Vimal Pant, a well known folk singer of Lucknow and also a B high artist of AIR is one of the only artists in the city, fluent in 10 languages. She appeared for and qualified the B high exam in 1972 and has been learning to sing since she was five years old. She always had a fondness for the city Lucknow as her maternal grandparents lived in the city and Vimal Pant along with her eight sisters flocked to this house every year to spend their summer holidays. While telling her about the first instances where she developed a fondness for music, she mentions how her father Shri Bhgawat Prasad Joshi, a government employee who barely had any time to have hobbies, loved to sing and play the violin. Vimal Pant’s mother too loved and encouraged the practice of music which eventually led to her taking it up as a career later in life. In her adolescent years, she resided in Kanpur, a city close to Lucknow but the Joshi family was not native to Uttar Pradesh. They belong to the Kumaoni community, and followed the musical culture of the same, despite their residences shifting as per her father’s place of work. But, the various cities they went to, kept on adding to her existing knowledge of Indian culture. “Whatever the language may be, be it Kumaoni or Garhwali or even Awadhi, the songs hold the same meaning, this is why I never have any difficulty learning anything new. I know the basics of folk music very well.”, she says.
However, folk music was not her first choice. Neither was it the subject in which she obtained her music Alankaar degree from Prayag Sangeet Samiti, Allahabad. Her formal education consisted of Hindustani classical music. Her ustaad, Lt. Ram Sevak Tiwari hailed from patna and was a well known dhrupad singer. Later for a span for 3-4 months, she learnt the finer aspects of music from Bhatkhande university’s then vice chancellor Awasthi ji. She fondly remembers her father’s way of making parodies of popular folk songs. She says, there was a popular folk song when I was growing up in Kanpur, “Balam Aan Barso Ankhiyan mein” which was converted into a hilarious song by her father. She goes on to sing:
Khatmal Aan Baso Khatiyan Mein
Garmi Aayi Tum Bhi Aaye
Tum Bin Khatiyan Kachhi Na Hai…
While this was the environment she grew up in, she was also wed off early, as per the societal norms of the time. Her husband is from Almora, a hill town located in the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand. After living there for some time, they shifted to Lucknow again and have been here since. In the city, she appeared on AIR shows and represented classical music majorly. But soon her knack for Awadhi folk music was noticed by the programme coordinators and they asked her to sing for a few shows. After a while, owing to the love and appreciation she had been receiving as well as the criticism from others who objected to her performing for two genres of music simultaneously, she was requested to switch to folk music completely. This is how she came to be known as a folk singer. Through years, Vimal Pant has represented Lucknow at various events and since 2002, she has been actively organising workshops for age groups 8-80 to learn the nuances of folk music in the city. In her workshops, she says, “ I work on a particular theme for each workshop. It could be parv geet, i.e. seasonal songs or shaadi ke geet, i.e wedding songs. I also teach naktu, which is a subgenre of wedding songs. Naktu is sung after the baraat leaves the house and the women stay back. To spend time on the ratjaga(a term used when certain festivities require one to stay awake all night) all the women sing songs that energise the members of the family. I also am very strict because I make sure every single person attending the workshops sings exactly how it is being taught.”
At present, Vimal Pant ji lives with her family and inspite of old age, is often seen performing at Lucknow Mahotsav, Uttarakhand Mahotsava, Sangeet Natak Akademi, etc. Recently, she represented Lucknow at an event where 85 women from all over the country performed in different languages.