Friday Review

In the name of Kabir

Keeping the spirit of Kabir close: Mooralala Marwada and Mahesha Ram Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy

Keeping the spirit of Kabir close: Mooralala Marwada and Mahesha Ram Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy  


Bhoomija’s evening of Kabir songs, Shabad Dhun Laagi was poignant

If you were to judge the songs of Kabir on the basis of its musical value, it would be ridiculous. However, it also not possible to overlook its musical value. Kabir -- a radical reformer and bhakti poet -- used music exactly the way other poet-saints of the Bhakti movement did. For most of them, including Purandaradasa, Kanakadasa and others, poetry or music was not for its own sake. It served the twin purposes of social reform and spirituality, seeking to elevate the consciousness of the society they lived in. Unlike poets with a literary purpose, they roamed the streets spreading their message, and hence for them, the message was more important than poetic value itself. Music was a tool.

At Bhoomija’s Shabad Dhun Laagi, an evening of Kabir’s songs by Mahesha Ram and Mooralala Marwada, from Rajasthan and Kutch respectively, one could hear the coarse and prosaic voice of Kabir, but of searing honesty. With Shabnam Virmani and Vipul doing the translations of the Kabir songs, Mahesha Ram infused the warmth of his music to an audience that was initiated. Sedate in his singing, the singer took you through his songs in the most unhurried fashion. Woven with passages of silence, Mahesha Ram in a way, made a huge demand of his listeners; except for the inherent nuances of his style, his music remained unembellished. At times monotonous, it nevertheless remained as ingenuous as Kabir’s poetry.

“Many western cultures tell this story,” said Vipul, narrating the moving story of the love of a little bird and a tree. Their love even moved the Gods to tears he said, leading Mahesha Ram to sing the most beautiful “Heli Mhaari”. The company of the pure hearted, Kabir says, is transformative.

Kabir, infact, is among the most vibrant poet of the Bhakti pantheon. He is sung by a range of singers each fashioning him to their own seeking. The iconic Kumar Gandharv is the most stunning example. His made it musically possible to take Kabir to the philosophical heights that his poetry speaks off -- almost blurring boundaries between the language of music and poetry.

Mooralala Marwada who came after Mahesha Ram was starkly different from him. His music was charged with the intensity of Kabir’s untamed pourings. He sang “Jagu Piyari Ab Kya Sowe” with remarkable conviction. In Mooralala’s rendition, one could hear Kabir standing in the middle of the bazaar, urging people to let go of their attachments, “Burn your house”.

In times such as ours, when we are torn by superficial divisions of caste, class and ideologies, invoking Kabir makes for profound meaning. Kabir knew that there was no substitute for honesty and courage. Without stripping the delusions of the outer world there can be no roads to inner truths. The music of Mahesha Ram and Mooralala was no different, they came in their most natural selves. Music, for these itinerant singers, is also a tool.

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2020 9:05:21 PM |

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