Soulful renderings

Updated: Feb 09, 2019, 08:51 IST | Snigdha Hasan

Ahead of her performance at a baithak revival series where she will bring verses by mystic poets to life, Sufi vocalist Kavita Seth on the intimate concert format, and composing music organically

Soulful renderings
Kavita Seth

A music concert where words of Sufi poets are set to stirring music. And to make their creations more accessible to the audience, the vocalist engages in a conversation with them, discussing the nuances of the meaning of a nazm. The audience members then respond with their own interpretation of what they just heard, and so begins a dialogue that continues long after the performance. This may be unheard of in a proscenium set-up in large auditoria, but such intimate concerts are what a baithak is all about.

This immersive experience is what well-known Sufi vocalist Kavita Seth will take the audience through at the upcoming edition of Haroof, a baithak revival series, initiated and curated by Alleyah Asghar. Its aim is to promote Hindustani gayaki forms among audiences, often by giving a platform to a younger crop of musicians. "Having grown up in an environment where we would listen to qawwals sing all night [often at someone's residence], I realised the concept of baithaks was almost absent in Mumbai. Which is why the Haroof series seemed like an ideal match for my musical philosophy," says Seth, who won several awards for her song Iktara in Wake Up Sid (2009).

The city-based artiste likens her repertoire for the evening to a bouquet of Sufiyana kalaam, nagmein, shayari and poetry by Kabir and Amir Khusrau, and contemporary artistes Syed Zia Alvi, Jagdish Prakash and Deepti Mishra. "I want to communicate these works to the audience with simplicity," shares Seth, who has composed a majority of the poems herself to the musical accompaniment of the santoor and flute.

Talking about her composition process, Seth tells us that once she falls in love with the words — or lyrics — it's all that keeps her occupied. "I was once working on Amrita Pritam's book of poems. It was the last thing I had read at night, and I woke up at the crack of dawn because I had found the perfect tune for a verse," she recalls. But this organic style of composing music is often at odds with how things work in Bollywood. "The pressure on composers is immense; while some can produce great work under such pressure, I work in a way that allows music to come naturally to me," she says.

In her own work towards popularising the baithak concept, Seth has started a series called Main Kavita Hoon, where she dedicates an entire concert to the works of one poet. "We did one in December last year with Dr Waseem Barelvi's [noted Urdu poet whose ghazals have been sung by Jagjit Singh] works in his presence, and it was well received," she shares. "Being able to ask the artiste what you have in mind, right there, adds so much warmth to a performance."

On: February 16, 8 pm
At: G5A Foundation for Contemporary Culture, Mahalaxmi.
Log on to: bookmyshow.com
Entry: Rs 500 onwards

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