The Sufiana concert series ‘Mann Fakiri’ brings together Surendra Singh Negi and Vipul Rikhi for a unique session. To be held at three different venues over the next few days, the concert that combines music, poetry and thoughts will have the duo doing their own songs. Bengaluru-based poet, fiction writer, translator and singer Vipul Rikhi recalls how the idea germinated: “I had come to Hyderabad in April for a series of concerts and had met Surendra at that time. We have been in touch since then.” Surendra is a self-trained singer, poet and composer who had founded the band Indian Folks in 2012. He also teaches Spanish at EFLU. While Vipul’s work has been on the folk music of Kabir and other Sufi poets, Surendra does his own compositions. “There are several compositions which reflect the values and concerns of what these poets had also done. That is how we are related in a way,” shares Surendra.
Speaking about the themes of his compositions, Surendra states that most of the songs reflect on the issues happening in society. “ Talaash is on communal harmony, a pertinent issue right now. Agni is on religious intolerance, an important issue not just in India but also globally. Kabir and other Sufi poets talk about human beings and ask us to look for God within ourselves. That is where I do not agree on with them; I am an atheist,” observes Surendra. While Vyapaar reflects on the commercialisation of religion, Prabhu ki khoj mein questions the existence of God in a subtle way. “I question people who go on pilgrimages across the country as to what they achieve through these journeys. It is not a political conflict kind of language; it is poetic .”
‘ Mann Fakiri is giving everything up’, points out Vipul. “It is a big idea in Sufi philosophy. Here it is not just music but the content and thought behind it. When these things come together, it is powerful. ” he says. Besides singing songs of Kabir and other poets in the folk tradition, he will also be playing the folk instrument tambura. He affirms youngsters connect to this music and like to be part of these sessions. “Young people get things quickly and also get bored of them quickly. They get gadgets, experiences very quickly and soon begin to see the limitations. Youngsters are in search and want to listen to things which are not just based on consumption or consumerism and that which speaks to the heart.” Surendra concurs and adds that people follow market trends. “People consume what is given to them, but they are also open to new things. This alternate culture is not comparable to the consumer culture in terms of proportion,” he states and is happy that Sufism picking up. “It is good but unfortunately what is happening in Bollywood in the name of Sufi lyrics is not Sufi but nonsensical; that is one side of the story.”
The duo plan to take the concert to Delhi and other cities.