Event Prahalad Singh Tipaniya's presentation of Kabir's couplets with instrumental accompaniment brought the rustic to the city.
R evival of centuries-old literature and forgotten forms of poetry and art is welcome in a broad sense. But an overdrive is not always the best way out in certain cases. There are many factors to be looked into before we try to adopt and adapt one form of art into another to showcase our tradition.
Sant Kabir was a famous Sufi of the 14th century. His pithy couplets (dohas) are pregnant with philosophy in a nutshell. They are vested with worldly wisdom drawn from everyday life of the saint's time with a universality that makes them very appealing. The underlying Sufism is that of the spirit compared to a caged bird waiting for reunion with its source (god). There is beautiful amalgam of Vedic and Islamic thought which is what make them popular to this day. Most of them are recited like verse-the language a dialectical variation of Hindi.
Prahalad Singh Tipaniya's evening of Kabir at Lamakaan recently had choicest dohas sung to instrumental accompaniment in a rather rustic style. It was more of a recitation culminating in a sing-song style interspersed with explanation of the verses in Hindi. The predominance of a master (guru) in Sufi system as propounded by Sant Kabir keeps coming up in his poems.
The ‘Panch tathwa' propagated by the saint through his couplets like Bina rang mahal mey aaja were presented in clusters with one leading to another. Though for most part, the audience appreciated the crisp, alliterative verses, there were many others which were not the ‘popular' dohas.
Whatever be the song-verse, there was no variation in rendition. It followed the typical mendicant bard singing style with a predictable rise and flow, a pause to discourse and then a recitation of the next to come and so on. Despite everything being in place — the kartaals, the dholak, the violin and the tanpura — it was evident that the entire project would be more suitable in a dargah or a temple locales rather than an elite audience.
It was neither as rustic as a Burrakatha wherein the artist dons a special costume looks every inch a dramatic figure and keeps to little footwork swinging and dancing as he narrates mythological stories. It was neither in the bhajan form where there is a crescendo at the end of a cluster of verses which literally shakes and vibrates the onlookers by sheer dint of sound.
Adaptability to stage presentation is a major criteria an artist should look into prior to trying out ethnic singing. It is a tricky situation wherein he should be able to retain the flavour of the native and yet offer it as a delectable fare. Like abhangs have been adapted by many of our classical vocalists to suit a stage recital, we wish the attempt to popularise Kabir and bring his philosophy to the fore should be bequeathed with a little more polish and veneer. And a chill wintery night with the sky spilling mist is no time to sit and enjoy for sure!