Some of the best spiritual singers from the country — Parvathy Baul, Mukhtiar Ali, Warsi Brothers, and others — join whirling dervishes from Turkey for the eleventh edition of the Sufi and mystic music festival, Ruhaniyat.
Watch them perform under a star-lit sky at Horniman Circle, Mumbai this weekend.
With nine groups from different parts of the country being part of Ruhaniyat, the common thread that runs through the festival is the theme of devotion, spirituality and the feeling of oneness with God. “ Seventy per cent of the performances included in the schedule are new, while the remaining performances have been seen at Ruhaniyat earlier,” reveals Mahesh Babu, director of Banyan Tree Events, which organises Ruhaniyat. Babu spends seven months in a year meeting people who are practitioners of Sufism or Mysticism.
“ Music is puja for them, it’s part of their daily life. Listening to them transports me to a different world,” he adds. This year for the first time the line- up at the Sufi music festival includes Devaram, mystic hymns dating back to the 7th century from Madurai, Waee from remote villages of the deserts of Kutch and polyphony songs from Bulgaria.
Mystic minstrel from Bengal
Parvathy Baul, who has been a part of the festival since its first year, says it has always been a fantastic experience for her. “ All the artists who come there carry such a valuable treasure. We get the opportunity to meet not just artists but sadhakas and practictioners of Sufism,” she says.
Baul started studying the Baul parampara 18 years ago.
She lived with her gurus and learnt from them. “ Those were the best years of my life. It was such an uplifting relationship.
It’s a sublime relationship that takes you beyond the pettiness of daily life. It is a time when you can be a real student and surrender at the feet of the Guru,” reminisces Baul.
Ask her what is the one message that she thinks her music delivers, and she says, “ Love. Love more and more.
Practising love is Sahaja Yoga, a simple connection. When we sing and dance we lose the ego.
Love helps transcend all the dos and don’ts in life. You let yourself flow and experience a oneness with the universe,” she says. The singer believes that if love is paramount letting go of one’s ego is not so difficult. “ Let there be no duality.
Duality comes from ego.” To the layman it may appear that Baul lets herself flow without abandon and loses herself completely when she sings, “ On the contrary, I find myself,” she remarks.
“ We are lost most other times. When we are connected to the Lord, we find ourselves”. The love for the Lord is so eminent in everything she says, “ The love is hard to describe. I can only say, I have not fallen in love, I have risen in love,” she adds as she breaks into a laugh.
Tamil Nadu’s temple music
Mutukumaran and Kumaraswaminathan, who have come to the city from Kanjanur village in Thanjavur district of Tamil Nadu to be part of Ruhaniyat for the first time, believe that music is the most beautiful when it is sung to the Lord. They sing the music of the Nayanmars, the 63 Shaivite devotional poets/ saints of Tamil Nadu. “ We wake up the Lord with our songs. It’s our tradition to sing in the temples,” says Mutukumaran adding “ We are coming to Mumbai and we are going to be listening to Sufi music for the first time.” The music is passed on from one generation to another by word of mouth. Mutukumaran learnt from his father and now he is teaching his son as well.
For 26 generations, singer Mukhtiyar Ali’s family has been passing on their knowledge about the traditional music. Ali is famous for his Kabirbanis.
“ We will try to keep the tradition alive and my kids are learning Kabirbani from me,” he says. “ When I sing Kabir ( sic) I only feel one needs to understand oneself. If people listen to Kabir’s words and implement them, they will be able to realise and understand themselves a lot better,” he adds. Before signing off, he quotes words of Kabir, which have inspired him the most and he feels are most needed today: Pothi pad- pad jag mua pandit bhaya na koi, Dhai akshar prem ke pade so pandit hoye ( No one becomes a scholar, reading great books of the world, But he who has studied the four letters of ‘love’, is a learned man.)