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How Grammy-nominated singer Falu found her identity through music

Falu is a Grammy-nominated songwriter and performer who grew up in India, where she studied music religiously before even having the opportunity to touch a microphone. Although she had long blended American influences into her music, it wasn’t until she moved to New York that she started creating in English. Falu offers her brief but spectacular take on finding identity through music.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Raised in Mumbai, singer-songwriter Falu came to the United States to pursue her career in music, which includes a mix of Indian classical and American pop rock.

    Her latest work, "Falu's Bazaar," was nominated for a Grammy this past year for best children's album.

    In tonight's Brief But Spectacular, she gives her take on finding identity through music.

  • Falu:

    I first started performing when I was around 18 years old, because, in our culture, our teachers don't let us perform until you're almost ready.

    So I studied music for 16 hours a day for 10 years before even seeing the microphone.

    My American influences in music are very subtle, but very strong. So, although I studied Indian classical music, my music is a mixture between Indian classical and American pop rock. And we have created a genre called Indie Hindie.

    I grew up in a city called Mumbai in India. I had a huge culture shock when I came to America, because I grew up in very traditional family. And when I came to New York, my entire universe was changed. I felt like I came to a different planet.

    When I came here, instead of thinking in my own native language, I — something clicked, and my thoughts became in English. And that's when I started writing songs in English, even though they were based on 5,000-year-old Indians scales call the ragas, but, lyrically, they were all in English.

    My son, when he became 4 or 5 years old, came home and asked me questions like, "Mom, why is our food different" or "Why do we speak a different language at home?"

    To give him his identity at such a young age, the only way, the only answer I had was through music. Music was something that I could tell him very clearly that it is OK to speak a different language. It's OK to eat different food. It's OK to draw from both cultures and have your own identity as an American-Indian child growing up in New York City.

    I was nominated for the 2019 Grammy for best children's album. Going to the Grammys, being the only Indian woman really meant that I was welcomed in this country. My culture was welcomed. My South Asian roots were welcomed. My story was welcomed.

    My name is Falu, and this is my Brief But Spectacular take on finding my identity through music.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And you can find additional Brief But Spectacular episodes on our Web site, PBS.org/NewsHour/Brief.

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