Kabir By The Sea

24 Dec

The morning is the time for contemplation, for that regular cleansing of the body and soul that keep us free of disease. Sadly while we keep out body clean with water, we neglect our minds. The Kabir festival gave those interested the chance to be bathed in the cleansing water of Kabirs poems.

As in the true festival tradition, these rockstars will make the mandli at the Bandra Carter Road promenade on Saturday – 10th January 2015, jam together and herald the first rays of a beautiful morning. There is no mike, no arrangement only an impromptu desire to be soaked in wisdom. And that those gathered did, and so did joggers, passerbys and the morning rays of the sun, all with Kabir by the sea.

Prahlad Tipaniya begins the day with Kabir by the Sea

The first rays of the sun and Kabir

Fellowship of the Kabir brotherhood

Priti Turakhia and Moora Lala

Prahlad Tipaniya and Mukhtiar Ali – Two brothers, bonding by music and Kabir

Kabir A-One, Mukhtiar Ali seems to be singing

Passerbys, joggers et all stopped to join in

All photos by Satyen K. Bordoloi

Kabir Festival Mumbai 2015

1 Dec

The Kabir Festival Mumbai, now in its fifth edition is back with four days of Kabir and other Sufi and Bhakti saints of India with 32 Artists, 19 Events, 3 Films, 2 Workshops and 16 Venues spanning from Fort to Borivli and Powai to Mulund. From 8th to 11th January 2015, all of the events are free and open to the public.

The fifth edition of the Festival will bring some new events and artists. The Festival brings an exploration of the Sagun and Nirgun Bhakti traditions to show how both echo each other. This presentation comes from collaboration between the contemporary classical singers, Bindhu Malini from Bangalore, Vedanth Bharadwaj from Chennai and Shruthi Vishwanath from Mumbai.

A glimpse into the poetry of great Sindhi Sufi poet, Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai is brought through the films “So Heddan So Hoddan” by Anjali Monteiro and K.P.Jayshankar and the presentation of Music, Poetry and Stories by famous Mooralala Marwada, from Kutch and Vipul Rikhi, a poet and singer from Bangalore.

Also new this year is Radhika Sood Nayak, a Mumbai based singer, who will present the poetry of Bulleh Shah, the renowned Sufi saint from Punjab. The crowd pleasers, Mooralalaji and his troupe will not only perform on their own but will also be jamming with Nirali Karthik and the Maati Baani Band.

The Festival cannot be complete without Padmashri Prahlad Singh Tipaniya, who will be back with Malwi folk and Parvathy Baul and Lakshman Das Baul with Baul Gaan.  Neeraj Arya’s Kabir Café, a Contemporary Folk Fusion Band, a favourite amongst youngsters, will also be back. The young Dastango from New Delhi, Ankit Chadha will be presenting “Dastan Dhai Akhar Ki” a Dastangoi on Kabir.  The dancer, Sanjukta Wagh, will explore the poetry of Kabir through Kathak in her piece “Bheetar Bahar”.

During the Festival, there will also be screenings the films “Lalon” by Tanvir Mokammel, a Bangladeshi feature film on the life of Lalon Fakir and “Sama – Muslim Mystic Music of India” a documentary film by Shazia Khan, Muslim Mystic Music of India.

Organised by the ever growing Kabir Community in Mumbai, under the ausipices of theSahej Foundation, a Public Charitable Trust, the Kabir Festival seeks to celebrate the timeless words of Kabir and other Bhakti and Sufi poets. The festival, named after the iconoclast weaver-poet, who spoke out against divisions of religion and caste and who rebelled against the hegemony of organized religion and hypocritical mindsets, the Festival is organized with the objective of spreading the message of love, harmony, equality and universal brotherhood through their poetry. The festival presents an opportunity for reflection, immersion, provocation, and, of course, enjoyment.

Kabir Festival Mumbai ( 17th TO 19th Feb 2012)

7 Feb
Kabir Festival Mumbai 2012Kabir Festival Mumbai 2012 celebrates the poetry of Kabir and other saints who represent the ‘nirguni’ school of thought. The focus of the festival is to introduce the audiences of Mumbai to the message of Kabir, through folk music, films, stories, poetry presentations.

Folk Music

Prahlad Tipanyais one of the most compelling folk voices of Kabir in India today who combines singing and explanation of Kabir in the Malwi folk style from Madhya Pradesh. He has received several awards including the Padma Shri in 2011.

Mooralala Marwada is a folk singer from Kutch district of Gujarat in western India, and sings the poetry of Kabir along with other poets such as Mira, Ravidas and also the Sufi Sindhi poet Shah Abdul Lateef Bhitai.

Mukhtiyar Ali is from the semi-nomadic Mirasi Community which hails from the Thar Desert. Mukhtiyar represents the 26th generation of this humble community which has successfully kept alive the oral tradition of Sufiana Qalam. He also sings the poetry of Kabir, Mira and other Sufi poets like Bulleh Shah.

Bhanwari Devi is a folk singer from Rajasthan. With ‘ghoongat’ on her head and a mike in her hand, Bhanwari devi, a woman folk singer in an almost male dominated arena is a powerful performer of Kabir poetry.

Shabnam Virmani and Namrata Kartik Shabnam Virmani is the Director of the Kabir Project,Bangalore. Inspired by the inclusive spirit of folk music, she has begun to play the tambura and sing folk songs of Kabir herself. Namrata Kartik has been working with Shabnam at the Kabir Project. Her extensive training in Carnatic classical music and a passion for music led her to start singing with Shabnam and now increasingly she accompanies her on stage performances as well.



‘Akatha Kahani’ – A song, story and dance presentation features three sisters – Jaya Madhavan author of ‘Kabir the weaver poet’ book, Bindhumalini a  trained Carnatic and Hindustani music Singer and Archana a Bharatnatyam dancer. Punctuated with personal sharing, excerpts from Kabir the weaver poet, and abhinaya for select padas, Akatha Kahani’s pivot however is Kabir’s songs which the sisters sing together as an impassioned plea to Kabir in order to evoke and approach Kabir, the sensitive, sensible and spiritual being present in all of us.

Ameetha Singh – a story teller – will tell stories to children with different NGOs to give younger children a memorable introduction to Kabir.

Films & The Inspiration
Shabnam Virmani – a documentary film maker – travelled extensively with folk singers in the post Godhra period looking for the voice of reason.These travels resulted in four documentary films as well as recordings of the Kabir poetry in folk music of different parts of India. Kabir Project, with Shabnam at its helm has inspired and helped many Kabir Festival in different parts of India and the world.

Films which will be screened before and during the festival :

  • Chalo Hamara Des: Journeys with Kabir and Friends (Dur: 98 min)
  • Kabira Khada Bazar Mein: Journeys with Sacred and Secular Kabir (Dur: 94 min)
  • Had-Anhad: Journeys with Ram and Kabir (Dur: 103 min)
  • Koi Sunta Hai: Journeys with Kumar and Kabir (Dur: 96 min)

The Festival

The words of Kabir and his contemporaries are relevant even today, because ‘nothing has changed’. Religious discord, exploitation, hatred, greed, corruption, social evils ….everything still exists. The universal relevance of Kabir Vani is due to the fact that human nature – which he understood so well- continues to remain the same.

The festival is a voluntary effort by people from different walks of life, drawn together by their passion for the poetry of Kabir and the music of folk singers and who are in the process of forming a community to organize many such events in future.

The festival hopes to reach every person in Mumbai through 15 different events in various parts of Mumbai. From Nariman Point to Borivali and Matunga to Vashi the city will swing to the tune of Kabir during these three days.

Useful links:

In The Lap Of Bliss!

3 Feb

22nd Janurary was just another day for the visitors of Horniman Circle, nestled amidst the gothic architecture of banks, broker offices & the majestically arched surroundings of the Fort area in Mumbai. The park was scattered with the usual suspects – the “make-or-break” script writer, the giggly lovers on the bench, the fatigued Mumbaite catching a breath before rushing back into the sea of crowd, the afternoon sleepers-spreading themselves on the dusty green lawn, the thirsty crow & the dry fountain.

In one corner of the garden – the setting was somewhat different. Chairs were being arranged in neat serpentine rows; the red durries were being spread, the sound was being checked & the stage was getting ready for the evening soiree. As the sun disappeared amidst the high-rises of south Mumbai, people started trickling in. Apart from the regular music connoisseurs, there were the cabbie wallahs, the chanawallah, the ear-cleaner guy & the often weary passerby slowly filling up the seats. In no time, we had a packed garden, with curious onlookers stopping by for a quick dose of Kabir.

Prahlad Ji in his immaculate style opened the evening, sharing the most relevant Dohas with the audience. He often stopped in-between his songs to translate the meaning of the mystic poetry. His voice soared heavenwards through the foliage of the garden, captivating every heart, each soul present around. Like a reverend teacher he shared his sometimes subtle, yet often piercing verses of Kabir that each one of us could relate to. His ode to the “Ajab Saher” was in true indelible style.

The next performer indeed had a tough act to follow… yet it wasn’t a new setting for the magnificent Mukhtiar Ji, the lovable Mirasi Folk singer from Pugal, Rajasthan. The bard from Bikaner started off in his humble way & over the next hour won many hearts with his magical voice. Sharing heart-rending compositions from Kabir, Bulle Shah to Badar Muneer – Mukhtiar Ji cast a spell on the audience, making them dance, sway, hum & eventually join him in loud chorus. With Nith Khair Manga, Chadariya Jhini & Sanu Ik Pal Chain Na Aawey, he transcended us to far-away lands, on spell binding journeys. By the time he sang his last song of the day, the garden was brimming with a sea of people, thirsty for more.

As all beautiful things, the musical evening at Horiman Circle turned simply unforgettable. Something we all will cherish for days to come. The proceedings didn’t end there – the whole troupe got together for a jamming session over dinner at the dingy Bhagat Tarachand Restaurant at Javeri Bazaar, where the night came alive all over again. While dollops of ghee was being poured over dal – everybody joined in for an impromptu gig, where folk met bollywood, spoons & plates replaced dholak & majiras… The best part of such music is that it never ceases to fade; instead it grows within the thumping heart & the reflective mind. It lingers on… Kabir lives!

All spectators are welcome

Him too!

Nestled amidst the green

Now what on earth is that?

Two masters - Mooralala and Mukhtiar Ali

The transmitter of surreality

And The Stage Is Set

The Music Is Pent Up In There

A Jugalbandi Of Silence, Before The Storm of Emotions

Prahlad Tipaniya Heralding The Season Of Awe

Jag Darshan Ka Mela


– Text and Photographs by Nitesh Mohanty

Dhai Akhar Prem Ka (Four Letters of Love)

24 Jan

“Pothi Padh padh jug mua pandit bhaya na koi, dhai akhar prem ka padhe so pandit hoi”. – Kabir

Poetic Translation: No one became a scholar, reading great books of the world, But he who’s studied the four letters of ‘love’, is one learned man so tall.

Dhai Aakhar Prem Ka (literally two and a half letters in the hindi word ‘pyar’ or ‘prem’ that means love),  was the simple message of Kabir. A simple teaching that encompasses the essence of existence inside it. And that was the idea, the feeling that The Kabir Festival, Mumbai tried to gently impress upon. The idea was not to make you hear the words of Kabir’s, but to experience Kabir in different forms and dimensions – dance, music, poetry, painting, pottery, rock, folk, classical, intellectual discourse etc. The substance of each was compassion, kindness and love for everyone and everything around.

We all have a rough idea of who Kabir was. But a man is not his flesh and bones for if it were so, Kabir would not be alive today, in the multitude of forms and feelings that he continues to exist. And this is the Kabir we wanted you to experience – the Kabir of ideas, of emotions, of love and of devotion.

In the grand finale at an open stage by the sea at Carter Road, Bandra, we felt the message come through as the gathering – most constant, some shifting – swelling to a few thousand, experienced the music and the dance, the words and the trance of Kabir hovering inside, above and all around.

Rajendra Chaturvedi began the event, dancing to the words of Kabir and light of a setting sun behind him. The different dance performances by his team enthralled the audience. The show stealer however, was the dance by four little girls. Gleaming with glee, they were energy and verve personified at their young age.

Kabir and Kutch came together through the voice of Mooralala Marwada and even a little problem with the sound system was unable to get his, or the audiences spirits that soared with his high pitch, down. His dholak player was unwell, but he played for over an hour.

Prahlad Tipaniya, the rural rock star from Malwa with millions of fans, developed a small following of die-hard fans of his own in Mumbai in the last few days. These fans roared and cheered him while he sang, and then thronged him after he was through.

When time came for the last performance of the night, and thus of the entire festival, it was naturally hoped that it would end with a high. Thanks to the imitable Mukhtiar Ali, the wish was granted.

The Mirasi folk singer teased the audience with his humour, delighted them with his vibrant motions and lifted them to another plane with his voice. The crowd rose up and many of them were seen hopping and dancing to his celebration of the spirit of unity through Kabir’s words.

Prahlad Tipaniya paid tribute to the spirit of the 50 odd volunteers who made the Kabir festival possible in Mumbai, especially Priti Turakhia who accepted this, and the words of gratitude and appreciation by the Master of Ceremony Nitesh Mohanty, with a graceful smile. She praised the hard work of the motley group of volunteers who worked tireless for months.

In the end though, the hard work bore fruit, as The Kabir Festival Mumbai, 2011 proved to be the biggest Kabir festival in the urban space so far. As completely free and walk in festivals go, a new benchmark has been set for the city of Mumbai, and indeed for much of the profit-seeking urban spaces.

For those who came to hear, watch and through it feel Kabir’s message, it was like Kabir said and Prahlad Tipaniya sang, “Laali mere laal k i- jit dekho tit laal, Laali dekhan main gayee – main bhi ho gayi laal”

Poetic Translation: The colour of my beloved is spread all over in sight, I went to see it and got colored in the same light.

The master of ceremony declares the evening open

Strike A Pose - Rajendra Chaturvedi

In The Lap Of The Setting Sun

The Sun Ran Out Of Breath, Not The Dancer

The Kathak Dancer From Russia, Swaying To Kabir

Chanan Chanan Mori Payal Baje

Dance Motion

Sitar And The Dancing Man

Little Dancing Angels

Angels, The Sky And The Audience

Shall We Dance To Kabir

The Meerabai to The Kabir Festival Mumbai, Priti Tu-Rakhia

Kabir Goes Ooh-la-la with Moora-la-la

Shine A Light

Prahlad Tipaniya's Super Six

Open Air Concerts Can Be Jam-packed Too

Enlightened Beings

The Enlightened MC - Nitesh Mohanty

Mikhtiar Ali's Freedom

Showing The Road To Awe

Allah Huu

The Band's Already 'Mukhtiar Ali And Sons' - Mukhtiar Ali With His Two Sons

The ME - Master of the Event Priti Turakhia Saying Goodbye To The Kabir Festival Mumbai 2011. See You Next Year, And In Between Too

Everyone Was Lost In Love - Dhai Akahar Prem Ka

– Photos, text and ‘attempted’ poetic translations by Satyen K. Bordoloi

Day 2 – 2 Videos

23 Jan

There are those of you who missed Day 2 of The Kabir Festival, the confluence of Dance, Music and Cinema. This day had its share of each, and for those that want to see, here are two clips.

Dance, Drama, Music – Kabir

23 Jan

The Karnataka Sangha auditorium is an old one, but its comfortable, quite and has good acoustics. All of which contributed to making the evening for everyone who was present there to witness the confluence of dance and music.

First Sanjukta Wagh rendered the words of Kabir sung by ___ in Kumar Gandharva’s musical tradition to a visually graceful dance that had the audience mesmerized by its soul stirring quality. Her dance embraced the potential of ‘nirguni’ symbols and archetypal images in their stark directness and simplicity.

Veteran Neela Bhagwat rendered popular Kabir poems into Hindustani music. Her innovative performance combining the purity of raga with the folk idiom of Kabir, captivated the audience.

However it was Dhruv Sangari, who has been the disciple of legends ilke Ustad Meraj Nizami Qawwal of the Delhi Gharana and legendary maestro late Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, who took the audience to a different plane. He not only sang Kabir, but Bulle Shah, Amir Khusro and many other poets. He even sang a song in Pharsi, which though the audicene did not understand, the music still scintillated them. It was an apt ending to the second day of the main events of The Kabir Festival, Mumbai.

In The Mirror


Music, sandwiched between two tanpuras

Sound from the depths

Neela Bhagwat

Dhruv Sanghari, pointing the way to Kabir


Ibadat by Dhruv Sanghari

All Photos by Satyen K. Bordoloi

Kabir As Experience, Not Teaching

22 Jan

One of the fist things Shabnam said in the early afternoon where she had sat for satsang at Shishuvan School Matunga, was what someone had told her – “It will be a hard act to follow,” referring to kids swaying to Kabir rock performed by Delhi band, Makeshift before her. Could she do what the band had done i.e. be pied piper to the kids and make them dance to Kabirs words? Turns out, as the photos below will testify, Shabnam was being grossly underestimated.

For not only did the students sway to her rendition of Kabir, this time swaying to her music were teachers and other guests at the school.

Shabnam rendered Kabir in a variety of styles, from the way of singing Kabir she had learnt from Prahlad Tipaniya in Malwa – MP, to the Kutchi one she had learnt from Moora Lala to a Sindhi rendition of Kabir.

Her quaint little speech before the event was equally substantial. “Kabir is taught today in a very pedantic way. We have grown up listening to Kabir as a moralistic person telling us to do. We have no idea that Kabir is actually fun. Through the Kabir Project it is our endeavour to give Kabir not as a teaching, but as an experience,” she said.

And the experience enthralled everyone. Moora Lala, dressed in a grey half-sweater, who had come merely as a spectator, could not resist the temptation to take the stage. His spirited version of Kabir so mesmerized the audience that they asked for another and another, till in the end time ran out.

Thankfully, like Shabnam had elucidated, time may had run out, but this experience for those that were there, never will.

Two Mirabai's sing for their Kabir - Shabnam Virmani and behind Linda Hess

Kids and Adults alike swayed to Shabams music

Two devotees in the thores of ecstacy

Motion in devotion

A student recording Shabnam's Music

Moora Lala in the thores of ecstasy

– All Photos by Satyen K. Bordoloi

Kabir Rocks Kids

22 Jan
Delhi Rock band, Makeshift, made a permanant place in the minds of Shishuvan kids with their rendition of Kabir. As if an hour of Kabir on Rock was not enough, they wanted more. And the band obliged with another half an hour of pulsating Kabir Rock. Now only if someone were to make that a music genre. 


Lead Mr. Guitar


Motion-More, not Motion-Less

The band has new members, Shishuvan kids

Jumping to Kabir

More power to makeshift

Silhouette Kabir

Jamming in Sync

A Shishuvan kid jams along

In Motion

All the 5 band members

– All Photos By Satyen K. Bordoloi

22 Jan

Day 1 of the main events of The Kabir Festival was a heady mix of realism and surrealism, intellect and music, truth and beauty, love and surpassing it. For those who have missed it, do check out The Kabir Festival YouTube Channel here:  http://www.youtube.com/Kabirfestmumbai

Here are two small clips from the events of the day.