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Updated: February 24, 2013 16:07 IST

Kabir beckons

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Journey within: Shabnam Virmani. Photo: Murali Kumar K.
The Hindu
Journey within: Shabnam Virmani. Photo: Murali Kumar K.

Members of the Kabir Project team shared their journeys into musical and socio-cultural landscapes through songs, poetry and films.

“In this land are no wind or water, neither sun nor moon, nor earth nor sky. In this land, a thousand suns blaze. A striking invitation to travel! Aavo Hamara Desh”. Thus read the invite of Traveller’s Meet, presented by Getoffurass, to spend an evening with members of Kabir Project at the Courtyard Café in Jaaga last week.

Through film, song and poetry, the members of the Kabir Project took the audience on a breathtaking journey across religious, musical and religious landscapes.

Starting from Malwa and America to Trivandrum and Kutch and finally to Pakistan, the influence Kabir’s poetry has on the subcontinent was a revelation. Shabnam Virmani’s soothing voice and Kabir’s poetry initiated self-reflection.

The mood of the evening varied, from contemplative to cheerful. The gathering laughed at the reactions of the Malwi folk singers’ reaction to a group of young American beat boxers, cheered at Kabir’s unifying power across borders and listened in rapt attention at Parvathy Baul’s explanation of the elusive relationship between mentor and disciple.

In 2003, Shabnam, a well-known filmmaker, set forth on a journey, armed with Kabir’s poetry and a camera, to discover diverse socio-cultural, religious and musical landscapes.

During her travels, she encountered folk musicians and artistes whose songs and beliefs embodied the essence of Kabir’s poetry. Along the way, she made life-long friends with people such as folk singer Prahlad Tipanya, singer Vidya Rao, Mukhtiyar Ali, scholar Linda Hess, among others.

Accompanied by writer Vipul Rikhi, photographer Smriti Chanchani and filmmaker Aarthi Parthasarthy, Shabnam has successfully led Kabir Project, an artist-in-residency project at Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology, supported by the Delhi-base Ford Foundation.

“Kabir always asks us to visit his land,” said Shabnam, “He also takes us on a journey within.”

As the audience got a glimpse into the places that the members of Kabir Project travelled to, it made one wonder at how little we know of our own country that has within it varied musical traditions. Kabir music in Malwi folk music traditions was brought alive by Shabnam’s beautiful rendition of them.

Shabnam has also explored Bhakti and Sufi poetry. Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai’s poetry, for instance, is well-known by both Hindu and Muslim communities. His poems essentially are written from the point of view of different women protagonists.

When the video of the Singers of Waee was screened, it took sometime to get used to their unique music. But once we did, their visceral songs touched us deep within. The performance was followed by a lively discussion on how to make Kabir’s poetry a part of our lives and the search within.


The poet of equalityMarch 16, 2013

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