As the curtains go up on the Shanti Fest this weekend, co-organiser Deepak Samson shares its ethos and concept

Music and dance are balm to the senses, whichever way you look at it. But every so often a festival of performing arts comes along that emphasises this quality. One such is the Shanti Fest, being mounted as a Bhakti Music Festival at the ISKCON Temple in New Delhi this weekend. Deepak Samson, a recording engineer known for lending his skills to albums and soundtracks created by musicians in the classical genres of Hindustani and Carnatic music, has selected the performances and coordinated with the artists.

“My friend Vinod Ambavata and I are the brain behind this festival. Conversations between me and Vinod about the role of music in human life led to conceiving this programme. The primary mission is to spread the message of love and peace through music,” says Samson.

While some artistes are New Delhi-based, like young Kathak exponent Vidha Lal and Carnatic vocalist Sudha Raghuraman, others are coming from outside, like Indra Naik from Mumbai. On the selection of artistes, Samson says, “Largely, it was based on the degree to which an artiste is committed to the chosen art expression....artistes who are not doing what they do just for money...those who showed passion for the project and felt close to the concept of our program.”

While the first evening has been given the theme Shyam Raas, the second is dedicated to Shiva Tandav. “Shyam Raas conveys the message of love....Krishna being the ultimate in symbolisng love...all forms of it....and Shiva Tandav is a theme which juxtaposes the two opposing and yet ‘together’ phenomena of Destruction and Reconstruction....Death and Life!”

Bhakti music can be associated with any religion. Is there any plan to include devotional art forms from religions other than Hinduism in future festivals? Says Samson, “Our mission doesn’t leave any scope for us to even visit this question...love and peace are the religions we wish to celebrate.”

There are many artistes who also become organisers or curators of festivals and there are also many administrators. But being a sound engineer will surely be an advantage to Samson in setting up the performances. “Yes, indeed, it will be...because in the times of today...the electronic devices have become the unavoidable medium through which music reaches the ears of the audience...and there can be good/bad in it....such knowledge surely becomes a boon in delivering the best that one can.”