This time Jahan-e-Khusrau will have a taste of Punjabi sufi

The 15th edition of three-day Annual World Sufi Music Festival Jahan-e-Khusrau from March 6 to 8 is here to mesmerise the audience with soulful music

This time Jahan-e-Khusrau will have a taste of Punjabi sufi

Rana Siddiqui Zaman

The 15th edition of three-day Annual World Sufi Music Festival Jahan-e-Khusrau begins on March 6 and will last till March 8 at Arab Ki Sarai, Humayun’s Tomb and this time, Unlike its past editions, its theme is ‘Let Love Reign’ as its founder Muzaffar Ali reveals, it will have more of Punjabi asar. Why Punjab? “Aur sufism bacha hi kahan hai?” Ali throws rhetoric, adding that it’s because artistes from Punjab largely do not indulge in politics. “They begin with Gurbani and Shabad and it's a must for them to learn it. Music runs in their genes,” he says.

No wonder it aims to bring innovative styles and ensemble verses from Bulleh Shah, Baba Fareed, Nakak Shah Faqeer and more. All verses are chosen, translated and composed by none other than Ali himself, a scholar of Arabic, Persian and Urdu. Notably, the USP of Jahan-e-Khusrau is that each time performers do something new, often composed by Ali himself. “We train artists however senior they are, to humbly orient them into the ethos of Jahan-e-Khusrau,” he points out.

Gurdas Mann and Nooran sisters remain the highlights while other artists include Ali’s son Murad and a new, young girl called Jasleen, a soulful Gurbani reciter and a first timer in ghazal singing with modern beats “with classic bhav”. Shinjani, Pandit Birju Maharaj’s grand-niece will dance to the beats with a dance troupe. Jasleen will sing an ensemble that Ali has prepared for her -- a kalam from Hazrat Zaheen Shah ‘Taaji’ from Karachi, a 19th Century Sufi poet and philosopher (1902-1978).

The first day will begin with an ode to Rumi by Murad Ali and Manjari Chaturvedi. “I will do cross-cultural poetry -- a mix of Ameer Khusrau, Warish Shah, Nazeer Akbarabadi and Ali Shah Kalandar”, shares Murad of his preparation for the evening.

The day one will also have performances by classical vocalist and Sufi singer Smita Bellur and Nooran Sisters.

“We will sing Baba Bulle Shah’s Kalaam and Sufiyana like Main yaar ka diwana, Mera Yar hi Khuda hai, apart from Tere bina dil nahi lagda, tu jaan wali baat na karin, a qawwali by Ahmad Sabir Sahab from Pakistan, a few from Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan like “Ankhiyan udeek diyan and Saanso ki mala and conclusion will be as usual on Damadum Mast Kalandar,” share Nooran Sisters.

This time Jahan-e-Khusrau will have a taste of Punjabi sufi

Day two will see Saqinama by Khusravana Group, songs by a fast emerging, young Sufi singer Dr Mamta Joshi and renditions by Punjabi folk singer Kanwar Grewal.

Gurdas Mann will perform on the concluding day. “He is spiritual. Unmain roohaniyat hai kyunki vo dargah se jude hain,” Ali reasons for inviting him this time adding he has given Mann his ensemble of creations.

Maan’s wife shares, “Maan Sahab will sing Baba Bulle Shah’s Kalaam apart from Khusrau, Hazrat Nizamuddin and Sufi Malik Niazi’s ji’s Kalaam. Some are for instance Laj Pal Gal Lagaiyan, a self-written and composed Vandana, Challan, Dil da mamla. He usually sings his own compositions and Muzaffar Sahab also has sent him some lines.. When he reaches the stage, no one knows what he will sing. Vo to mast aadmi hain jee,” she laughs.

Ode to Khusrau by Prakriti Prashant with Kuchipudi dance choreographed by Radha, Raja Reddy’s troupe, is another attraction on the final day. Prashant is the duo’s disciple.

This time this fest focuses on youth too. Ali explains, “The youth of today is attracted to the idea of Ishq. They need fresh air, new thinking and philosophy. They should think they are entering into a new world of deep thinking. Jahan-e-Khusrau will try to help them understand Sufi poetry and its ethos.”

This time Jahan-e-Khusrau will have a taste of Punjabi sufi

The stagecraft that we see Meera and Muzaffar Ali create in Arab ki Sarai is majestic. Its backdrop of ruins is lit with mystically wavy long life-size lamps, the white fumes and blue lights along with green, red, violet and other hues highlight the performers and sound as per the need. The gaps below the stage are lit with dim lights forming a wavy blanket of sorts.

“When we first went to the Archaeological Survey of India to seek permission to have this venue for our festival, its official nearly jumped out of the chair. He asked us, “Do you even know it's a ruin?” We told him, 'the ruins are what will make it majestic’. We were granted permission but when we went to see it, we were shocked to see that it was a passage for every Tom Dick and Harry who would pee on its wall as if it was a public urinal. We blocked that passage connecting to the road, got it cleaned which took months. Each time after the fest is over, its forests grow and we clean it each year. It takes huge efforts.” explains Meera, a known fashion designer, who looks after the management of the festival from costumes to stagecraft.

What we miss in Jahan-e-Khusrau of late are international artists from the US, UK, Uzbekistan, Bangladesh, Turkey, Iran, Morocco, Mexico and more. “Yes this is sad. Earlier we used to have great support from Indian Council of Cultural Relations but now that support is over. And it is a set back for us.”

Artists from Pakistan like Abida Parveen were always a key drawer of the crowd in its previous editions but due to strained relations between the two countries, no artistes from Pakistan can come to perform here for now. Nonetheless, the duo always “look for and encourage fresh talents who do not get chances anywhere”.

Who goes for an artiste hunt? Or they come on their own?

“It's largely both ways but I take initiative, “Pyasa to main hoon na. Pyase ko hi dariya ke paas jana padtha hai”, Ali says.

This humility has kept the fest alive and kicking.

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