Sufi Sutra - Celebrating Bengali folk music

Sufi Sutra - Celebrating Bengali folk music

January 30, 2014

Sufi Sutra celebrates music for peace, universal love and brotherhood. Every year Sufi singers from across the world leave the audience spellbound at this international festival of mystical and peace music in Kolkata. There are workshops during the day and concerts at night. The workshops provide opportunity for multinational and multi-cultural exchanges. The festival blends the ideas of harmony, truth, peace, love, brotherhood and self-belief through music from Asia, Europe and Africa. The exhibition on Sufism and Sufi music builds awareness about this mystical aspect of Islamic culture. The 2013 exhibition on the theme ‘Music for Peace’ highlighted the historical importance of peace music concerts in resolving human conflicts, thereby stating the enormous scope Sufi music harbours in furthering the cause of peace.

Attended by a crowd of over 30,000, this three-day festival held at Mohur Kunj park serves as a forum for people to delve deeper into the world of Sufism. It has been aptly termed ‘The Woodstock of Kolkata’ by the famous film director, Goutam Ghosh.

Sufi Sutra 2013: Guests and artistes together enjoyed the workshops

Tapestry of universal brotherhood

Through Sufi Sutra, motley threads of diverse culture, language, ethnicity and music from different parts of the world get weaved into a tapestry of universal brotherhood and bonhomie, and a fusion music is created that resonates the language of peace and oneness. It brings about a convergence of ideas about truth, harmony, self-belief and peace through the common language of music, song and dance.

Sufi Sutra is a peace concert pledging to establish a closer collaboration among nations, greater understanding between diverse cultural traditions, creating music transcending physical barriers and bringing about a reunion of soul through the language of the heart. The musical extravaganza showcases the world’s best Sufi musicians in the city of culture, bringing together musicians from Asia, Europe and Africa.

Sufi Sutra 2013: The Sidi Goma team from Gujarat at one of the workshops


Sufi Sutra began in 2011 at Nicco Park. 3000 visitors witnessed this first-of-its-kind festival in eastern India for a span of three days. This huge response to a brand new festival ensured that there was no looking back. Since then, it has been held on an annual basis. From 2012, the venue shifted to Mohar Kunj and it continues to be held there. At the 2013 edition, more than one hundred Sufi singers, dancers and musicians from different parts of the world celebrated the quest for the divine through love.

The festival is organised by the social initiative, and the programmes are designed by tabla and fusion maestro, Pandit Tanmoy Bose. Says Banglanatak head Amitava Bhattacharya, "This event will be an amalgamation of Sufi practitioners and Sufi performers. At Mohar Kunj, one will get to see mystics who sing at dargahs and holy shrines all over the world." According to Bose, Sufi Sutra is “not about language, it’s about rhythm and melody.”

Amjad Ali Khan (right) inaugurating Sufi Sutra 2012, along with Tanmay Bose (left) & Amitava Bhattacharya

The performers

Some of the best in the world of Sufi music have attended the festival over the last few years. Individuals and ensembles from Azerbaijan (Azerbaijan State Ensemble of Ancient Musical Instruments; Sakina Ismayilova and her troupe), Denmark (The Orient West Choir), Egypt (Amer Eltony and his Mawlawyah troupe – twice; Elkawmeya Folkloric Music Troupe), Hungary (Sondorgo band), Morocco (Marouane Hajji et L’Ensemble Akhawane), Iran (Baran Ensemble; Sahar Lotfi, Maryam Gharasou and their troupe), Afghanistan (Nawab Khan and Ensemble), Bangladesh (Banglar Lalon Goshthi, led by Anuseh Anadil), Syria (Tahleeleh Group), Tajikistan (Somon Ensemble), Russia (Otava Yo band), Spain (Curro Pinana, Carlos Pinana, Nadia Marquez, in flamenco guitar, flamenco songs, flamenco dance, respectively) and Tunisia (Slim and his Mechket group) have so far performed at Sufi Sutra.

Among the national performers have been individual singers and troupes from West Bengal (Baul Fakiri singers from Nadia and Murshidabad; Arman Fakiri and his Bangla qawwali team), Bihar (Nirgun artistes), Delhi (Dhruv Sangari and team; the group Nizami Khusro Bandhu), Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh (Warsi Brothers), Rampur, Uttar Pradesh (Haji Modh. Ahmad Khan Warsi and team), Bikaner, Rajasthan (Mir musicians, led by Vasu Khan; Langas folk singers from Bhap village), Kashmir (Kashmir Music Society) and Gujarat (Sidi Goma team).

The Indian singers get good exposure, and it brings with it lots of benefits. According to Bhattacharya, following the success of Sufi Sutra I, rural singers got the opportunity to showcase their art in places like Tunisia, Geneva, London and Damascus.

Sufi Sutra 2011: Baul Fakiri singers from West Bengal

Sufi Sutra 2012: Azerbaijan State Ensemble performers

Sufi Sutra 2012: Otava Yo from Russia

Message of universal love

Sufi is meant to blur barriers. Sufi compositions convey a message of peace, acceptance, brotherhood and universal love. The Orient West Choir from Denmark, composed of Israeli and Palestinian orchestra members, is a lesson in itself. Led by Dalia Faitelson, the ensemble attempts to "break down the barriers between Jewish and Palestinian musicians, thereby embracing one of the most pertinent political topics of our times." 

As Shakespeare said, “If music be the food of love, play on.”

Sufi Sutra 2012: Orient West Choir from Denmark


DATES: Friday, January 31 to Sunday, February 2, 2014

TIME: From 6 pm to 9 pm every day, 3 teams will perform
           From 11 am to 2 pm every day, 2 international teams will conduct workshops

VENUE: Mohar Kunj, Race Course, Hospital Road, Hastings, Kolkata

PARTICIPANTS: Teams from Bangladesh, Iran, Portugal, Spain, Denmark, Sweden,   
                             Rajasthan, Punjab and West Bengal

The workshops will be a platform for informal interaction with the audience and media, where the artistes will explain their music and instruments.

No passes or tickets are required to enjoy the soulful music.

Confluence of nine teams marked the end of Sufi Sutra 2013

Mohar Kunja

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Comments (2)
Joydeep Roy Reply
February 02, 2014
Missed it :(
Mrinmoy Reply
February 01, 2014
Will visit as soon as it reopens with my family :)
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