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Ehsaan Noorani shines the spotlight on music from the north-east

As co-curator of the music segment at the ongoing Serendipity Arts Festival, music director Ehsaan Noorani is showcasing the breadth and depth of music from the north-eastern part of India

The Tetseo Sisters are popular for their folk fusion style and are performing at this year's Serendipity Arts Festival

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As part of the Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy musical trio, Ehsaan Noorani has played a key role in creating a new sound in the Indian music landscape. The composer, who studied at the famous Musicians Institute, California, makes his debut this week in a new rolein Goa. He is the ‘music co-curator’ for this year’s edition of Serendipity Arts Festival, one of India’s largest multidisciplinary art and culture events.

This year, he has chosen to highlight bands and artists from the north-east, a region that has “a lot of talent and potential but still requires a pan-Indian representation via platforms and festivals such as this one [Serendipity Arts Festival].” Bickram Ghosh is the other artist curating the music section this year at the festival. Together, the two are bringing a wide range of genres to Serendipity such as classical, folk, indie pop, and rock.

After being approached by the festival organisers, Noorani was keen to design a music programme for a region, which needs a lot more recognition in the mainstream. He already knew the diverse musical influences of each of the states that make up the northeast through musician friends and bands such as Soulmate from Shillong, Meghalaya. He also found many young contemporary artists through his Instagram page on which he hosted live sessions every night during the covid-19 lockdown in 2020.

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Ehsaan Noorani
Ehsaan Noorani

One of the goals of these sessions was to encourage young musicians during the challenging times. His Instagram page soon became a platform for aspiring artists, many of them from the north-east. Takar Nabam from Arunachal Pradesh was one such musician who impressed Noorani. He is performing at this year’s Serendipity Arts Festival. Then there’s Trance Effect, a band from Nagaland that Noorani heard on TV and on social media. This was followed by a jam session at his home in Mumbai and an exchange of ideas. The band too is performing at the festival.

Regional channels such as Northeast Live and Hornbill TV allowed Noorani to take further note of the music emerging from this region. “With Serendipity, I have tried to bridge the gap between the artists and the audience,” he says. Even as he brings acts from Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, and Nagaland such as Tetseo Sisters, Abdon Mech, Avora Records, and more, to Goa, Noorani feels there’s a lot more that he would like to showcase in the future. “I would love to represent all of the states from the northeast, and focus on many more genres such as gospel music,” he says.

As a music director, Noorani has a lineup of big films in 2023, including Meghna Gulzar’s Sam Bahadur, Zoya Akhtar’s Jee Le Zaraa,and The Archies, besides another Rajshri Production film, among others. From composing jingles to directing music in films and to now being a music curator, Noorani has come a long way. However, he still thinks of himself as a student of music. “I’m learning the complex nuances of jazz at the moment. I’m just happy to evolve as an artist and I will continue to do so for as long as I live,” he says.

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