Mahindra Kabira Festival Day 1 celebrates the magic of music

Set to run from 18th-20th November 2022, the Mahindra Kabira Festival opened its first day with an eclectic musical programme. The Festival featured a range of renowned artistes who performed various musical pieces and gave insightful talks based on the teachings of the 15th-century mystic saint and poet Kabir.

Speaking on the Festival, Jay Shah, Vice President, Head – Cultural  Outreach, Mahindra Group, said, “As the sun rises on the first day of the Mahindra Kabira Festival, our hearts fill with an immense sense of gratitude to be able to present yet another edition of this Festival in Varanasi. The steller and diverse programming ranging from instrumental to classical music, talks and walks and even a dramatic sequence will establish Kabir’s thoughts in innovative ways.”

Sanjoy K. Roy, Managing Director, Teamwork Arts  said, “Mahindra Kabira came into existence 6 years back from the thought of how relevant Kabir’s teachings are in the contemporary world. It gives us immense pleasure to come back every year to Banaras and bring back the Festival to the ghats of the timeless city. With the melodious Morning Music,  the Festival starts today to create another statement spreading Sant Kabir’s syncretic philosophy. At the Mahindra Kabira Festival, we are committed to minimising our carbon footprint. As a ‘Zero-Waste’ Festival, Mahindra Kabira has minimised its  carbon footprint in every way.”

The morning began with, a Hindustani Classical Music presentation of Morning Raga Bairagi and Dhun was performed by the ‘first woman Indian classical slide guitarist’, Vidushi Dr Kamala Shankar along with young guitarist Shri Nirmal Saini, and accomplished tabla player of the Banaras Gharana and a disciple of Pt. Kashinath Khandekar, Pandit Vinod Lele. Sharing her excitement about performing at the sixth edition of Mahindra Kabira, Shankar said, “For the Mahindra Kabira Festival, I performed on the Shankar guitar, along with my companion and disciple. I began my performance with Raag Bairagi, which is a raag derived from the meaning of the existence of life in the world and not having any concerns about it. I chose to perform this Raag as I felt it is appropriate for this programme especially along the banks of river Ganga giving a fresh start to the spiritual mornings at the Festival.”

Music is worship or aradhana and not pure entertainment. It is a journey of sound for the unseen which takes you into a state of joy. An act named Drupad Kabir was presented at the programme featuring a promising young vocalist of ‘Dagar Bani’ of Dhrupad and an accomplished vocalist of ‘Charpat ki Gayaki’ of Banaras Gharana – Ashish Kumar Jaiswal with  talented pakhawaj artist, Dr Ankit Parikh. This was followed by a short discourse by academic, spiritual mentor and researcher of theology, Umesh Kabir.

Talking about his performance, Jaiswal said, “The first part of the performance was a skilful unfolding of the Raga in an elaborated alaap which is meditative. This slow and deliberate melodic development gradually introduced a rhythmic pulse which slowly increased in pace. The second part of the performance was the composition ‘Pada’.

Sharing his thoughts, Umesh Kabir, said, “I dwelled on Kabir’s witty wisdom, his secular and religious tolerances, how he opposed superstition, meaningless rituals and bigotry through his couplets. I talked about his philosophy and its relevance in the modern era. Kabir’s couplets are daring, bold and fearless and subtly point out the lack of communal harmony and religious hypocrisy of society.”

At the Guleria Ghat, an insightful afternoon session featured the Director & Chief Curator of Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, Dr Roobina Karode in conversation with the Director of Ojas Art, Anubhav Nath. Together they discussed the innovative approach to Indian art while presenting fresh new ideas in the contemporary art space. Speaking of Kabir’s teachings, Nath said, “Sant Kabir’s teachings have been widely explored by several musicians which received phenomenal popularity. The session was based upon Kabir’s teachings being represented through visual art. Mahindra Kabira Festival has grown in a very organic way and is a must for people interested in Kabir, music and Varanasi. It is truly an amalgamation of all three aspects close to my heart.”

Concluding the afternoon sessions, award-winning Carnatic vocalist, Sushma Soma together with Praveen Sparsh on percussion and Abhinandan R on guitar, presented songs from her critically acclaimed album, ‘HOME’. The performance also featured songs from her previous releases, including songs from Rabindranath Tagore, Shaivite saint Tayumanavar, and Sant Kabir amongst others. The icing on the cake was Soma’s performance on her debut of two new songs from her upcoming release. While talking about her performance at the Festival, Soma said, “Growing up, music existed as my vehicle to experience the numinous beyond this material realm. Today, while I experience that, I also simultaneously channel all that I experience in my everyday life through my music. My passion today is the environment and our planet Earth – and I see music through that lens.

The Evening Music programme began with a beautiful performance by the Little Flower House School, followed by a musical puppet theatre performance based on the dohas of Kabir by The Ishara Puppet Theatre & Soulë Band, and a symphonic poem named Anahat featuring the iconic sitar ensemble Pt. Shubhendra Rao and Maestro Saskia Rao -de Haas.

He also said, “The concert was a unique jugalbandi with my wife, Saskia Rao-de Haas. Saskia is an amazing musician who is a pioneer in introducing the Indian cello. There is a beautiful translation of one of Kabir’s songs by none other than Rabindranath Tagore himself where he talks of a thousand Saraswatis listening to music, where one can experience and reach the Anahat stage –of the unstruck sound. So, it was a beautiful experience for the audience to go on this journey with our music and understanding of Kabir’s philosophy.”

Talking about performing at the Festival, Padma ShriDadi D. Pudumjee, said, “The Ishara puppet theatre trust accompanied by specially composed tracks by the Soule Band was honoured to be a part of the Mahindra Kabira Festival in Varanasi.”

The programme concluded with a special concert for the Festival, featuring Padma Shri Aruna Sairam, presenting a traditional Carnatic performance, covering a range of poetry from mystic composers of the Southern belt. Speaking of her performance at the Festival, Sairam said, “The Mahindra Kabira Festival is a great platform to celebrate our diversity of us as people and how through different musical forms, Kabir’s teachings ring true for all of us as citizens of the world. To create and perform music that has universal appeal, to share and spread the words of wisdom written and spoken by great poets and philosophers, is every artist’s dream.”

Mahindra Kabira Festival is committed to minimising our carbon footprint. As a ‘Zero-Waste’ event, the Festival has phased out single-use plastics and switched to reusable and compostable materials as much as possible marking Mahindra Kabira as the second-most green Festival in the country! The final day of the Festival is set to feature some spectacular performances.

Comments are closed.