A Conversation with Nirali Kartik
By Arundhati Bakshi-Dighe
“Music has the power to touch your heart and when the heart is touched, you can bring change” – Nirali Kartik
Her ready smile and friendly expression is the perfect oxymoron to the mature talent that her voice carries. Wearing a simple cotton brown and white midi dress and a pair of golden mojeries, Nirali Kartik walked in casually as I stood waiting for her near a still-to open café on a warm May morning in Mumbai. It was our first meeting, yet it felt very familiar, very friendly, and very nostalgic. But more about that later!
She smiled more than she talked; the voice was just enchanting as she casually suggested we go into a nearby park for the interview. Her affinity for the park was later revealed when she shared the secrets of her youthful appearance. “It is this park, the greenery that helps me a lot,” she said with a twinkle in her eyes.
Nirali likes all things simple and all things poetic. The seven years in Mumbai has not tinted this Ahmedabad girl’s small town emotions. Hindustani music, her first love, continues to dominate her sensitivities. But her love for poetry gives her the solitude and the depth that very few singer her age has.
“I love poetry. Give me a poem anytime and will read and re-read it. I am not a big fan of prose,” she confesses with her characteristic smile. It was this love that drew her towards Faiz Ahmed Faiz.
“What I like most about his poetry is that it is very neutral. It does not try to invoke hatred. He teaches love through his poetry.”
“Faiz, I believe, is a world poet. He does not belong to one state, region or place. He calls the entire world his place. He would always say meri jameen (my land). His land was his universe,” she adds.
She believes that Faiz’s poetry has many layers, and like all great works, it can have different interpretations as well. For example, “Unka ek sher hai, ‘Dil Naumeed nahin, nakaam hi to hai, lambi hai gham ke shaam magar shaam hi to hai.” This could be addressed to a lover waiting for the beloved or a person seeking freedom from injustice.
Nirali, a romantic by heart, believes that Faiz’s idea of romance is intense; there is madness and losing oneself in love kind of feeling in it. “Apart from this, I feel, his body of work expresses the eternal human quest of finding freedom whether it’s from ego, circumstances, injustice or any other form of being imprisoned,” she suggests.
She names “Rang Hai Dil Ka Mire”, “Mere Paas Raho”, “Mere Quatil, Mere Dildar”, “Dasht-e-Tanhai” and “Kab Yaad Mein” as some of her favorite Faiz poems.
Perhaps it was her love for Faiz that got her the opportunity to sing him as well. “It was a coincidence that as a poet I adore Faiz a lot and Dewarists offered me to sing Faiz! Prior to that I had not recorded any of his poetry,” Nirali reminiscences throwing back her wet black shoulder length hair still dripping in water.
“We picked up “Kab yaad mein tera saath nahin.” I collaborated with Shankar Tucker for this song,” she says and adds that the reason was simple, “he had a melody composed and he asked me to choose a poetry that will go with the mood. I heard the melody and I felt that this particular poetry will go well with the melody that he had composed.”
Besides, the petite singer also had another reason for choosing this particular poem, “I love and thrive on the emotion of ‘longing.’ And this particular poetry expresses ‘longing’ in a very beautiful way,” she adds.
Faiz and the Dewarists gave her an opportunity to indulge in her second and one of the most favorite passions (besides singing!), experimentation!
“I love experimenting and this was quite different,” she says. “It was Shankar’s composition and, I think, he took a different approach from the conventional ghazal compositions that I loved singing. It let me find my own way of presenting the ghazal. I tried to keep it simple and focused to ‘feel’ each and every word,” she adds.
As we sat chatting near an old covered well within the park, Nirali revealed how music has the power to touch the heart. “If you can touch someone’s heart, you can bring about change as well,” she says.
Her maturity comes from the fact that she loves to experiment. Along with her talented music composer and producer husband, Kartik Shah, she is doing a perfect fusion of Hindustani music with pop. Nirali feels blessed that her mother, a singer herself, was the greatest force behind her choosing music as a career and now her husband understands and motivates her.
It was their combined love and efforts that gave birth to Maati Baani, a world music band that combines elements of Hindustani Classical and various styles of folk music.
“When we started off with Maati Baani, we knew that digital is going to be the next big thing and also we have loads of freedom to do what we want to do, we chose internet and YouTube as a platform to showcase our music. And Inshallah! everything seems to have worked in our favor.”
What about Bollywood, I ask. “Well, I like my space. I don’t like too much crowd, either physically or mentally. And Bollywood is extremely crowded,” she says with a twinkle in her eyes.
Yes, perhaps it is extremely crowded there. And it is unlikely that someone as talented and down to earth as this 31-year-old singer will find enough appreciation there. At the moment, however, she is happy in her own space, doing her bit for the society. “I will love to get associated with some organization someday that allows me to take music to the very grassroots levels. Where I can share my talent with those less privileged,” she dreams.
Nirali Kartik singing Faiz’s “Kab yaad mein tera saath nahi”
Arundhati Bakshi-Dighe is a former journalist who is now dabbling in a corporate career. She firmly believes that she writes, therefore she is. Arundhati lives in Mumbai with her husband and two kids.
For more stories, read Café Dissensus Everyday, the blog of Café Dissensus Magazine.