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A mystical touch

The second edition of Kabir Festival aims to familiarise the younger generation with the 15th century poet through a series of film screenings and music performances

Kabir, the 15th century mystic poet and Indian saint, has influenced people across the country through the Hindu religious force known as the Bhakti movement and his poems in diverse dialects. However, even today there are many people who don't know about his work. The second edition of the Kabir Festival, which is being held across various schools and colleges in Mumbai and concludes on February 19, aims to familiarise a whole new generation with the saint through folk music, films, stories and poetry presentations based on his work.  


Bhanwari Devi, a folk singer from Rajasthan, who has broken the glass
ceiling and sings with a ghoonghat on her head and a mike in her hand
will perform at this year's Kabir Festival


The three-day festival is a by-product of the Kabir Project, spearheaded by documentary filmmaker Shabnam Virmani. Following the Godhra riots, Virmani travelled for six years with folk singers, who have rendered the music of Kabir for generations. She shot four documentaries and conducted several recordings of musicians whose works have been influenced by the saint.


Another highlight will be Mooralala Marwada, a Kutch folk singer,
rendering the poetry of Kabir, Mira and Sufi poet Shah Abdul Lateef Bhitai


The major highlights of this year's festival are a series of performances by folk singers, who have added their own innovations to Kabir's poetry and works. Sample this: There's Padma Shri winner Prahlad Tipanya, who combines singing and explanation of Kabir's poetry in the Malwi folk style prevalent in Madhya Pradesh, Mooralala Marwada, a folk singer from Kutch, who sings the poetry of Kabir, Mira and the Sufi Sindhi poet Shah Abdul Lateef Bhitai and Bhanwari Devi from Rajasthan who epitomises women empowerment and sings Kabir's poetry in a male-dominated arena by having a 'ghoongat' on her head and a mike in her hand. Apart from this, there's also a song, story and dance presentation on Kabir titled Katha Akatha that features Jaya Madhavan, author of Kabir the weaver poet book, and revolves around three sisters who share with the audience how they have been influenced by Kabir. Screenings of movies based on the saint's life comprise the rest of the schedule.
According to Priti Turakhia, festival co-ordinator, the biggest challenge this year was to get adequate funds for the event. After they couldn't get support from corporate giants, the organisers thought of turning it into a community effort by involving common people and educating them via the Internet and through publicity drives, flyers and posters. 

Turakhia says that what sets off this year's festival different from last year is the fact that they are now reaching out to more areas and trying to connect folk musicians with smaller audiences in Mumbai. The cultural event, which was conceptualised over a period of two months and has around 30 people working on it, aims to reach out to adults, youngsters and children alike. As a result, the organsiers thought of conducting the programme in schools and colleges.

At: DG Khetan International School, Malad (W); Urdu Markaz, Bhendi Bazaar; The Village, Raghuleela Mall, Vashi; Digital Academy, MIDC, Andheri (E); Prithvi House, Juhu and Carter Road Amphitheatre, Khar (W) (all events are free of charge)
Call: 9619881102/9869462833

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