Sufi Sutra is an annual three-day peace music festival held in Kolkata that brings about a convergence of ideas on truth, harmony, peace and divinity. The cultural dialogues have developed mutual knowledge on world Sufi and traditional music, and created scopes for performances by Indian artistes in the countries from which Sufi singers come to perform here, augmenting the livelihoods of rural artistes in India.
The concerts began in 2011; thus 2015 is the fifth consecutive year that Sufi Sutra has been held. Last year Sufi Sutra travelled to Patna. This year it travelled to Goa, where it was hosted by Kala Academy. Both the festivals were held earlier this month.
Like every year, this year too Sufi Sutra in Kolkata saw a multinational participation, augmented by a pan-Indian presence. There were Sufi groups from Egypt, Morocco, Denmark, Tunisia and Brazil. In the case of India, singers came from Gujarat, Rajasthan and of course, West Bengal.
From Egypt came the group Mawlawiyah, led by Amer Eltony, which tries to present the Egyptian heritage on the international stage by highlighting its peculiarity and cultural identity.
The group from Morocco was an all-woman group. Hadarrattes Souiriyattes performed on the first day, that is, February 6. Haddarates means ‘divine presence,’ and the nine-member team practices dance-inducing chant music. Hadarrattes Souiriyattes is taking considerable efforts to revive this cultural and religious heritage which speaks of the divine presence; that sense of elevation, of love and inner peace. The group from Denmark, Seranas, comprises professional musicians, singers and dancers. Like Hadarrattes, it also comprises of women, of emerging Muslim female artistes.
Tunisian Sufi music is distinguished by diverse content and musical expressions; it reflects the richness of Tunisian musical language. The group, Mechket represented Tunisia at Sufi Sutra 2015. Esteemed Moroccan singer, flamenco dancer, author and campaigner, Karen Ruimy, joined forces with the eminent sonic wizard, Youth, for a very special presentation of their captivating ‘ZIKR’ project.
A Samba band, Projeto Sarava, represented Brazil. It presented original compositions as well as the interpretations of popular musical genres. Projeto Sarava takes inspiration from great Brazilan musicians on a national as well as a local level, where it interprets their music with a more contemporary approach.
From India, Rajasthan, Gujarat and West Bengal were represented. Sidi Goma from Gujarat performs in a group of twelve – four lead musicians and eight dancers. It presents an overview of Sidi ritual performance, including Baithi Dhamal, which includes the singing of zirks or songs of remembrance and devotion, and Khari Dhamal, which consists of joyful and satirical dances in praise of the Sidis’ saint, who is attributed with giving them the joy they express in their dances. From Rajasthan came the famous Kasam Khan and his band of Langas, or folk singers who sing Sufiyana Kalam and Punjabi folk songs. Kasam Khan and his team have mesmerized the audience with their soulful music.
West Bengal was represented by East West Local, a collaborative initiative between Goan and Bengal musicians, presenting what can be called trans-Bangla music – Bengali folk-based (including Bhawaiya, Bhatiyali, Baul, Fakiri, and Jhumur ) world music.
Like every year, those three days in February at Mohar Kunj saw a mélange of some of the most soulful music that one can imagine. All the participants enjoyed to their utmost, as did the audiences. As Slim Baccouche, leader of the Tunisian group, Mechket, pointed out, “Coming here, I found how small the world is if you look at it through a musical lens.”
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