Wednesday, January 21, 2009

About The Festival

The Kabir Festival is week long event, a festive yet critical immersion in the ideas of the 15th century mystic weaver poet Kabir, through a series of film screenings, live music concerts by folk, classical and Sufi singers from India and Pakistan, discussions, seminars, an exhibition and outreach events in colleges, institutions of higher education, socio-cultural and religious communities in and around, Bangalore.

The Festival is being supported by a wide range of individuals, agencies and institutions, including Sophia High School, South Asia Foundation, Ford Foundation, Visthar, Srishti School of Art, Design & Technology, Adima, IIM-B, MS Ramaiah Foundation, NCBS-TIFR, Samvada, Abhishek Poddar, Green Earth Constructions, HIVOS, 1 Shanti Road Gallery, Goethe Institut-Max Mueller Bhavan, KC Das, N Chander, Navakarnataka Publications, Prism Bookshop, Suchitra Film Society, Urdu Academy and others. The Hindu is the media partner.

The festival would be an opportunity for audiences to experience the joy of Kabir in song, while engaging with the radically transformative power of his poetry. It would offer a powerful encounter with the philosophy of Kabir, hopefully generating moments of critical self-awareness and reflection on ideas of cultural identity and social divisions, death and impermanence, oral traditions and the nature of knowledge. It would offer an opportunity for singers from diverse musical and cultural traditions in India and Pakistan to come together in one performative space and share and exchange notes on the oral traditions of Kabir that they represent.

Envisioned by filmmaker Shabnam Virmani (see, the event is an outcome of her experiences consisting of a series of musical journeys in quest of the socio-political and spiritual legacy of Kabir in our contemporary worlds, as part of her Kabir project as artist-in-residence at Srishti. The Kabir Project has been supported by the Ford Foundation and resulted not only in the production of a series of films, music CDs and books, but also many relationships, workshops, events and social networks spun off by this 5-year journey.

A range of events are planned as part of this festival in satellite locations and a central venue. They revolve around the 4 recently completed feature-length musical documentaries and the presence of some of the finest singers of Kabir in our midst.

It is an open invitation!

The Events

* Watch this space for any changes in the schedule *

The Performers

Prahlad Tipanya is one of the most compelling folk voices of Kabir in India today who combines singing and exposition of Kabir in the Malwi folk style from Madhya Pradesh. He has toured the US, and in Feb 2008 was felicitated with the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award.

Vidya Rao is one of the leading exponents of the delicate style of thumri-dadra singing, and is one of the few singers who combines the delicate shringar of thumri gayaki with the stark shoonyata of Kabir. She is also an accomplished writer and has written on various subjects such as feminism, music and spiritual traditions.

Vijay Sardeshmukh is a classical singer based in Pune who has inherited the stark yet refined nirgun classical style of singing Kabir from his late guru, Pt. Kumar Gandharva, along with other bhakti poets.

Mahesha Ram belongs to the Meghval community of Rajasthan in western India, and represents a hypnotic folk style typical of the Meghvals, musicians not by profession but traditional carriers of Kabir’s poetry through the oral traditions of all-night jagrans and satsangs.

Farid Ayaz is an acclaimed qawwal from Karachi, Pakistan and belongs to the 700-year-old “Qawwal bachon ka gharana” of Delhi. He sings in Urdu, Sindhi, Punjabi, Pushto, Hindi, Poorbi, Persian, Arabic and Turkish, intermingling with aplomb the voice of Kabir with a range of Sufi poets including Jalaluddin Rumi, Sachal Sarmast, Zaheen Shah and others.

Mukhtiyar Ali is a Mirasi folk singer from Bikaner and blends the Rajasthani folk idiom with refined classicism, singing the poetry of Kabir, Mira and other Sufi poets like Bulleh Shah. Through the Kabir project, Mukhtiar was spotted by world music circuits and made his Europe debut in July 2007.

Shafi Faqir is a Manghaniar from Sindh, Pakistan and sings in a style that is highly classical yet distinctly folk, bringing home the voice of Kabir along with other Sufi poets in Sindhi, Punjabi, Urdu, Siraiki and other languages.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Kabir Project

Started in 2003 by filmmaker Shabnam Virmani, The Kabir Project brings together the experiences of a series of journeys in quest of this 15th century mystic poet in our contemporary worlds.
It consists of 4 documentary films, 2 folk music videos and 10 music CDs accompanied by books of the poetry in translation.
See for more information

Past Events

Movie Had Anhad telecast on NDTV 24x7 (English).

14th Jan 9:30 pm-10:00 pm

- Part 1A
15th Jan 9:30 pm-10:00 pm
- Part 1B
Repeat: 18th Jan 1:00pm-2:00pm
- Part 1

22nd Jan 9:30 pm-10:00 pm
-Part 2A
23rd Jan 9:30 pm-10:00 pm
- Part 2B
Repeat: 25th Jan 1:00pm-2:00pm
-part 2

Movie Kabira Khada Bazaar Mein telecast on NDTV 24x7 (English).

28th Jan 9:30 pm-10:00 pm
- Part 1A
29th Jan 9:30 pm-10:00 pm
- Part 1B
Repeat: 1st Feb 1:00pm-2:00pm
- Part 1

4th Feb 9:30 pm-10:00 pm
- Part 2A
5th Feb 9:30pm-10:00pm
- Part 2B
Repeat: 8th Feb 1:00pm-2:00pm
- Part 2

The Films

Journeys With Kabir
4 films by Shabnam Virmani
view stills from the films at
(feel free to download the posters and share them)
These films journey into contemporary spaces touched by the music and poetry of the 15th century mystic weaver - poet of North India, Kabir. We meet a diverse array of people - an urban folklorist, a street fruit seller, a social activist, a Dalit folk singer, a Zen Buddhist scholar, a neo fascist cleric of a Kabir sect, a Muslim qawwal - each encounter offering a moment of insight into the poetry and its contemporary meanings. We glimpse not one but many Kabirs.
The 4 films are interwoven in significant ways, but each can be viewed independently.

Had -Anhad : Journeys with Ram And Kabir (Dur: 102 mins)

Kabir defied the boundaries between Hindu and Muslim. His name and upbringing were muslim but his poetry repeatedly invokes the widely revered Hindu name for god-Ram. Who is Kabir's Ram? This film journeys through song and poem into the politics of religion, and finds myriad answers on both sides of the border between India and Pakistan.

1st Prize (shared), One Billion eyes Documentary Film Festival, August 2008, Chennai
Mahindra Indo-Americal Arts Council Film Festival, Nov 5-9, New York, USA
World Performing Arts Festival, Nov 13-23, 2008, Lahore, Pakistan
Bangalore International Film Festival, Jan, 2009, Bangalore, India

Kala Ghoda Festival, Feb 7-8, 2009, Mumbai
VIBGYOR Film Festival, Feb, 2009, Thrissur, Kerala, India

Kabira Khada Bazar Mein : Journeys with Sacred and Secular Kabir (Dur: 94 min)

This film investigates the ironies and tensions between sacred and secular Kabir, interweaving the sacralization
of Kabir by the Kabir P
anth (an organized sect of the followers of Kabir) with the secular appropriation of the same poet by the social activist group Eklavya. The story unfolds through the life of Prahlad Tipanya, a Dalit singer whose participation in the Panth and Eklavya begins to raise difficult questions for him about ritual and organized religion.

One Billion Eyes Documentary Film Festival, August 2008, Chennai, India
World Performing Arts Festival, Nov 13-23, 2008, Lahore, Pakistan
VIBGYOR Film Festival, Feb, 2009, Thrissur, Kerala, India

Koi Sunta Hai
: Journeys with Kumar and Kabir (Dur: 96 min)

This film interweaves the oral folk traditions of Kabir in central India with the intensely personal narrative of the late classical singer Pandit Kumar Gandharva, keeping the spiritual ideas of Kabir as the central binding thread. Journeying between folk and classical, between rural and urban expressions of Kabir, the film finds moments of both continuity and rupture between these disparate worlds.

One Billion Eyes Documentary Film Festival, August 2008, Chennai, India
World Performing Arts Festival, Nov 13-23, 2008, Lahore, Pakistan
VIBGYOR Film Festival, Feb, 2009, Thrissur, Kerala, India

Chalo Hamara Des: Journeys with Kabir and Friends (Dur: 98 min)

A journey in search of Kabir’s des (country) this film unfolds through the interwoven narratives of two people from two very different countries – Dalit folk singer Prahlad Tipanya and North American scholar Linda Hess. We enter the world of Kabir, through the personal and public lives of these two individuals, brought together in an unlikely friendship by the amazing universality and cross-cultural resonance of Kabir.

One Billion Eyes Documentary Film Festival, August 2008, Chennai, India
World Performing Arts Festival, Nov 13-23, 2008, Lahore, Pakistan
International Festival of Sacred Arts, Feb, 2009 Delhi, India
VIBGYOR Film Festival, Feb, 2009, Thrissur, Kerala, India