‘Depth and spirituality of Sufi poetry appeals to me’

Smita Rao Bellur on devoting her life to music, focusing on the traditional and a love for poetry

Growing up in Bengaluru, Smita Rao Bellur was introduced to Hindustani classical music by her parents. Kishori Amonkar and Arati Ankalikar-Tikekar were her favourites. She started training at the age of 12, and learnt the nuances of the Kirana and Jaipur gharanas.

Turning point

Later, during a shuttle bus ride while working at an IT company, she was suddenly captivated by a version of the traditional Sufi song ‘Allah Hoo’ by Aziz Ahmed Warsi. “That incident changed my life, and I decided to get deeply into the Sufi genre,” she recalls.

Now settled in Mumbai, Bellur will perform the ‘Kun Faya Koon - Sufi Verses Of Love concert’, on Friday. Organised by Competence Marketing and Events, it will be scripted and narrated by Urdu poet and writer Suhail Akhtar Warsi.

“The two of us have been thinking of various thematic concepts for quite some time. The concert will feature authentic Sufi kalaam, and I will sing the works of Hyderabadi poets like Shaz Tamkanat. His ‘Kab Tak Mere Maula’ is like an anthem for me,” says Bellur.

Besides popular works like Amir Khusro’s ‘Chaap Tilak’, Bellur will sing rarer compositions like, ‘Kanhaiya, Yaad Hai’ written by former Hyderabadi nawab Sadiq Jung Bahadur ‘Hilm’. Allama Iqbal’s ‘Sitaron Se Aage’, is also on the list. “The depth and spirituality of Sufi poetry appealed to me. I wanted these messages to reach out to audiences. I pay a lot of attention to the meaning and background, whether I am singing Sufi kalaam or Kannada vachanas,” says the singer.

Vast repertoire

Bellur has had some remarkable teachers – for Hindustani classical skills, she was guided by P.R. Bhagwat, Arjunsa Nakod, Rajabhau Sontakke and Alka Dev Maruldhar. Dr. Ejazuddin and Syed Zia Alvi helped her with Sufi thought, and for qawwali, she learnt from the famed Warsi Brothers of Hyderabad. “In Mumbai, my regular discussions with Suhail Akhtar Warsi have helped a lot,” she shares.

Bellur is happy with her decision of quitting a full-time job to pursue music. She recalls, “I would work 10 or 12 hours a day, and though I enjoyed it, would look for the next opportunity to practise music. I would [perform] classical concerts in smaller towns, because they have good listeners. I also love listening to old film songs and Rajasthani folk music.” A few months ago, she released the single ‘Na Aaye Who’, written by Zeeshan Niazi, on YouTube. “I’m now looking forward to doing more thematic concerts focusing on rich poetry,” she concludes.

Kun Faya Koon – Sufi Verses of Love on January 3, at 7.30 p.m.; Balgandharva Rangmandir, Bandra; more details at

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Printable version | Feb 28, 2020 5:47:16 AM |

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