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Meet India's Queen of the Blues

Tipriti Kharbangar has popularized a Memphis-style sound from New Delhi to the Hindi heartland.

Those speaking refined Khasi in school were baffled by Tipriti “Tips” Kharbangar’s Nongkrem Khasi dialect. Little did they know that avoiding their former classmate’s full-throated crooning would not be possible once they grew up.

“It seems I start a band everywhere I go,” says Tipriti with a joyful holler when I meet her at her bandmate’s home in Shillong.

Soulmate, the band that the 30-something has stuck to longest and the one which has made her India’s foremost blues singer, launched about 15 years ago with mentor and guitarist Rudy Wallang, one of the central figures of the blues in India. Tipriti and Wallang emerged from the country’s northeastern edges to define India’s blues sound.

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Soulmate has shared the bill with such luminaries as Buddy Guy, Susan Tedeschi, Derek Trucks, Taj Mahal, Keb’ Mo’ and John Lee Hooker Jr., and opened for Carlos Santana when he played in India. In addition to performing in the home of the blues — Memphis — they have taken their fierce love for the music across Europe and to audiences in Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Bangladesh and every major city in India, including the country’s Hindi-speaking heartland.

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Tags: #blues, #india, #music
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