In 1999, when Banyan Tree Events wanted to start the Ruhaniyat Sufi and Mystic music festival, there were few takers. Says Mahesh Babu, founder and organiser of the event, “People did not understand what we meant by this genre of music that brings alive the works of immortal saints, mystics of a bygone era. Today, anything with the word Sufi is attractive; back then, it wasn’t so. Probably, we were ahead of our times. Each time we heard the news of terror and hatred, we felt the need for such a festival very strongly.”
Unable to find sponsorship, he and his wife Nandini presented the festival by themselves, in 2001. From the third year, TCS became their partner and it became a two-day festival and expanded to other cities like Hyderabad and Pune. This year, the event has become a 10-city caravan with the addition of Bhubaneshwar. In April 2014, they will take the festival to Istanbul, Turkey.
What’s in store?
The highlight of this edition of the festival is their Indo-Turkish production where works by Rumi and Yunus Emre meet Amir Khusrau and Sant Kabir and the performance features Latif Bolat and Whirling Dervishes (Turkey) with Madan Gopal Singh and Chaar Yaar (India).
There will be Puruliya Chhau (Odisha) and Theyyam (Kerala) performances as well as Baul songs by Parvathy Baul (Paschimbanga), and Sufi Qawwali by Rizwan Muazzam and group, and the Chisti Brothers. The duo will present Qual, Hamd, Naat and Kalams of Hazrat Amir Khusrau, works of poets like Bedam Shah Warasi and end with a Rang.
Avdhoot Gandhi from Alandi, who belongs to Sant Jnaneshwar’s family, will present the works of Maharashtra’s saint poets like Tukaram and Ramdas Swami through abhangs and bharuds.
The mystical works of Lal Ded, the 13th century lady mystic of Kashmir, will be presented by Abdul Rashid Hafiz, a traditional Kashmiri ensemble. Compositions by Noon Rishi and Shamas Fakir will also be performed. Watch out for a Bulgarian group that will present healing music and polyphony songs.
Message in a concert
“Unknown practitioners of such music are carriers of rare traditions and also nurture the forms, some of which are really near extinction. We have always discovered carriers of living traditions from India and other countries and created bridges for them so that the art form does not disappear into oblivion just yet, ” shares Babu about the festival’s relevance in today’s times.