Attend the eighth edition of The Kabir Festival in Mumbai

Updated: Jan 18, 2018, 09:12 IST | Snigdha Hasan

A community-run festival celebrating the poet-saint Kabir, will take his message across the length and breadth of Mumbai

The festival often sees participation by an impromptu audience
The festival often sees participation by an impromptu audience

Every January, 30-odd spirited Mumbaikars from diverse backgrounds and locations take time out of their legal practices, corporate jobs, NGOs and scholarly pursuits to volunteer for The Kabir Festival that celebrates the message of universal brotherhood and love through the verses of the 15th-century poet-saint, and other mystics and visionaries of India. Entering its eighth edition, the festival is inspired by the Kabir Project, which was founded by documentary filmmaker Shabnam Virmani who, in the aftermath of the Gujarat riots, travelled with folk singers who have sung Kabir's verses for generations.

Baul music at the fest
Baul music at the fest

With over 30 artistes from across India and 15 events featuring music and dance performances, documentary screenings, storytelling sessions and workshops, the four-day festival is spread across 10 venues spanning north and south Mumbai, as well as Navi Mumbai. "Over the years, we have felt the need to create different programmes for different venues in the city. Though people are keen to attend the festival, traffic and distances act as big deterrents. Which is why, we have programmes from Dahisar to Dadar, and Navi Mumbai to Juhu," shares volunteer Pankti Shah-Gala, who works as a strategic manager with an organic produce brand.

Performances by Ankit Chadha
Performances by Ankit Chadha

Talking about the evolution of the festival, she says, "The first edition had corporate funding. But we have gradually moved away from sponsorships, and the festival has organically transformed into a community-run event." There are members, for instance, who pitch in with vehicles for artistes to commute in, while others open up their homes to put up performers. Others recommend and make arrangements for various things including new venues.

Performances by Sanjukta Wagh
Performances by Sanjukta Wagh

The Kabir community includes artistes themselves, many of whom have been associated with the festival since inception. Among them is well-known folk singer from Madhya Pradesh and Padma Shri recipient Prahlad Singh Tipaniya, who, apart from his rendition of Kabir's verses, will also conduct a workshop on contextualising the ideas of Kabir in modern life this year.

Delhi-based writer and storyteller Ankit Chadha is premiering his musical dastaan, Prarthana - A Celebration of Death Through Gandhi's Life, to commemorate Mahatma Gandhi's 70th death anniversary. "I was invited to be a fellow at Sabarmati Ashram where I spent a few months reading his writings from the last five years of his life. Just as Gandhiji's life was his message, his death was his message, too," says Chadha. The music for the performance is by Chennai-based Carnatic and Hindustani vocalist Vedanth Bharadwaj.

The festival also partners with NGOs and projects to take music where it can be at its therapeutic best. Bringing a UP-based folk rendition, Bujhni (riddle), to Mumbai for the first time is the Delhi-based band Manzil Mystics, which works amidst students of municipal schools and NGOs in the capital. They will also conduct several workshops for children. Says founder Anurag, "While we teach music to children, our project also focuses on the learning that happens through music. Because when you are close to music, it stirs something in you."

From: Today till January 21
At: Multiple venues across Mumbai
Log on to: facebook.com/kabirfestivalmumbai (for complete schedule)

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