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Fifth edition of Mahindra Kabira Festival had stalwarts pay obeisance to the saint-poet through their rendition of his timeless poems

The grand finale of the festival was a performance by Hindustani classical vocalist Kalapini Komkali. Performing in the style of Zikr, she introduced the audience to how the people of Malwa view and love Kabir

Written by Aditya Vaddepalli | New Delhi |
December 3, 2021 5:30:34 pm
Mahindra Kabira Festival, Malini Awasthi, Mahindra Kabira FestivalperformancesMalini Awasthi performing at the Mahindra Kabira Festival. (Photo: PR handout)

After a year of absence owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Mahindra Kabira Festival was held from November 26 to 28 at the mystic poet’s birthplace, Varanasi. In its fifth edition, it had a mélange of renowned artistes paying obeisance to the saint-poet through their rendition of his timeless poems on the Guleria Ghat, overlooking the serene Ganga river.

While day one opened with Pandit Anoop Misra performing Khayal and semi-classical pieces, it was followed by an electrifying performance by the Anirudh Varma Collective, comprising a group of musicians and a choir who performed Hindustani classical music with Western classical sensibilities. The collective’s performance ended with the entire venue signing in unison. “Kabir is love and love unites everyone including a diverse group of artists and musicians,” said Varma.

Santoorist Divyansh Harshit Srivastava kicked off day two of the festival with his meditative rendition of Raag Bairagi Bhairav. This was followed by Chinmayi Tripathi and Joell Mukherjii’s lively retelling of Kabir and Meera’s poetry through Chhayawad poetry and contemporary music. “My interest and love for Kabir has been there since my childhood. Being a native of Malwa and growing up listening to Prahlad Singh Tipaniya automatically pushed me towards Kabir’s philosophy. In the band, we try to create our own versions of Kabir’s poetry and present it in a different way,” said Tripathi.

Mahindra Kabira Festival, Jumme Khan, Mahindra Kabira Festival performances Rajasthani folk artist Jumme Khan, along with Mewari musicians, performed next. His performance was full of storytelling that dealt with contemporary and age-old subjects in a fun and thought-provoking manner. (Photo: PR handout)

Educator and spiritual mentor Umesh Kabir delivered a talk on Kabir’s way of life in the afternoon. Umesh has lived Kabir’s philosophy at the Kabirchauramath of Moolgadhi Ashram in Varanasi for the last 20 years. Famous Rajasthani folk artist Jumme Khan, along with Mewari musicians, performed next. Khan’s quirky performance was full of storytelling that dealt with contemporary and age-old subjects in a fun and thought-provoking manner. “Kabir’s bhajans are full of mystery, which puts people in a state of wonder. To understand Kabir, one needs to know the meaning behind the words as it’s very difficult to understand the simplicity of Kabir,” said Khan.

Indian classical vocalist Nirali Kartik began her performance with the befitting Raag Jog, which talked about detachment, being a jogi and a Sufi. This was followed by the much-loved musical number Lagan Bin Jaage Na Nirmohi and her rendition of Dheere Re Mana.

Renowned folk singer Padmashree Malini Awasthi performed her rendition of Kabir’s Moko Kahan Dhunde Re Bande. Day two’s evening concluded with a spellbinding performance by celebrated Carnatic vocalist and violinist duo Ranjani-Gayatri. The highlight of their performance was Kabir’s beautiful poems, compositions from the Carnatic tradition, and bhajans such as Nari Tum Juthe, Janam Gawaya, Ghat Mai Panchi Bolta and Moko Kahan Dhunde Re.

Mahindra Kabira Festival, MK Raina, Mahindra Kabira Festival performances MK Raina’s Kabira Khada Bazaar Mein — a rock opera performed by art-rock project Dataan Live that presented a modern reinterpretation of Kabir’s poetry. (Photo: PR Handout)

On day three, musician, storyteller and author Raman Iyer presented his reflections on a few verses of Kabir to understand work-life balance. Alongside Anjali Singh Padiyar and Labansh Bhardwaj from the Delhi-based band Mantash, Iyer used stories and songs to discuss modern-day work pressures. “Many people use Kabir to justify their laziness. The only motivation for people to work is salary. But Kabir says that for you to achieve your purpose, your situation is not a coincidence. When we wear an ID card around our neck, we don’t look at ourselves as problem solvers or healers,” said Iyer.

In the following session, “Tarannum Se Kabir”, Askari Naqvi showcased a unique style of musical rendition — Kabir in Tarannum, which was a mixed bag of well-known poems of Kabir and some rarely performed musical pieces.

Next up was the electrifying and contemplative performance of MK Raina’s Kabira Khada Bazaar Mein — a rock opera performed by art-rock project Dataan Live that presented a modern reinterpretation of Kabir’s poetry. “It was difficult to present the play in a new format but it is a matter of pride for all of us to perform it in the city of Kabir, that too on the banks of the Ganga. Kabir’s poems, which he wrote in the 14th century, are still meaningful and give us solace. We worked on the play for a month and ensured that Kabir’s dohas do not get suppressed,” said Raina.

Mahindra Kabira Festival, Raman Iyer, Mahindra Kabira Festival performances Musician, storyteller and author Raman Iyer presented his reflections on a few verses of Kabir to understand work-life balance. (Photo: PR handout)

The grand finale of the festival was a performance by Hindustani classical vocalist Kalapini Komkali. Performing in the style of Zikr, she introduced the audience to how the people of Malwa view and love Kabir. She performed Kaun Thagwa Nagariya Lutal Ho and Sunta Hai Guru Gyani, two of Kabir’s famous bhajans.

Sharing his thoughts on the festival, Jay Shah, Vice President, Head – Cultural Outreach, Mahindra Group, said, “The Mahindra Group is proud to be able to revive the Mahindra Kabira Festival and give artists and audiences a chance to interact again in a physical setting. This joy and a sense of relief was palpable throughout the course of the festival and we are happy to once again be the frontrunners of such a revival. We hope to continue to bring moments filled with bliss and reflection as we plan for the future.”

Sanjoy K Roy, Managing Director, Teamwork Arts, said, “When we bid adieu to Varanasi at the end of the Mahindra Kabira experience in 2019, who would have known that the world as we knew it would change forever? Old paradigms have given way to new avenues of renewed energy in the face of all odds. What has remained constant is the ability of human beings to adapt and move forward as reflected by Kabir’s philosophy.”

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