Falguni “Falu” Shah is internationally recognized for her rare ability to seamlessly blend a signature inventive style with a formidable voice trained in the Indian classical tradition. Originally from Mumbai, India, Falu moved to the US in 2000 and was appointed as a visiting lecturer at Tufts University. Since then, she has collaborated with a range of outstanding artists, including Yo-Yo Ma, Wyclef Jean, Philip Glass, Ricky Martin, Blues Traveler, and A. R. Rahman. Her first album Falu was featured in the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center exhibit Beyond Bollywood as representative of the voice of an Indian American trendsetting artist. In 2009, Falu performed at the White House for President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. In 2015, she was named one of the 20 most influential global Indian women by the Times of India.
There are two primary traditions in Indian classical music: Hindustani from northern India, and Carnatic from southern. Falu is trained in the Hindustani tradition, which places a special emphasis on improvisation. Both traditions are based on the concepts of raga and tala. Raga is the melodic structure, a series of notes akin to modes or scales, which establishes the color and the mood of a piece. There are hundreds of ragas; several dozen are used most widely. Tala (“clap” in Sanskrit) encompasses meter and rhythm, defining how the music moves through time. Changes to harmony are not as important in this tradition as they are in Western classical music. Instead, Indian classical music explores changing melodic shapes and ornaments, and the moods and feelings associated with different ragas.
Falu began her formal musical studies at the age of three in her home town of Mumbai, India. In her early years, Falu trained rigorously under the late sarangi and vocal master Ustad Sultan Khan, and later with the legendary Kishori Amonkar. She came to the US in 2000, and began to integrate her formidable Indian classical training with a range of styles and genres, resulting in a singular sound. Her original songs and reimagining of Indian classics combine the contemporary with the ancient.