HILLPOST in a long time! Its a visual and musical treat watching these videos. Sitting here amongst the pollution and cacophony of Delhi, the songs took me back 38 years to Chamba when I was first posted there as SDM. This group of youngsters deserves the full support of all who wish to preserve the unique culture of our state. I wish them all luck into their proposed foray into mainstream Hindi and commercial music, but with a word of caution: they should never forget that what makes their music so hauntingly unique is its association with the sights and sounds of Himachal-these should always remain at the heart of their music.

  • Dear Laman and Pratima,

    Thanks for putting such a beautiful soul touching and poised musical piece of information about Himachali folk and an endeavour of Laman to promote that.

    However, I was given to understand by all quotes by Abhishek and Shishir that they are more focused on impressing youth. Rather if you see comments, on this article, we are all forty + and true lovers of music.

    Keep the best buddies and rock the world. Best wishes.

  • This was a dream to get the Mountain Folk music on top of minds of youth.. Laman has made this dream come true… Sincerely thankful to them… I love playing Himachali music on Guitar and have added some creations on Youtube as well….

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mBP_A3tS0Fo
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R_8pwwPw_q8
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m0H4IruZIeU

    But What Laman has displayed teh beauty of cultural heritage that we have is commendable…

    Thanks
    Navankur Sood

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