Singer and storyteller Vedi Sinha from New Delhi shares her musical journey

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During his university studies, Vedi Sinha, founder of the Aahvaan project, had given little thought to folk music. But a chance traveling assignment for a cultural festival not only changed his worldview, but also his career path.

At the time of our interaction, the 29-year-old singer-storyteller from Delhi was perfecting her notes for a stage performance at the Jaipur Literature Festival. Vedi, who plays an ektara (one-stringed musical instrument), explains that music collective The Aahvaan Project was conceptualized in 2015 and early 2016.

“We have been deeply inspired by the words of mystical philosophers and poets such as Kabir, Lal Ded and Lalon Fakir. Their words of love had a profound impact on me,” she says, adding, “It was always a collaborative project where various artists joined us, created something, stayed or parted ways. My twin Pakhi has been an integral part of the evolution of our project. The Aahvaan Project spreads the message of kindness and love using historical and philosophical examples, but after contextualizing it for modern audiences.

While Vedi sticks to script, narration and vocals, his collective includes Anirban Ghosh (bass, keyboards, gabgubi), Sumant Balakrishnan (guitar and vocals), Nikhil Vasudevan (percussion) and Varun Gupta (sound). Vedi, who dropped out of a film and video course halfway through the prestigious National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad, never intended to be a folk musician.

But fate had other things in store. It was an opportunity to volunteer at Kabir Yatra, a week-long traveling folk music festival in Rajasthan that changed the course of her life.

She spent several months researching the folk music traditions of several states in northern and central India. She started traveling in Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, narrating her thoughts and soon the words were interspersed with music.

But popularizing folk music with storytelling is not easy. The challenges of winning are real. “We are all independent artists who create music in various spaces. Sometimes the commitments seem overwhelming and at other times disappointing.

What remains constant is the space we seek to create: the music. She thinks Project Aahvaan has learned to take baby steps over the past two years and is finally starting to learn to stand. “We want to listen to stories and share them in as many places as possible. The smallest of gigs could be our biggest hit, even if one person relates to it.

So many forces have conspired to put good people in our path, so that we can draw strength from them to continue to spread our message of love – to speak our truth. In a world as polarized as it is today, it is difficult to find a common rhythm where we can converse despite disagreements.

This challenge is beyond the challenges of everyday life,” she says. Somewhere, Sant Kabir and Lalon Fakir will nod in agreement.

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