On Inheritance, framed by Indian traditional instruments as well as piano, synthesizer colors, crisp electronics, and the broad canvas of the Budapest Symphony Orchestra, Baghel lends her singularly expressive character to a selection of thumris (19th-century romantic melodies) and one ghazal (lyrical poetry), bringing these widely known themes into vibrant contact with Western elements before a worldwide audience. Each song is released with an accompanying video, available on Sufiscore’s YouTube channel, in which Baghel sings and acts as well.
A native of Madhya Pradesh state, Baghel has performed in over 30 countries, gaining a worldly view that has made her “greedy as an artist,” she declares: “I never want to limit my music to Bollywood and to India. I want the whole world to listen to my music.” Her versatility has earned her far-reaching Bollywood credits as well as lead roles in the groundbreaking theatrical stage productions Mughul-E-Azam and Umrao Jaan Ada. She is now more dedicated than ever to pursuing her own global vision in her latest collaborations with Deepak Pandit for Sufiscore.
Her previous outing, Bole Naina, is a collection of Pandit’s original compositions, brought to life by Baghel’s winning voice and featuring the legends Zakir Hussain, Gulzar Sahab and more. Inheritance, by contrast, draws on traditional thumris — material in the public domain, passed down among the generations, with melodies that are “very popular among the nation and very musically rich,” Baghel says. “When we decided to do this, Sufiscore gave us the full liberty to do whatever experiments we wanted. They supported us in all possible ways.”
Over five years of working together, Baghel and Pandit have nourished their likeminded sensibilities and created something special, reflected as never before with Inheritance. “Pratibha has an abundant knowledge of Indian and Western Classical music,” says Pandit, “and her versatility makes it easy because she can readily sing all the leads and all the improvisations that I envision. In order to stand out from what musicians have been doing with thumris and ghazals for the past century, I’ve made the use of synths combined with modern orchestration, and we’ve added harp, dulcimer and the standout bluegrass instrument, banjo, in combination with the dotara, saz and dumbak. It all comes together through the subtle use of synth pads and arpeggiators. I’ve only added the electronic sounds where necessary, never overdoing it or taking away from the traditional impact of these tunes.”
Baghel points out that the four tracks are all thumris, sung in Hindi, composed in the structure of Indian classical ragas. They are a form of mildly erotic poetry in which “the words are not very important,” Baghel explains. “The music and the nuances are way more important. You cannot change the tune — you stick to the tune as it was composed, but then you can improvise it the way you want and add your own elements. We can have two or three lines and keep on singing a thumri for 20 minutes or an hour. You can keep improvising it, you can emote it, sing it the way you want, have alaps [out-of-tempo introductions], tans [fast scale passages], layakari [rhythmic virtuosity] and all of that. Ghazals are much more word-related, and they don’t belong to any Indian classical genre.”
Throughout, elements of Western chordal harmony are laid down by pianist Gaurav Vaswani (serving as co producer to Pandit), to combine and synergize with the propulsive rhythms of Prashant Sonagra on tabla and the string tapestries of Tapas Roy as well as Pandit himself on violin (the instrument on which he’s renowned). In addition, Pandit crafted large-scale orchestrations and sent them abroad for rehearsal and eventual recording by the master musicians of the Budapest Symphony Orchestra — an involved but richly rewarding process that brought the music of Inheritance into a bigger sonic space.
“Sufiscore is supporting every single thing that we have wished for,” Baghel enthuses. “Dreams are coming true. Right now everything looks so possible — some angels came to Earth and created a home for the kind of music that we wanted to do. So Bole Naina happened and now Inheritance is happening. Everybody at Sufiscore has been tirelessly working behind this; what people actually see is only the corrected version of the mess. Yesterday I shot a video and the rain machine was raining on me at 5am and the whole night we shot and I still was not tired of it. Because this is what I love. The kind of music that musicians want to do. They are all approaching Sufiscore because it’s a platform that is tirelessly working behind the real music, the music that is inspiring, that is our heritage. And they’re supporting it in all possible ways, without question.”
Sufiscore is not just a traditional label but a YouTube channel amassing millions of views of songs from the Asian and South Asian markets. By celebrating new creative processes with leading musicians adapting to adversity as they continue to explore global fusion, Sufiscore is opening doors to international collaborations wherever musicians are in the world. Through live-syncing, remote recording and other practices, Sufiscore seeks to usher in new ways of making and consuming music online. In addition to the work of Pratibha Singh Baghel, Sufiscore has released Unbounded – Abaad by sitar virtuoso Purbayan Chatterjee, joined by Baghel as well as Béla Fleck, Gary Husband, Jordan Rudess, Zakir Hussain, Antonio Sanchez and more.