help@ktnewslive.com
entertainment

A poet and a tambura

21views


At 68, the silver-haired folk singer Prahlad Tipaniya has a dedicated following among today’s urban youth. Performing at festivals across the country, he sings bhajans in Malwi folk style and plays tambura alongside, triggering a rising interest in Kabir Das, the 15th century mystic poet

His experience as a teacher in a government school in a Madhya Pradesh village finds a way to the stage. In between songs, the Padma Shri awardee’s performances are laced with subtle messages via Kabir’s sharp verses. He explains the gist of the layered couplets, after playfully telling his know-it-all urban audience, “Aap toh jante hi hain (you people already know)….”

Edited excerpts from a freewheeling conversation before a performance in Delhi:

Folk singer Prahlad Tipaniya
| Photo Credit:
SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Q / Why do you think it took time for Kabir to find space in an urban milieu?

A /
I feel he was kept out because Kabir openly talked against hypocrisy and ostentation. His message could not reach as many people as it should have. There are compilations of his compositions but not many litterateurs wrote about Kabir before the 20th century. It was Hazari Prasad Dwivedi who wrote about him and his work, centuries after he lived.

Q / Then how did his songs survive?

A /
Like many medieval saints from the nirgun parampara (the tradition that follows the formless god), Kabir was not formally educated. He came from the lower strata of society that had no right to education and limited access to worship. But he continued to find an audience because he talked of cherishing shared spaces in a divisive world in the language of the common man. I have not visited any college or university library for the songs of Kabir. What I have gathered is through the oral tradition by listening to local Kabir groups in villages who themselves have had no formal education. This is how his thought survived.

Q / How were you introduced to Kabir?

A /
Through an instrument. I am the first person in my family to get into music and singing. As a student, I came across Kabir’s  sakhis (a string of couplets) in the school curriculum out of which one was compulsory for the exam. Much later, when I became a school teacher of Biology in Madhya Pradesh, I realised that Kabir sang bhajans as well. Many of them are not in books. One night, I went to attend a performance of Kabir songs by a local mandali in a nearby village. More than the songs, I liked the sound of tambura. When I asked about it, the group gifted me one. As I was passionate about it, I shifted to the village. There, I was told that if I have to play it, I should first learn to sing. This is how I started singing Kabir. Being a science student, I noticed that whatever Kabir wrote is drawn from nature and experiences. This made me a lifelong disciple.

Q / Hindu, Muslim, poet, saint, avatar, people see Kabir from different prisms. What is your take?

A /
Kabir — like Bulle Shah and Guru Nanak — belongs to all. Kabir spoke against orthodoxy, communalism and casteism. He said Ram and Allah belong to all, not just one group. When the followers of Kabir meet, they do bandagi to each other; it means looking into eyes of each other. When you see your reflection in the eyes of the person in front of you, you realise that the force that runs him drives you as well. Then you will not deceive each other.

Q / How did your songs spread?

A /
In the late Nineties, we approached a local music label to record Kabir songs but it refused. We decided to pay them for recording 200 cassettes and recovered the cost by selling them during our programmes in villages. During these performances, we came across members of denotified tribes who were called to serve tea and clean the venue. Inspired by what they listened to, they requested us to perform in their deras (camps) Over a period of time, many of them shed their aggressive behaviour and their life of crime and bootlegging. In one instance, after a performance in a village at the Rajasthan-Madhya Pradesh border, a dacoit turned up for the programme and expressed remorse over his actions, after the performance.

Q / But the reformist approach didn’t help when you fought the Lok Sabha election?

A /
Those who want to serve can’t survive among those who seek. Also, the electorate’s expectations from politicians are quite different. People know the right path but they don’t necessarily walk on it.

Q / Did you face discrimination because of your caste?

A /
No, I was never discriminated against but some people find it hard to digest that Kabir sang bhajans. It took some time for the classical artists to take up Kabir. When the master of Hindustani classical music, Kumar Gandharv, came to Devas to recuperate from an illness, he didn’t sing for a long time. During this period, he listened to local groups who sang Kabir. When he recovered, he incorporated Kabir into his repertoire but his detractors asked why is he singing songs of low-caste people. This mindset has not completely vanished.

Q / Perhaps, because he talked of a formless almighty?

A /
Both can coexist; but form can at times confuse people, formless (expression) can’t.

Prahlad Tipaniya during a performance 

Prahlad Tipaniya during a performance 
| Photo Credit:
SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT



Source link

Leave a Response