Sunday, December 16, 2012

Ruhaniyat 2012

Upon entering a makeshift gate into the empty ground in front of the Jayamahal Palace hotel, a wind  of peace greets you leaving a sweet smile on your face. An Egyptian saintly artist is playing a Santoor like instrument on a mildly lighted stage under a tree which is reflecting rainbow colors from its branches. Such is the welcome imagery at the 12th edition of  Ruhaniyat 2012 organized by the Banyan tree group.

The way of the spirit or Ruhaniyat,  an annual Sufi Mystic Music festival, brings diverse Sufi artists under one theme - that of touching your soul. The Bangalore edition started with Zikr-e-Rigayi Fakirs from Andhra Pradesh, a 11 men troupe, singing devotional prayers. This was followed by Vaya quartet from Bulgaria. Trained from as early as five years of age, Vaya quartet uses vocal harmonics to sing traditional folk Bulgarian songs. Their voice has an angelic beauty and softness that transcends the language and its meaning, just close your eyes and you can feel the playfulness, the love and pure mood of celebration.
From Bangalore Events 2012

From Bangalore Events 2012

The next performance was by Kachra Khan and group performing various Sufi Kalam and mystic songs. One member of the group, sitting at far left with his kit-kit like instrument and an infectious energy just made our hearts dance inside us. This was followed by an impromptu Jugalbandi on stage between the group and two instrumentalists from Egypt. A mix of soulful instruments, sharp percussion beats, a slow cool breeze and artists who are just enjoying themselves , a recipe of unbound pleasure.

From Bangalore Events 2012

Parvathy Baul came next and i do not know how to describe her. She plays small table with her left hand, an ektara with her right hand, sings mostly at a high pitch and then dances with ghongroos on her legs - all at the same time. Parvathy has been associated with the festival since its first year and her solo performance transports one back to the age of Megha Dhake tara where the lone Baul singer is singing "Maaji tumhaar naam jaani na". How much i wish she would sing that line.

From Bangalore Events 2012

Just when you believe that you have seen the most extraordinary performance of the night comes the Egyptian duo of Dancing Dervishes performing the Tannoura. The following video is an example performance -

The evening was brilliantly anchored by Banyan Tree, every performance was preceded by the anchor explaining the theme or mood behind every rendition.  At the end of the Tannoura performance, as an FYI, the anchor mentions that each skirt weighs about 20 kgs in weight in case you thought that it was light to carry and whirl. Tannoura is an extension of Sufi whirling - a physically active meditation in which the dervish aims to reach the source of all perfection.

From Bangalore Events 2012

The final performance was an hr long plus Sufi Qawalli by Fareed Ayaz and group. Starting with the ever lively Allah Hoo, they sang Kabir vani, Baba Bulle Shah finally ending with Amir Khusro's Aaj Rang hai.  Qawalli as a performance is so rich, nuanced and meaningful, it is hard to fathom that the only instruments in play are harmonium, tabla and hand clapping. It has so much power that even a non-believer will start believing just to share the experience of praying like a Qawwal.

At the beginning of concert, i  had wondered - what would be the way of a spirit? (Ruhaniyat kise kehte hain). At the end, i knew the answer. It was in Parvathy Baul, it was in the spins of Devrishes, it was in the voice of Vaya quartet, and it is in the voice of a Qawwal. There are many Ruhaniyats, inshallah,  shayad humein bhi naseeb hogi!

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