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.

Music As Medicine

21 Jan

If word is the doctor, music is the medicine. Young classical singer Pushkar Lele who belongs to the tradition of Pt. Kumar Gandharva, proved it beyond doubt as he rendered Kabir to the best of Indian classical musical tradition. The audience at Mumbai University’s Pheroz Mehta Auditorium sat transfixed to their seats, mesmerized by the melody of a young voice, rendering ancient words to soul stirring rhythms. An enthralling end to a spectacular day at Mumbai University.

Reaching up to Kabir

Music is the way

Music takes flight

Pushkar Lele adjusting the tanpura

Living the writing on the wall behind him

Immersed, soaked in mystic poetry

"All i have is the offering of music"

All Photos by Satyen K. Bordoloi

Don’t Reduce Kabir To A Symbol

21 Jan

In the afternoon Mumbai university became the venue for a straight talk by Dr Purushottam Agarwal who contextualized Kabir for our times, while keeping him well situated in his.

“We live in such times that everyone feels insecure which leads us to normalize violence. The violence does not disturb me, its acceptance does,” he said.

“To understand Kabir, try and understand the man who does not speak English or are not as educated as you, but talk the common language. And listen to them with attention and respect,” he said referring to the fact that Kabir was not a learned scholar but talked of the people, took from the people and gave back to them.

Asked by a student at the university to elucidate one thing that one could take from Kabir, he said, “Interrogate everything, including yourself.”

The gist of his over hour long talk and Q&A session was capitulated in the end when he asked, “Is it as easy to preach love, as it is to preach hatred. And is there a way, a philosophy a political system to increase this love and partnership between people?” Kabir’s words show the way, but only if we think about it and “stop making Kabir into a symbol and think of him as a living being in search of the self.”  He also advised against reducing Kabir to the politics of the contemporary times. Bang on Doc!

Dr. Purushottam Agarwal

Headbanging to Kabir!

21 Jan

Jazz, funk, twist, jive, rock and yes, metal saw a unique  amalgamation of senses with none other than Saint Kabir’s classical, sufi, simple and soothing sayings. ‘Makeshift’, from Delhi spewed out mystic Kabir’s music in their own style, much to the delight of rock lovers of Mumbai!

The Moondance

..stands liberated...

Kabir rock, folks!

21st century ‘dasiyan’ offer Saint Kabir a ritual folk dance

Junior Drummer boy! Hriday Jain, 12-year-old drummer takes the stage and wows the crowd!

Junior Drummer boy! Hriday Jain, 12-year-old drummer takes the stage and wows the crowd!

– Bhavita Bhatia (Photos by Tara Bhatnagar)

Soulful Savourings of a Fellow Saint

21 Jan

A deity-like sage that one can envision in great paintings of war and freedom, and music and love lay seated upon Kabir’s platform and elevated the crowds to an  addictive ‘nasha’. Shabnam Virmani belted out a confluence of a musical jam – one of ideas of freedom, educational development, while quietly strumming along on her love-stained tambura.

“Borders dissolve between singer and listener, between self and God  – and as we go home can this elevation spill out into an all-knowing awareness to those that surround us?” she pleas to the audience gripped by the trance she has induced.

An adolescent in the hall rose and shared with us “Dil ko choon gayi, mukti ka ehsaas hua aaj” (touched the heart, felt a sense of freedom) sharing her own poem she penned down, as inspired by Kabir. And perhaps, Kabir heard her too…

Shabnam Virmani and her love-stained tambura. “Make a change in the way Kabir is taught in schools..” the songster almost woos the teaching fraternity present at the festival.

Parts of audiences join her as she willingly takes them under her wing...the disciples of a Kabir disciple.

As she sings, you feel the pain, the aching love, the mysterious beauty, the joy in her voice... as she sings for her Saint Kabir...

– Bhavita Bhatia (Photos by Tara Bhatnagar)