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Soul over sound: A look at Navratri celebrations across Mumbai

Traditional and modern music means there is something for everyone, say mandals

The festival of song and dance is here and mandals across the city are hosting various Navratri celebrations. From live bands to recorded songs, the colours of the festival are alive in the dance rhythms and music played.

Celebration dance on in full swing at Mulund. Pics/Sameer Markande
Celebration dance on in full swing at Mulund. Pics/Sameer Markande

Umesh Kotian who is part of the organising party at the Amir Baug Navratri celebrations in Chembur says, “The days that lead up to Dussehra are always special for us as we work together as a community to plan and organise a grand event for one and all.”

Gujarati remix
“We are a South Indian temple and so tend to have a puja that is authentic to us. But when it comes to the dandiya raas we go with the Gujarati Mata Ji songs and remix which has been our tradition for many years now. We like to keep it simple as there are a number of seniors who attend the celebration,” says Kotian.

DJs and singers are trying to ensure that music is a mix of traditional and modern
DJs and singers are trying to ensure that music is a mix of traditional and modern

The Navratri at Amir Baug has been going on for the last 30 years and was started by the Gujarati families in the area. Kotian explains, “Sri Yogeshwar Shankar Seva Samiti is conducting the dandiya raas celebration. We strive to keep the tradition of dancing to authentic tunes alive.

We avoid Bollywood songs as they are too sensational. Gujarati members tell us about the latest dandiya raas songs so we can by CDs and play spiritual music.” Prasad Kambli from Durga Mata Mandal in Marine Lines says, “We have divided our time into slots from 7:30 pm to 10:30 pm.

Twirls are part of the whirl. Pic/Nimesh Dave
Twirls are part of the whirl. Pic/Nimesh Dave

One hour per segment — so there will be the Mata Ji songs in Gujarati followed by the Sanaddo remixes and finally all the Bollywood Navratri songs. This way the young as well as the old are happy.”

The mandal has organised a special Disc Jockey (DJ). Kambli adds, “Every year we have the same DJ and he manages to keep the crowds entertained with appropriate and lively music.” DJ Santosh who manages the mandal’s Navratri music says, “In an hour of each segment, I try to pack as much music as I can.

To manage to include maximum songs within a time limit is an art and being able to remix is very important. There are many old and new songs that people like and every day I try something new as well as at the same time try to ensure that the people who come to dance enjoy the music and have a good time.”

Divine songs
Pankaj Khoteja, one of the organisers at Naidu Club, Korakendra in Borivali says, “We do not have any Bollywood songs or remixes. Traditional Gujarati songs, aarti, folk and traditional music are played. Our Navratri celebrations is being aired on a devotional channel in 172 countries and so we want to keep it as divine as possible.”

Famed visually challenged flutist Kiran Vinkar is performing on all nine days at the Naidu Club. “To add to the soulful celebrations, we have a live band of 18 musicians which includes Vinkar performing for the 15,000 plus crowd. The Navratri celebration needs to move from commercial to religious which we are trying to do,” adds Khoteja.

Agreeing with him, Vasant Kadam of Navtaruni Mahila Mandal at Chembur says, “We have made the young people understand that while Bollywood music is fun to listen to, it is far from religious. We need to have a spiritual celebration. So our mandal is playing all the old as well as new Navratri bhajans.”

Sticking to Bollywood
While a majority of the Navratri organisers are saying that they will be going for soulful traditional, folk songs; people who go for dandiya want to dance to the tunes of Bollywood. Samrat Satam, 32, a businessman from Malad says, “We celebrate Navratri with garba and dandiya in our colony. The festival is all about different communities getting together and celebrating.

The Bollywood songs are peppy and young people like them. To keep with the religious spirit we have folk and traditional songs but these are not played for all three hours. We have asked our DJ to go with a mix of both kinds of songs.”

Agreeing that the song mixture is the golden mean, Hiren Shah who organises Navratri celebrations in Parel says, “Remixes and Bollywood are now in vogue for almost all Indian festivals. So that the young and old both enjoy, for the first few hours we have traditional music followed by modern songs. Since, Bollywood has many nice festive songs I see no harm in playing them.”

More about Navratri
>> The festival is dedicated to the worship of the Hindu deity Durga.
>> The word Navaratri means ‘nine nights’ in Sanskrit, nava meaning nine and ratri meaning nights.
>> During these nine nights and ten days, nine forms of Shakti/Devi are worshiped.
>> The tenth day is commonly referred to as Vijayadashami or Dussehra.
>> The dates of the festival are determined according to the lunar calendar.

Five filmi songs
>> Nagada Sangh Dhol from Ramleela
>> Tu Nathi Toh Tharo Photo (Photocopy) from Jai Ho
>> Shubhaarambh from Kai Po Che
>> Aata Majhi Satakli from Singham Returns
>> Gandi Baat from R... Rajkumar

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