In search of the divine

a way of life: Sufism is a journey that reflects simplicity and compassion, says Rekha Bharadwaj. — photo: special arrangement

a way of life: Sufism is a journey that reflects simplicity and compassion, says Rekha Bharadwaj. — photo: special arrangement  

The NCPA’s annual festival of sufi music, Sama’a will feature singer Rekha Bharadwaj this edition

Busy between hectic rehearsals, singer Rekha Bhardwaj takes time off for a quick chat. She sounds excited; this will be the first time she is doing a complete evening’s show at ‘Sama’a: The Mystic Ecstasy’, a Sufi music festival organised by the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA).

“I don’t think of Sufism as a religion or fashion, but yes, it’s a way of life, and a personal journey that reflects simplicity and compassion,” she says. Though also busy with film songs, she wants to focus on this genre sincerely.

Bhardwaj will perform on the third and final day of ‘Sama’a’, which began on Friday. Now in its eighth year, the festival has been a big attraction for followers of mystic music, just like Banyan Tree Events’ ‘Ruhaaniyat’.

The first two days of ‘Sama’a’ have had a vast repertoire too. On Friday, the programme began with the documentary film Mann Faqeeri directed by M. K. Raina. The documentary is about Sufiana writing and music from the Kashmir Valley. This was followed by a Rajasthani Sufi-folk rendition by the well-known Mame Khan and his troupe, who present songs from the Manganiyar community.

Saturday’s line-up features the Istanbul Historic Turkish Music Ensemble, which will present ‘Sama Ayins’, a concert of whirling prayer ceremonies. The theme will have three stages: knowing God, seeing God and uniting with God.

As whirling is an important part of Sufi traditional recitals, Bhardwaj has also included an Osho sanyasin friend to perform. Says the singer: “I have attended courses at the Osho Commune, and I also whirl. For this concert, I wanted to get every element right, including the kind of instrumentation.”

Bhardwaj’s band will be called ‘Azizon Ki Toli’. Besides her and the whirling sanyasin, it will feature musicians playing the saxophone, clarinet, western concert flute, drums, tabla, dholak, lead guitar, rhythm guitar, bass and keyboards, besides two male and two female chorus singers. In short, traditional compositions will be presented in a contemporary style.

Bhardwaj plans to sing most songs from her 2004 Music Today album Ishqa Ishqa, where the songs were composed by her husband, filmmaker-composer Vishal Bhardwaj, and written by Gulzar. These will include ‘Teri Ishq Mein’, ‘Teri Razaa’, ‘Raat Ka Jogan’ and ‘Jogiya’.

Popular qawwalis ‘Aaj Rang Hai’, Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s ‘Tere Bin Nahin Lagda’, Mehr Ali-Sher Ali’s ‘Shama Pai Gaiyan’ and the evergreen ‘Damadam Mast Qalandar’ will complete the set list, along with a new version of ‘Tu Mere Ru-Ba-Ru Hai’, sung by Daler Mehndi and others in the film Maqbool.

“I want to give the audience a complete Sufiana effect, and will thus put some mystic lighting to enhance the ambience. I have done many such performances before, but they were shorter and only part of an evening’s schedule. This entire evening’s programme is something I wanted to do for a long time,” says Bhardwaj.

An alumnus of Hindu College, Delhi, Bhardwaj has been trained in Hindustani classical vocals by Pandit Amarnath, disciple of the legendary Ustad Amir Khan, and by Vinay Chandra Maudgalya and Vasant Thakar of the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya.

“Classical is the base for all kinds of vocals, and I was lucky to learn from such senior musicians,” says Bhardwaj. “As a child, I was also exposed to ghazals, and would sing them. Many years later, when Vishal set music to the words of Baba Bulleh Shah, I became fascinated with Sufi music. Even in film music, composers give me songs that suit my voice,” she adds.

Hopefully, this Sufiana experience will be the first of many to come.

The author is a freelance music writer

Sufiana Songs with Rekha Bhardwaj, part of the Sama’a festival, will take place at 6.30 p.m. on Sunday at the Tata Theatre, NCPA. For more, see:

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Printable version | Mar 25, 2020 2:44:59 AM |

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