Wrapping up 2017

Dec-Jan is perhaps the most stressful as the anxiety of a new year kicks in. The anxiety of how it will turn out to be, or events you may have no control over.  I started 2017 on a not so positive note which kept progressing into an amalgamation of events, artists and people that I was truly baffled by, most importantly universe juice.

In February, the balmy skies took me to a Sufi musical concert. I was elated with music and contended with what life had to offer. Looking back I’m only grateful to attending this festival and listening to storytellers with their songs spun with wisdom.

For the month of April, I was unbelievably starring at an advertisement bearing a photo of Rashid Khan, I knew that moment I wasn’t going to miss the Live performance. I also learned to be more open to different experiences, even with music.

August came as a surprise to myself, as I went in for a play audition.(Note: I’ve never ever done this before). For someone who takes a lot of time to open up and express this was surely something off the hook. I had gone for the audition solo despite all the fear and anxiety and I took part in everything that was up for auditioning even if it meant feeling nervous, embarrassed and sweaty palms. Surprisingly theatre seemed to open me up a lot more and I had a lot of takeaway lessons, I didn’t think it could offer in a mere audition

October felt light and breezy as Three buddies boarded a government bus to Pondicherry. The trip was on a shoe-string budget and included random spurts of activity like sightseeing places that we weren’t aware of, doing random things and having woodfired thin crust pizza which was a pure delicacy along with a visit to book bargains. (Here is my visual journey of Pondicherry)

The Diwali time a friend and I took to Mahabalipuram to explore monuments on foot. I also had an opportunity to watch Mame Khan Live and be a part of a backstage interview (Thanks to a friend). If you’ve never heard of the artist I suggest you check out this track. The power of Folk music is just undeniable especially when it’s live

The month of December took me to the hills of Ooty, Avalanche and into a deep jungle which was packed with an adventure. I took to the trip with an injury I had a day early. It was truly a thrill-packed experience with the leeches and the rains.

I’m utterly grateful to the universe for having so many things aligned for me. I’ve met incredible artists, gone to amazing plays, found the healing power of theatre and traveled and experienced life as much as I could.

 

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Folk Routes with Mame Khan

On a normal day, a friend and I were discussing a few Indian bands from Indian Ocean to Raghu Dixit and out came Mame khan’s discussion. I was amused because I had no clue about the artist. However a YouTube scan later I was overwhelmed with his soulful music and was hoping to meet the artist or catch any of his performance live.

After a few weeks, as I was scrolling through my posts I came to realize that he was having a live show in my city. I was exhilarated that the universe was leading me where I really needed to be exploring new music and artists.

Let’s just say I commuted so much via public transport, only to have made it to the performance an hour late.

The crowds they were a humming to the soulful notes as the artist kept explaining the origin of a few traditional songs sung over for centuries only to have commercialized and become popular

We caught the artist for an interview afterward on asking about the amount of time he spends rehearsing he said “Mangniyars are known for their singing, we dislike being out of tune’ We’ve literally grown up listen to our fathers sing’ With modern day apps one can instantly sing practice anywhere they like to rehearse.We rehearse at airports sometimes”

On asking how the Chennai Audience has been he said’ Chennai is a music city, the audience has always welcomed me, I’ve been to this city thrice and have only got a positive response.

Stories from the Mystic land

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.