Into the lands where folk music brings a thousand of travelers along in a quiet night, telling them stories of mystics under a canopy of a thousand stars, breathing into them the spirit and soul of the divine by invoking, chanting and connecting the two beings into one.
On a fine Sunday night, I walked silently towards the Madras Race Club, the cars were aligned perfectly and people that were walking in looked like they had all come in, to forgo the world and enjoy the calling of soulful music and stories that artisans bring with the soil they have toiled from at Ruhaniyat, a music fest that connects the soul
While I quietly took my seat, the aroma of incense that burned throughout quietened the brain chattering and the view of the trees that were lit up beautifully amongst the open sky was a perfect set up for the mood.
It was then that Prahlad Singh Tippanya and group that hailed all the way from Madhya Pradesh brought stories and songs of Kabir that opened my eye.Kabir’s Doha is something that we’re very accustomed to learning in the school curriculum but it is sheer magic to make people sing along and yet the lessons remain forever with the music.
The song that is filled the air with folk music where Kabir says
Oh, passenger awaken your soul, you’ve been asleep all this while, First, you were asleep in your mother’s womb, then you came out and when your family cradled you with love, you forgot to awaken the second time. The third, where you remained old yet your soul didn’t thirst for awakening and while on your deathbed you long to awaken but can’t.
Kachra Khan, the artist from the manganiar community from Rajasthan brought his song alive with the tale of Baba Bulesha. The song goes such that Baba Bulesha is from the Sayeed community, a higher cast that didn’t believe in distinguishing any community or person by class or caste and very often would mingle with the poor. His father on seeing his son’s traits was furious and gave him a good beating only then the words of wisdom fell from his mouth
“If by rotating a mala or bead, I would find god, I would find the largest bead,” to which he added that Just because one sits in a mosque doesn’t mean one finds god, only your true dedication will invoke the spirit and connect you even higher. When Baba Bulesha’s father heard him utter these profound lines he understood the very meaning and they both danced in ecstasy.
These very stories were told by the folk artists who are known for their great skill in the art of keeping stories from one generation to the next to bring a sense of awakening in a very material world, these enigmatic thoughts are mainly to sit back and ponder about especially in a world where we try to find peace outside rather than finding peace within.
Next came the spellbinding Qawwali session with Chand Nizami from Delhi who made the entire audience clap and their power packed performance with a high throttle of voice and the high notes, just the right kind, to involve the audience along was a charm that the group left us with. They sang many qawwalis including Chaap Tilak. I met the artists backstage personally to thank them and on asking the amount of time one spends on practice, the young one in the group said at least 6 hours on a regular basis, but what’s more interesting is I found them so very humble and down to earth despite their astounding performance on stage.
There was an Indo-African fusion with Mamadou Diabate, from Africa with Kachra Khan and P. Nandakumar from Kerala, all different levels of percussion with songs that were on rains and a traditional song mouthed by the village community in Rajasthan an ode to Mehendi. One could observe all different kinds of music and percussion yet united by the beat. Rakesh Bhatt and group from Uttarakhand were just as brilliant as the other artists with their mystical music traditions to transcend and communicate with the unknown
I was left spellbound by the amount of sheer music that made me want to dance, live the moment and even sing along, but what I loved best was to sit back and retrospect the true meaning of life in a different perspective. Wisdom from the saints, music that speaks volumes even without words and brilliant artists who know how to weave music and wisdom into a brilliant piece of art. I was exhilarated coming to this music fest, the journey of the simple yet extraordinary was put together by Banyan Tree events who curate such fests across India.
I left a lot happier, I was grinning ear to ear. As I walked back towards the corridor I saw a mirror placed in the center and as I walked towards it, I thought to myself perhaps the very meaning of life, music and love are to understand oneself and know the depths of who we really are, we are as we see the world to be.