In Nirgun Naad: Songs of the Mystics, Vikku Vinayakaram, Vidya Shah and Chugge Khan Manganiyar tap into diverse traditions to showcase some divine music, write Pankaja Srinivasan and Subha J. Rao

Date: November 9

Venue: PSG College of Arts and Science

Time: 7.30 p.m.

Genre: Sufi-Bhakti

Nearly four decades ago, a ghatam player from Tamil Nadu took the earthen pot to the global stage. He became part of Shakti, the iconic music group that included legends such as guitarist John McLaughlin, violinist L. Shankar, tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain and mridangist Ramnad Raghavan. His dextrous fingers created music so divine, it elevated the ghatam from the fringes to the centre-stage.

Nearing 70, Vikku Vinayakram is still open to experimentation. Which is why when concert curator Vidya Shah discussed the idea of ‘Nirguni Naad: Songs of the Mystics’ with him, he was eager to be part of it. The 90-minute concert brings together the works of Sufi and Bhakti poets from the 13th to the 17th Centuries. “I’ve only heard of Sufi. I liked Vidya’s idea. Most importantly, I love experimentation. How could I say no to this opportunity.” In 1991, Vinayakram was the first South Indian artiste to receive a Grammy.

Over a couple of practice sessions in Delhi, Vinayakram, Vidya and Chugge Khan Manganiyar will structure the concert that celebrates bhakti. “We will rehearse. Only rehearsals can make fusion work. Only then will we be able to present the best of our genres,” says Vinayakram. “Fusion turned my percussion instrument from an accompaniment to a main instrument. It gave it importance,” he says.

Vinayakram is excited about his co-performers. “I’ve heard the Manganiyars long ago, when we were part of a Sangeet Natak Akademi tour. Their music is magical.” During the concert, Vidya will take over the vocals while Vinayakram will play shlokas on the ghatam. He will also render solkattu.

So, what are his expectations from the concert? “There are many forms of bhakti. I just hope that we create sounds that transport the audience to a devotional trance.”

Concert curator Vidya Shah

How did Nirgun Naad come about?

Chugge Khan heard me perform at a concert in Jaipur, came up to me and expressed a desire to sing with me. I have worked across several genres and not much has been done within the domain of Indian music that marries classical and the folk genres. To be able to perform with Chugge Khan and the Manganiyars from Rajasthan is fantastic. And the opportunity to work with someone of Vikku Vinayakram’s stature is an honour.

What is the scope of this concert?

It will be cutting edge. Performing to mystical poetry is special. Interpreting different texts and bringing the various strands together through lyrics and music is a high. And, to perform with Chugge Khanji and Vikku Mama takes it to the next level.

Your choice of music?

It is going to be an enmeshing of ideas of love, peace and creativity. It is a fantastic coming together of India. Personally for me, it is not so much about the singing as it is about creating a samaah (a poor translation would be ‘the mood’). It is coming together and enjoying the music. Sufi music comes with a sense of ecstasy and abandonment. It touches a chord with any age group.

Chugge Khan Manganiyar

“Maasha Allah! It feels very good,” says Chugge Khan Manganiyar, when asked about his forthcoming performance in Coimbatore. Chugge Khan is a renowned singer who heads a troupe called Rajasthan Josh.

He says: “Traditionally, the Manganiyars sang in praise of the rajas and maharajas. For the forthcoming concert, we will be singing bhajans and Sufi compositions along with Vidyaji and Vikkuji. I will be singing with my brother Salim Khan. Our songs are orally handed down from our elders for generations and they are sung in both mandir and masjid.”

Performers

Ghatam: Vikku Vinayakaram

Lead vocals: Vidya Shah

Vocals and Morchhang: Chugge Khan Manganiyar

Back-up vocals and Khadtaal: Salim Khan Manganiyar

Kanjira: S. Swaminathan

Saarangi: Ghulam Ali

Acoustic guitar and mandolin: Amar Sangam

Tickets:

Rs. 400, Rs. 250 & Rs. 150. Season passes at Rs. 1,000 & Rs. 650

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