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Suanshu Khurana 

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Om Prakash Rana aka OPR is a regular 19-year-old musician, who is spotted roaming around with an Apple notebook in the slick Peninsula Studios in Noida. He is busy listening to the fine-tuned version of the tracks he has to sing for a select audience. Until now, Rana had only sung at the railway platform in the sleepy village of Barmer in Rajasthan apart from the weddings and funerals in the neighbourhood. "Earlier I would sing to eat. Ab main maze ke liye aur famous hone ke liye gaata hoon (Now I sing to enjoy and become famous)," says a shy Rana, who has been handpicked by Nokia Music Theatre — a platform for folk artistes of various states in the country to showcase their talent by being unshackled by concerns of dialects, in order to bring something reflective and interesting.

This is being done by recording them in a studio and putting out their albums in the market. Rana begins to play the famous Amir Khusrau qawwali, Chhap tilak, along with his friends Kutla Khan and Dayam Khan. The full-throated rendition of the song rises above his reticence, and the audience breaks into an applause.

"These musicians have invaded our consciousness in a big way in the past. What is required is to curate music, nurture and facilitate them to record. They need to be valued the way any other mainstream artiste is," says Subroto Chattopadhyay, founder of Peninsula Studios.

The first album under the Nokia Music Theatre, titled Asha, Discovery of the Peninsula-Rajasthan (Universal Music, Rs 175) was released earlier this week. Now, the theatre's music team is ready to travel to UP, and later, scout for talent in Punjab, West Bengal and Maharashtra. "We have created this out of passion. A passion that comes as an inspiration from the Abbey Road Studio in London, where the audience used to sit and watch live performances. We plan something similar," says Chattopadhyay.

Recording history and heritage has never been a part of India's DNA. As for the folk music archives, they are still the victims of the fusty red tape.

With a concept like Coke Studio India failing miserably owing to the 'Bollywood-isation' of the whole idea, a huge let down by way of the sound mix, inconsistent performances and the flashing disco dandiya lights, Nokia Music

Theatre comes as a whiff of fresh air and finally, a platform only for folk artistes.

The entire process began in May 2011, when the music teams of Nokia Theatre went out looking for folk musicians along with Neel Adhikari, the composer of the group, who recently came back from London after mastering and mixing Asha there.

But does singing on a set track confine them and their music? Says Adhikari, "Production is not only about recording and technology. It is a lot about psychology. I try to make this alien, slick atmosphere comfortable for them and give them the feel of the rustic feel they would experience in their village,"

According to Devraj Sanyal, MD, India and SAARC, Universal Music Group, it is all about marketing the product right and not letting it dust away in the back shelves of the music stores. "We have 1,200 stores. A store in Bhopal will also have this album along with a store in a posh Delhi mall. Why should any art form be less marketed, or given a shoddier marketing deal as compared to a major artiste. This is an effort to get India to hear what already exists as a part of the heritage and allowing it to reach a younger audience," he says.

Om Prakash Rana
Kutle Khan
Nathu Solanki
Mast Qalandars of The Peninsula Studios - Rajasthan

Universal Music India partners with Peninsula Studios 

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NEW DELHI: Universal Music India has entered into a strategic partnership with the Peninsula Studios. 

The initiative is aiming to provide a platform for musicians from across the peninsula that will transcend boundaries of countries, languages and genres in South Asia. 

"To discover and publish the undiscovered sounds from musicians from every nook and cranny of our country that is so rich in musical heritage. And to provide them with a recording & publishing platform 
that is on par with the best in the world is simply a first in India & makes this association one that we are terribly proud of," said Devraj Sanyal, MD, Universal Music, India. 

 

The new project will try and unearth the talent in different corners of South Asia and showcase their talent. 

Devraj Sanyal

Music entrepreneurs make folk sexy; Help artists earn recognition, livelihood

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On a busy workday, Subroto Chattopadhyay's job profile will look like an MTV programme— following leads for folk music artists in the Punjab heartland, watch them perform and send them to a bigger audition before trained musicians, then take the best of the lot for a live performance at his office, The Peninsula Studios.

 

Divya Bhatia, director of Jodhpur RIFF (Rajasthan International Folk Festival), has an equally impressive schedule ahead of him, with this year's festival less than a month away.

 

Chattopadhyay and Bhatia are two of a select list of passion­driven music entrepreneurs whose sole focus is on generating and promoting quality musical content and, more importantly, helping some hidden folk music talent in the country find livelihood. "You are not here to make money. We create and curate the content, money can wait," says Chattopadhyay, chairman and co­founder of Peninsula Studios that seeks to revive forgotten musical heritage of the Peninsula. "At present I can call it a not­for­loss venture."

 

While Peninsula Studios and Jodhpur RIFF haven't started generating a lot of money, their promoters and partners—corporate entities or music lovers—stand rock solid behind.

 

The Peninsula Studios has partnered with Nokia Music Theatre for four seasons. Music channel MTV is scheduled to feature their ongoing Punjab effort as a three­episode serial for broadcast in October.

 

But, what is there for their sponsors? "This can be part of their CSR activity or a branding exercise. In case of Nokia, it works well because of their tagline 'connecting people'. But we are working to a point where folk is cool, folk is sexy," says Chattopadhyay, who has given the marketing rights of his studio to Universal Music, the world's largest music corporation.

 

Devraj Sanyal, South Asia managing director at Universal Music, is upbeat about its deal with the Peninsula Studios. "I can tell you with utmost confidence that this kind of structures emanate from great music first and everything else later," he says. "Coke Studio is a brilliant example as well. Apart from serving as a phenomenal branding opportunity it creates some incredible music and the programming that it has yield these past few years is top notch."

 

Times Music's COO Mandar Thakur wouldn't like to define these individuals as music entrepreneurs alone. "These individuals and enterprises are explorers of our traditions," says Mandar. "True, we have provided them with a larger platform and digital, logistical support, but they have generated timeless content."

 

Times Music often sources content from smaller music studios from Himachal, West Bengal, Delhi and Mumbai.

 

Anil Chauhan of Himachal­based Jai Bala music, who has released several devotional folk albums with Times Music label, says he brought to fore more than 50 singers from Himachal and Punjab heartland. "Talent to hai par inko support ki jaroorat hai, bhaiyya ji (they have talent but require support)," says the humble collaborator.

 

Rajat Kakar, business head of Sony Digital Audio Disc Corporation home entertainment, seconds the view that such initiatives play a "key role in popularising the oft­forgotten music heritage" and are here to stay with their popularity on the rise. He says non­film music cannot overtake Bollywood or film music given the latter's large promotion budgets, "but the two will coexist alongside as youngsters take up more and more of non­film as an expression of their views". "And as smartphones put music in everybody's pocket they could be a game changer," Kakar adds.

 

A recent study by global mobile operators industry body GSMA said India is the fourth largest smartphone market in the world with 111 million connections in the second quarter of 2014. That is a sizeable chunk.

 

Sanyal of Universal Music says, "The shift in the digital ecosystem is imminent and we are at the cusp of change." He says the launch of 4G services will make data connectivity faster, easier and, hopefully, cheaper. "I strongly believe that we are going to see some serious change in the consumer habits with regards to music consumption."

 

Divya Bhatia of Jodhpur RIFF, however, is not much excited about digitisation of music. "When music is seen as data, it can spark off anarchy," he says. Bhatia, who puts a lot of emphasis on the atmosphere of a music performance and the livelihood of folk music artists, is against corporatisation as well.

 

"Big­ticket studios and brands are stingy when it comes to paying an un­named artist, but they will splurge on backgrounds and celebrity artists," Bhatia says, pointing out that Bollywood stole Rajasthani folk Nimbuda and copyrighted it unethically. "Today the original folk artists who were singing it for generations, cannot sing it at a public performance." Also, Bhatia doesn't want large corporate hoardings clouding over the performances at RIFF festival and prefers subsidy from Jaipur Virasat Foundation.

 

"It may take 7­8 more years for us to be self­reliant, but I am ready to wait," he says. Whether they focus on live music or recording, the atmosphere or digital consumption, these music entrepreneurs chasing Indian folk music talent require the same set of qualities — hard work, patience and loads of passion.

 

Both Bhatia and Chattopadhyay fondly narrate success stories of some folk artists they have discovered into highly recognized musicians. Last year, Bhatia made his choicest bunch to perform at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

 

Chattopadhyay says that his team recorded more than 700 musicians from small towns and villages in Rajasthan. "Twenty were mentored in the Peninsula Studios and recorded to curate album that was mixed and mastered in London," he says.

 

The ensemble 'Mast Qalandars' now perform live in several parts of the country, and musicians like Kutle Khan and Nathoo Solanki went on to Coke Studio.

Universal Music releases Peninsula Studios’ latest edition of Rangley Punjabis

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Folk and classical music is the soul of India and has been an evergreen favourite that fuels energy into celebrations, traditions and also makes for a welcome break from the prevailing trends in the Indian film industry, every time Bollywood does a take on a folk classic.

Universal Music India, in keeping with its resolve to foster and promote Independent music, recently launched Rangley Punjabis of the Peninsula Studios - 5th album from the Peninsula series.

With a five-year long strategic alliance with The Peninsula Studios, Universal Music India explores new talent, while providing them the platform for performance, recording and promotion of their music.The aim of this album is to showcase the wonderful sounds of Malwa, Doaba, Manjha that make Punjab and curate them in a way that they appeal to wider audience beyond those who speak the language.

These musicians come from different and distant corners of Punjab such as Badal, Naushera, Panchkula, Patiala, Verka and bring forth many beautiful facets of Punjabi folk music such as words of the great poets, forms popular and diverse such as theBoliyaan, Bhangraamong others. The two companies came together to provide a holistic 360 degree support to the independent and lesser known artists in various genres and languages from the 'peninsula' (Bangladesh, Nepal, India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan) outside of Indian Film Music.

Says Devraj Sanyal, managing director, Universal Music / EMI Music, South Asia, "We always believed in the concept of providing a robust platform for the immensely talented musicians that we have, hidden across the length and breadth of our culture-heavy nation. And it's been an incredible journey with The Peninsula Studios in discovering, mentoring, recording and publishing this talent ever since our first release in 2012. With Rangley Punjabis our latest, we once again delve, this time into the depths of Punjab to unearth some captivating sounds that will leave you spellbound. Our objective with this release is pretty clear - to take these vibrant sounds of Punjabi Folk (Malwa, Doaba, Manjha) and curate them in a way that they appeal to a much wider audience beyond those who speak the language.

Rangley Punjabis is a product put together after traveling thousands of miles into the Punjab, reaching out to hundreds of musicians and bringing the rustic sounds of Punjab into the studio- a collector's album indeed!" The Peninsula Studios was created in 2010 by Subroto Chattopadhyay, Chairman and Co-Founder of The Peninsula Studios along with Co-founder, Director Sita Raina, a well known actor, theater producer and director.

Raina said, "In these times of aggressive business strategies, The Peninsula Studios as an idea is an oasis where singers, musicians, lyricists, poets, composers and technicians who are the soul of the creative process are given an environment that enables them to express their creativity.This has been the sole agenda behind all the work. Universal Music has been the best and most credible partner to take this project to world and it also understands and delivers a 360 platform for content.Devraj's singular passion for the project has fuelled the program. We've handpicked a team of seasoned professionals to perfect the mould for productions and bring out music that stands true on grounds of purity and listening pleasure.Rangley Punjabis is the 5th album by The Peninsula Studios and aims to capture wonderful sounds of Malwa, Doaba, Manjha that make Punjab and curate them in a way that they appeal to wider audience beyond those who speak the language. We present this as Nokia Music Theatre which Universal music takes to the world. There is significant dividend this program,"Nokia Music Theatre presented by us" , delivers in terms of improving the lives of all the musicians in Rajasthan and Punjab since they are now better known, have quality content to share and get more opportunities to perform and improve their livelihood, for this Universal plays an equally significant role "

Listen to the Rangley Punjabis on Gaana.com

And the stage is set

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Sohaila Kapur, May 17, 2015,

She is a visionary of sorts in the theatre circuits. Actor, producer, director and co-founder of Peninsula Studios, Sita Raina is a multi-tasker to the core. Sunday Herald catches up with the theatre personality, who is known for generating riveting content for her stage productions and getting the best out of her actors. 

How did you get involved in theatre? Has your corporate career (advertising) influenced your choice of plays?

I loved imitating people when I was young, and I first learned the technique of mime as a theatre form from the eminent Zarine Choudhry and then moved on to proscenium theatre. In advertising, you learn the art of presentation, to communicate effectively, and market your product. Theatre techniques have helped me immensely to do the above, but it’s been vice versa too, as I have also used corporate knowledge to promote theatre.

Which has been your favourite genre, and why?

Comedy has been my favourite genre, because it requires a sense of timing and the ability to laugh at oneself. Rehearsals are thoroughly enjoyable; it brings the team together. Theatre is a collaboration. Also, improvisation opportunities are huge in comedy.

What was your experience working with Satyajit Ray on Shatranj Ke Khiladi?

I was young then; I just remembered him as a towering personality who knew exactly what he wanted. Prime Time was one of the most dynamic theatre groups in Delhi, run jointly by Lillette Dubey and you. Dubey moved to Mumbai and now runs the company from there. 

Does that mean your partnership has ended?

Prime Time was a first mover in making theatre upmarket and using Hinglish as a language in Delhi. When Lillette moved to Mumbai, we decided to work independently. Today, I have started the Chamber Theatre @ The Peninsula Studios series. Tell us something about The Peninsula Studios.

The Peninsula Studios, as an idea, is an oasis where singers, musicians, lyricists, poets, composers and technicians, who are the soul of the creative process, are given an environment that enables them to express their creativity. The vision is to spread joy by nurturing and sharing music from the easternmost borders of India in Mizoram right up to Mazhar-e-Sharif in Afghanistan, from Gilgit, Hunza to Kandy in Sri Lanka, where poets, saints, fakirs have travelled over centuries to create a wonderful body of work. The studio focuses on genres including folk, classical (Carnatic and Hindustani), spiritual music, ghazals, nazms and poetry in all the languages of the peninsula.

The journey started by creating a state-of-the-art recording studio-cum-performance space envisioned by one of India’s leading architects and a serious music connoisseur Ratan J Batliboi. The intention was to revive the romance of a traditional baithak, where musicians and aficionados came together in an intimate setting like chamber music. For this, we created the programme ‘Sounds of the Peninsula’.

What is unique is that live performances by quality artistes are recorded in a single take in the presence of music cognoscenti who form a part of the feel and sound of the recorded works. This demands outstanding capability from the artists since few agree to be recorded live.

Who are the artistes that you have worked with?

Outstanding artistes including classical pianist Anil Srinivasan, and vocalists Sikkil Gurucharan and Supratik Das, who have brought their superlative musical talents to be recorded live in a single take and showcase the music to wider audiences.

Our output is world class, and the ensemble ‘Mast Qalandars of The Peninsula Studios’ performed live, and the album and videos are popular on YouTube. Musicians like Kutle Khan and Nathoo Solanki are now on Coke Studio rounds, steadily progressing in their musical careers.

The Studio received an award for ‘Best Recording/Mixing Studio for Live Recording’ at the 8th Indian Recording Arts Awards 2014 for the production of the 3 series album Live @ The Peninsula Studios.

Does this initiative mean you’ve moved away from theatre and acting?

Well, it has taken us five years to put The Peninsula Studios together and these are early days, so I had little time for anything else. But in 2014, I went back to theatre. We have launched The Chamber Theatre @ The Peninsula Studios series. It was inaugurated with M K Raina’s award winning Punjabi play Buhe Bariyan, which was extremely well-received. We plan to present quality productions under the series. Maybe capture it on video, and let’s see how to take it forward. I have recently acted in a movie directed by Muzzafar Ali, which will be released this year. He is a master of his medium and a gentle director who inspires you to understand the role and deliver his vision.

What new creative idea have you in store for 2015?

We have some great music production ideas that are ever evolving. We are expanding into socialising our bands The Rangley Punjabis and The Mast Qalandars of The Peninsula Studios. They are now performing in India and abroad. We are also curating a music festival in Rajasthan. There are also a few exciting ideas in the internet space in connection with music that we are exploring.

Rajasthan artistes to perform for William and Kate on their India visit

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JAIPUR: Tonight, as Prince William and Kate Middleton arrive in India, they will be greeted by the creme de la creme of the country. The royal couple will enjoy the hospitality of top Bollywood stars, as well as the erstwhile royals and the current political elite of India. But apart from these bigwigs, they will also have a musical welcome party. A group of Rajasthani folk artistes called Mast Qalandars has been invited to play alongside Britain's Royal Air Force Band in a special concert for William and Kate. While the details about the venue and time of the performance are being kept under wraps for security reasons, sources say that the performance might take place during the Delhi leg of the royal couple's visit, most likely on April 12.

The folk artistes, who come from different parts of Rajasthan, were chosen by a Noida-based studio back in 2010 and assembled in a group later christened Mast Qalandars. Subroto Chattopadhyay, owner of the studio, elaborates, "Between 2010 and 2011, we scouted around Rajasthan looking for folk artistes and selected 20 of them. These folk artistes then trained at our studio in Noida, where they worked with our team who curated the Rajasthani folk music for them. They have since performed all across the country and overseas as well, both as a group and individually. Playing in front of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge is a great honour and an opportunity they are enjoying."

Seven artistes from Mast Qalandars - Kutle Khan and Gafoor Khan of Jaisalmer, Mohan Khan, Firoz Khan and Dayam Khan of Barmer, Om Prakash Rana of Jaipur and Nathoo Lal Solanki of Pushkar - will perform a medley of Rajasthani folk music for the royal couple. The group will be accompanied by the band from Britain's Royal Air Force, who had also performed at William and Kate's wedding in 2011. The team from Peninsula Studios has been instrumental in curating, arranging and orchestrating the music performed by the group and will be involved in the upcoming performance in front of the royal couple as well. A source tells us, "The performance will include music curated at the Noida studio. I am not certain of what songs they plan to perform but Kesariya Balam will be performed in all probability. That is one track that has become the group's trademark and shows India's cultural colours in all its glory. Also, the song talks about welcoming guests to our land so it fits with the occasion perfectly."

Over the past five years, the artistes have performed in different parts of India and even Dubai, but this performance will be their first in front of royalty. Chattopadhyay says, "Kutle Khan and Nathoo Singh Solanki have performed in concerts and on TV shows in the past, but this is one step further from all that. We are thankful to the British High Commission to have given these artistes a chance. Such an opportunity can be life-changing for them."

The artistes, most of whom have never played at such a platform, are obviously thrilled. They say that they are elated to have gotten an opportunity to perform in front of the royal couple and hope they are able to present to them the cultural and musical vibrancy of the state of Rajasthan and India as a whole.

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Punjab Unbolted: Peninsula Studios launch Rangley Punjabis

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MUMBAI: The Peninsula Studios launched their 5th album – Rangley Punjabis of the Peninsula Studios on November 20th, 2014 at Lodi – The Garden Restaurant amongst Delhi’s art and music regulars with names such as Rabbi Shergill, Randeep Singh, Anup Kutty as well as the Prasar Bharti CEO Jawahar Sircar, among others.

The launch witnessed buoyant performances by artists such as Dolly Guleria (daughter of the famous singer Surinder Kaur), Balwinder Singh Mast, Vishaljit Kaur, Afshana Khan, Ranjhan Ali Qawaali group and many others. The album launch was greeted with live performances of the songs on the album such as Jindua, Lathe Di Chaadar, Kamli and Qadri Jugni.

The aim of this album is to showcase the wonderful sounds of Malwa, Doaba, Manjha that make Punjab and curate them in a way that they appeal to wider audience beyond those who speak the language. These musicians come from different and distant corners of Punjab such as Badal, Naushera, Panchlula, Patiala, Verka and bring forth many beautiful facets of Punjabi folk music such as words of the great poets, forms popular and diverse such as the Boliyaan, Bhangra among others. The music according to TPS is both sublime and vibrant.

Being a not for profit organization, The Peninsula Studios focuses to preserve the rich culture of the Peninsula. Focusing on music from Bangladesh, Nepal, India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan, where there’s a tremendous similarity in the tradition: the poetry, the music, the literature, the rivers, the saints, the people.

The Peninsula Studios was started in 2010 by  Subroto Chattopadhyay, Chairman and Co-Founder of The Peninsula Studios, his executive career was with Brooke Bond, ITC Ltd and PepsiCo  his is the former MD of HMV along with co-founder Mrs. Sita Raina, who is an actor having acted in Ray’s Shatranjke Khiladi, theatre producer and director. It is a handpicked talented team made up of Avinash Chordia, head of Studios who is a musician with an important Calcutta band Supersonics, Ananya Rane Head of Films, a graduate of the film school in Prague and an assistant director to Ang Lee and Chatharyn Biglow in Life of Pi and Zero Dark Thirty, Narinder Twakley, Head of Events and Logistics.  Deepak Samson, an award winning recording engineer and great musicians like Neel Adhikari and Anil Srinivasan and Miti Adhikari.

Folk and classical music is the soul of India, this music has been an evergreen favourite that fuels energy into celebrations, traditions and also makes for a welcome break from the prevailing trends in the Indian film industry, every time Bollywood does a take on a folk classic.

Ever since the advent of the internet, prevalence and growth of the Indies and rise of video sharing sites, a wonderful fresh amalgamation of folk classical strains with contemporary sounds has made its way into the hearts of many globally.

With a vision to fill the classical, folk and language space by creating high quality content -that not only does justice to the large plethora of traditional music but also makes it more accessible and engaging to the young and old patrons alike, - The Peninsula Studios have carefully compiled 4 volumes of lost musical gems. TPS believes if done well, music rendered in different languages of our country and folk can have universal appeal, is cool and sexy.

Now, they are out with their 5th volume titled Rangley Punjabis of the Peninsula Studio; where they travelled in search for talented musicians in Punjab and met over 438 such talented musicians.

The Peninsula Studios started the Punjab project in January 2014 after a workshop and touched over 438 musicians from various small towns and villages of Punjab. The recording started in mid June which was then converted into a 3-episode serial called, Nokia Music Theatre – RangleyPunjabies of The Peninsula Studios where over 23 musicians were mentored and the music they brought curated and recorded by them.The entire journey was presented by MTV as a 3 episode series Nokia Music Theatre “Rangley Punjabis of The Peninsula Studios.

Now the music album Rangley Punjabis of the Peninsula Studios will be published and marketed globally by the Universal Music Group, part of the Discovering The Peninsula Series.

Sounds of the Peninsula and our journey to discover compositions by some of our best known poet saints since the 12th century, we curated over 230 minutes of music.  The music is set to poetry in exquisite Sanskrit, Hindi, Tamil, Malayalam, Bangla and Gujarati.  Five brilliant young musicians Anil Srinivasan, Sikkil Gurucharan, Supratik Das, Aman Ali and Arshad Khan from Chennai, Kolkatta and Delhi collaborated with us to bring this three part album of life. All the tracks were recorded live @ The Peninsula Studios in a single take, in presence of an invited audience, a tribute to the quality of the artists.  This format and treatment makes the recordings @ The Peninsula Studios unique. This is our modest contribution to take this genre of music to a wider audience and kindle curiosity in our rich literature and poetry."  This created the 3 album Live @ The Peninsula Studios series. This ensemble has been invited for a 3 city tour through Pakistan to showcase music from the South and East of the Peninsula.

The Peninsula Studios is a unique content creation house, who also builds brand and properties. Here singers, musicians, lyricists, poets and composers, can express their creativity in a unique studio where aficionados enjoy live performances, while it is being recorded. They are in a strategic partnership for marketing and publishing with Universal Music –EMI, the world’s largest music company.

Peninsula Studio works on genres such as folk, classical (Carnatic and Hindustani), spiritual music, Gazals, nazms, poetry and theatre in all languages of the Peninsula, while sharing enthusiasm for jazz, blues and world music. Peninsula Studio is not for profit organization and focuses on preserving the subcontinent’s musical heritage.

The album is a part of The Nokia Music Theatre series created by The Peninsula where they do interesting work in classical music but most importantly they mentor musicians from small town villages and curate the content they bring. Their earlier work, Mast Qalandar’s of the Peninsula Studio well received by patrons in India and abroad.

The Peninsula Studio’s first musical programme was conceived by Mrs. Raina, Discovery of the Peninsula, featured musicians from Rajasthan, a desert state with a rich musical tradition. They travelled around and recorded 722 musicians from towns and villages across Rajasthan.The Peninsula Studio is an idea where talent converges to create great music from different parts of the part of our world.

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