Whirling Mawlawis from Egypt, Sufi artists from Iran and Baul musicians from Bengal’s rural hinterland are camping in the city for a three-day international festival of Sufi and folk music starting this Friday.

International flavour

The festival, launched in 2010 as an attempt to connect musicians of the Baul-Fakiri tradition to Sufi singers across the world, has expanded its ambit to include all traditional and folk singers, director and vice-president of Banglanatak Dot Com — the organiser of ‘Sufi Sutra’— Ananya Bhattacharya told The Hindu on Thursday.

“We have realised that our heritage traditions provide us with resources that we are not using,” Ms. Bhattacharya said.So this year visitors to the three-day festival will also be able to savour performances by Flamenco musicians from Spain, Russian folk singers and Mugam musicians from Azerbaijan in addition to Sufi musicians.

A key feature of the festival is that while the concerts are held in the evenings, the musicians spend their mornings at workshops where they explain the nuances of their music to other musicians and the audience.

“At these festivals we usually see that teams come to perform at concerts and then go away. But in an effort to promote cultural diversity and pluralism, we organise these workshops. The nearly 200 musicians that have gathered, then have a chance to understand each others’ music,” Ms. Bhattacharya explained adding that some collaborations have also emerged from these sessions.

She points to the fact that the Baul musicians who performed in earlier editions of the festival have now travelled to countries like Syria and Tunisia as a measure of its success.

“Baul or Fakiri musicians of Bengal were not known in the international Sufi circuit. But there are many similarities in the philosophy of these two music traditions. We wanted to connect them to Sufi singers,” she said.

She added that traditional musicians have a lot to contribute to a world where a “homogenised Western concept of development” is prevalent.