The word Sufi is misused in Bollywood: Kavita Seth

Candid interview with singer Kavita Seth, who is gearing up for Anandotsav - an annual Sufi concert held in Mumbai

Kavita Seth, the versatile Sufi singer, also known for Bollywood songs like Iktara (Wake Up Sid) and Tumhi Ho Bandhu (Cocktail), along with her musical group Karwaan, is all set for their annual Sufi Concert. Titled, Anandotsav, the event is organised to celebrate the birth anniversary of Seth’s mentor, guide and husband, late Shri KK Seth. This year’s edition will have poems of Mirza Ghalib set into Sufi notes by Seth. We caught up with the singer amid her busy schedule. Excerpts from the interview:

Kavita Seth interview

Q. Tell us about Karwaan
A. It all began when it was Maulana Rumi’s 800th birthday in 2007. I was performing with musicians from Iran and Afghanistan and we formed a bond and slowly that turned into Karwaan. Since then, many musicians from across India have joined us and now each year we organise two concerts — Anandotsav in June and Nirvana in December.

Q. What attracted you to Sufi music?
A. My musical journey started in Bareilly with my father taking me to the dargah everyday. Performing at the Khankahe Niyazia Dargah felt like a blessing. It was a concert organised by Muzzafar Ali Sahab titled, Jahan-e-Khusrow in Delhi, 10-12 years ago. That was the turning point of my life. Sufi musicians from the world over attended the festival. I performed with Abida Parveen ji, which is the most precious moment of my life as at that time nobody knew me. However, it was my mentor, guide, guru KK Seth who introduced me to Rumi and I fell in love instantly with the genre of music. Sufism is where I found my love and peace.

Q. What is your take on the Sufi scene in India?
A. Sufi music has found its way to the hearts of people of all age groups. It is heartening to see some wonderful artists perform their own compositions. However, I think the word Sufi is being misused to a great extent in Bollywood. Just by adding words like Maula and Khuda, a song doesn’t become Sufi.

Q. Do you have any plans to make it more relatable to the younger crowd?
A. Absolutely. My latest album Trance with Khusrow is my way of connecting to the younger audience to Sufi music. I collaborated with my son Kanishk and we blended Sufi with contemporary Trance music.

Q. You seem to be very selective when it comes to Bollywood projects.
A. My parents aptly named me Kavita. I love poetry. Whenever I work with music directors, I request them to share the lyrics of the songs first. The poetry has to appeal to me. In fact, if the lyrics are good, factors like money and budget hardly matter to me. I believe that the words are what stay with you forever. When I sang Tumhi Ho Bandhu, I wasn’t even aware about the actors of the film, I loved what Irshad Kamil had written and immediately accepted the offer. I do not sing a dozen songs a year. I am glad that the one or two I do become.

Anandotsav, will be held at the Nehru Center this Wednesday. For more details log on to

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