Falguni Shah is an Indian-American singer and songwriter. She is a New York-based artist, who has collaborated with several well-known artists such as A. R. Rahman, Yo-Yo Ma, Philip Glass, Wyclif Jean, Ricky Martin and many more. In 2022, Falguni Shah won a Grammy award for her album, ‘A Colourful World’ which was released on 24 September 2021. The award was presented to her in the ‘Best Children’s Album Category’. She is well known around the world for beautifully amalgamating ancient Indian classical and Western-style music.
Falguni Shah was born on 31 July 1981 (age 41 years; as of 2022) in Mumbai, Maharashtra, India. Falu was born in a family of musicians. Her mother, grandmother and her brother are all musicians. Falu was just 3 years old; when she began learning to sing. Falguni started her musical training by practising for 16 hours a day; while learning the Jaipur Gharana musical traditions and the Banaras styled Thumri. Later on, she was also taught by the legendary vocalist/sarangi master Ustad Sultan Khan.
Falguni Shah also practised singing with the renowned Jaipur Gharana classical musician, Kishori Amonkar. In an interview, Falu described Kishori Amonkar as,
She was thorough and detailed in her teaching and would take every student extremely seriously, making sure they reached their highest potential. She could talk neuroscience and music in the same sitting seamlessly.”
She was further trained by Kaumudi Munshi and Uday Mazumdar in Gujrati folk music and ghazal. Falguni Shah has a Master’s degree in Indian Classical Music. She moved and settled in the United States of America in the year 2000.
Hair Colour: Black
Eye Colour: Black
Family & Caste
Falguni Shah belongs to a Gujarati family.
Parents & Siblings
Her mother’s name is Kishori Dalal; who also happens to be a trained Gujarati classical singer and used to work with the All India Radio.
She also has a brother named Darshan, with whom she used to practice playing the Tabla.
Husband & Children
Her husband’s name is Gaurav Shah, who apart from being a songwriter and a singer; has a degree in Medicine that he received from Columbia University. He is a brain cancer specialist.
She also has a 9-year-old son named Nishaad.
Having completed her training in different types of Hindustani Classical Music, Falguni Shah moved to the United States in 2000, after marrying her husband. During the initial years of hard work, Falu was rejected a lot of times on the grounds of having practically no audience for the type of music she made. In an interview she stated,
It was very tough. It was hard enough to be an immigrant, let alone a minority woman musician. I got rejected constantly — ‘there is no audience for you and we can’t work with you.’ I felt discouraged many times, but I don’t believe in giving up.”
Beginning of a new life in the United States
After moving to the United States, Falguni joined a Boston-based Indo-American band known as Karyshma as a lead vocalist. After some time, Falu was appointed as the visiting guest lecturer in the field of Indian classical music at Tufts University for two years. She, later on, returned to New York and started her band with the same name.
It had been four years since Falguni Shah had come to the United States. In 2004, Falguni was given an offer to be featured as a soloist in Yo-Yo Ma’s The Silk Route Project. The Silk Route Project was an organisation that brought all types of different origin classical singers together; under one format. A year later, in 2005, Falguni Shah was also given the honour to serve as one of the ambassadors of Indian music at Carnegie Hall. In the later months of the year 2006, Falu and her husband Gaurav Shah were given an opportunity to be the vocalists in the Born Into Brothels Ensemble documentary film, which was based on the red-light area of Calcutta. In 2007, Falguni Shah and Wyclef Jean came together to give their vocals to the film, A Place In Time. The FOX channel in its musical showcase, Fearless Music featured Falguni and her band, Karyshma in 2008. Falu’s song Rabba became the first Hindi origin song ever to be aired on the channel. Falu, in 2007, released her first self-titled music CD. This led to the acceptance of a new genre in the field of hybrid music, called ‘Indie-Hindi’. In the year 2008, Falguni Shah performed alongside the renowned Indian music singer and composer, A. R. Rahman, for the film ‘Slumdog Millionaire’. The song ‘Jai Ho’ gained a lot of impetus in the entire world. In 2012, Falu wrote and composed music for a documentary known as The Human Tower. In the same year, she wrote and composed music for the film, “The First Sight”. Falguni Shah also contributed to the creation of the album of Prayer For The World which was produced by Global Noize. While working with Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute, Falu and her band performed for the 400 juvenile inmates of New York’s Crossroads Juvenile Center as well as the Sing Sing Correctional Facility. While performing for the inmates, Falu’s band included 16 more musically sound inmates, in their performance. Falu’s second album named ‘Foras Road’ was released in 2013. This album was produced by Danny Blume, who is a Grammy Award-winning producer. In 2018, Falguni Shah released an album, “Falu’s Bazar”. This song featured her husband who is also a singer and a composer, and her mother Kishori Dalal. This song was nominated for the 2019 Grammy Awards under the category of Best Children’s Music.
In 2020, Falguni Shah established a new band known as the American Patchwork Quartet. This band specialises in making older songs of different origins and generations, modern with a touch of modern musical perspective.
Awards, Honours, Achievements
- In the year 2022, Falguni Shah won her first-ever Grammy Award for the album ‘A Colourful World’ under the category, ‘Best Children’s Album Category’.
- In 2018, she was awarded the Women Icons of India Award in Mumbai.
- In 2015, Falu was named as one of the 20 most influential global Indian women.
- Falguni Shah made Falu’s Bazar after getting inspired by her son Nishaad; as he would ask her many questions. Falu said,
When my little son started preschool, he came home with questions like, ‘Ma, why is our food yellow?’ ‘Why do we speak a different language at home versus school?’ ‘Why do we count our numbers in a different language?’ I thought the best way to answer all his questions was through music, and so I started writing songs for him. That was the birth of Falu’s Bazaar.”
- While completing her studies in North Indian Classical Vocal Music, Falu had participated in and won 3 national level singing competitions.
- In 2003, Falu performed in honour of the Dalai Lama at Lincoln Center.
- Falu’s band is well known across the globe for presenting a mix of every major genre to have ever existed. Her band offers, Indian classical, alternative rock, contemporary pop, and electronic styles.
- In 2009, Falguni Shah was invited by the then President of the United States, Barack Obama, to the White House. There she performed alongside A. R. Rahman, to honour the arrival of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
- As a young child, while growing up in Mumbai, Falu was bullied extensively by her classmates. In an interview, she said,
Music at that time was also an escape for me because I was a bit dark and kids used to be mean. They would call me kaali bhains (black buffalo) So to escape, I would do chilla kaatna (a training ritual where the student is completely isolated and spends long hours practising for days at a stretch).”
- Falguni Shah’s mother, Kishori Dalal, is also a trained classical singer, and in Falu’s album, “Falu’s Bazar”, she had even sung a song called “Nishaad’s Lullaby”, which she used to sing to Nishaad as a child. Falguni stated,
This song has been passed on for five generations and I hope Nishaad will pass it on to his children, too.”
- Falguni Shah traces her roots back to Surat, a major city in Gujarat.
- Falguni Shah made the album “A Colorful World” while going through depression; as her father had passed away.
- In an interview after winning the Grammy Award, Falu said,
A colorful world, I dedicate to my dad. It is because of his blessing that I have been honored with such a big award. This album is very close to my heart, because in this album I have expressed the time I spent with my father.”
- Falguni Shah’s father-in-law, Dilipbhai Rasiklal Shah is also a well known, classical singer.
- In 2013, her album, “Foras Road” was shortlisted for the Grammy Awards, but it could not make it to the major nominations.
- The Prime Minister Of India, Narendra Modi also tweeted while congratulating Falguni Shah for her win at the 64th Annual Grammy Awards.
- Falguni Shah also performed at Time-100 Gala, in the presence of America’s First Lady Michelle Obama and many other influential celebrities. She has also been featured in the New York Times, The Rolling Stone, and Billboard magazine.
- When Falguni Shah was just 6 years old, she met with an accident. As she lay on the hospital bed, twisting and turning in pain, her mother asked her to sing; as it would make the pain go away. Falu recalled in an interview,
My mind shifted from the pain to music, and I felt better. I said, Mom, this is the only thing I want to do.”
- Falu and her band Karyshma even performed for the First Lady of the United States, Hillary Clinton, in 2001.
- Falguni Shah’s recently created band, the American Patchwork Quartet, has received a grant of $40,000 under the South Arts Creative Residency Grant.
- As a child, while growing up, Falu loved listening to the songs of The Beatles and R. D. Burman on the radio.