Kabir Festival at Stanford

Four films and a concert open the worlds of a great poet of fifteenth-century North India, Kabir, and his living presence in South Asian music, religion, and society today. A provocative and challenging figure who can’t be pinned down by any religious label, Kabir is admired by Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, secularists, and atheists, as well as by followers of the Kabir sect who claim him as a God. A profound mystic to some, a biting social critic to others, a Dalit hero to others, Kabir is all of these things and more. His presence today can be sought in multiple social locations and in vibrantly diverse forms of music.

Four new documentary films by Shabnam Virmani will be screened. The films highlight folk and classical musicians who sing and reflect on the poetry of Kabir; the films also tell stories, revealing issues that arise around Kabir’s presence in a variety of social, religious, and political contexts in India and Pakistan. The culmination of the festival will be the arrival of the filmmaker and of renowned Kabir folksinger Prahlad Singh Tipanya with his musical group on May 8, when we will screen the fourth film, followed by Q&A with the director, a dinner, and a live concert.

CO-SPONSOR: Society for Art and Cultural Heritage of India (SACHI)

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS: Descriptions of the films can be found at www.kabirproject.org. For further info, contact Prof. Linda Hess, lionda@stanford.edu

Thurs., Feb. 12, 7 p.m., film in Bldg 300, room 300
Had-Anhad—“Bound-Unbound”: Journeys with Ram and Kabir (105 min.)

Mon., Feb 23, 7 p.m., film in Bldg 200, room 205
Koi sunta hai: “Someone is Listening”—Journeys with Kumar and Kabir (96 min.)

Mon., Apr 20, 7 p.m., film in Bldg 200, room 203
Chalo Hamara des: “Come to my country”—Journeys with Kabir and friends (97 min.)

Friday, May 8 4-6 p.m., location TBA
Kabira khada bazaar mein: “In the market stands Kabir”—Journeys with Sacred and Secular Kabir (94 min.), followed by Q&A with the director and singer Prahlad Tipanya, who is featured in the film

6:30-7:30 Outdoor dinner (reservations required, modest charge to cover costs)

7:30-9:30, Concert in Annenberg Auditorium, Cummings Art Building Prahlad Singh Tipanya, renowned folksinger of Malwa, Madhya Pradesh, with fellow musicians Ambaram Tipanya, Ajay Tipanya, Vijay Tipanya, and Devnarayan Saroliya

Program at UC Berkeley

Thursday, Feb. 5, 2009, 5 pm – Film Screening – 10 Stephens Hall
Had-Anhad—”Bound-Unbound”: Journeys with Ram and Kabir (105 min.) Discussant: Vasudha Paramasivan (UC Berkeley)

Thursday, Feb 26, 2009, 5 pm – Film Screening – 10 Stephens Hall
Koi Sunta Hai: “Someone is Listening”—Journeys with Kumar and Kabir (96 min.) Discussant: Linda Hess (Stanford University)

Thursday, Mar 19, 2009, 5 pm – Film Screening – 10 Stephens Hall
Kabira Khada Bazaar Mein: “In the market stands Kabir”—Journeys with Sacred and Secular Kabir (94 min.) Discussant: Vasudha Dalmia (UC Berkeley)

Thursday, Apr 30, 2009, 5 pm – Film Screening – 10 Stephens Hall
Chalo Hamara Des: “Come to my country”—Journeys with Kabir and friends (97 min.) Discussant: Shabnam Virmani (Director)

Friday, May 1, 2009, 6 pm – Music Concert – Stephens Hall Terrace Prahlad Singh Tipanya and Party

PRAHLAD SINGH TIPANYA lives in Lunyakhedi village in the Malwa region of Madhya Pradesh, near the cities of Dewas and Ujjain. A rural schoolteacher, he began singing in the late 1970s after being attracted by the sound of the folk tambura. His rare talent, passion, and insight have caused him to be increasingly recognized as a remarkable exponent of Kabir’s music and meanings. Among many other honors, he received the prestigious Sangeet Natak Akademi award in 2008. (Sangeet Natak, India’s national academy of music, dance, and drama, gives eight annual awards to musicians, only one of which is reserved for a non-classical performer.) Tipanyaji is one of the main artists featured in Shabnam Virmani’s films. A grant for the musicians’ international travel has been generously provided by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations.

Award-winning filmmaker SHABNAM VIRMANI has spent the last six years producing four feature-length documentaries on living Kabir culture, focusing on music and musicians, all embedded in various social, political and religious contexts. Along with these films she has produced ten remarkable audio CDs and a set of beautiful books to accompany CDs and DVDs. This work has been generously supported by Ford Foundation and by Srishti College of Art, Design, and Technology in Bengaluru, where Shabnam is artist-in-residence. Two of these films were recently broadcast on NDTV-Delhi. Had-Anhad: “Bound Unbound” was one of two films selected to share first prize at the recent One Billion Eyes Film Festival in Chennai. For descriptions of the films and other creations, please visit www.kabirproject.org.

Stanford faculty member LINDA HESS has been translating and writing on Kabir for many years and has worked closely with Prahlad Tipanya and Shabnam Virmani since 2002. She is author, with Shukdeo Singh, of The Bijak of Kabir (Oxford University Press, 2002). Her book Singing Emptiness: Kumar Gandharva Performs the Poetry of Kabir is forthcoming from Seagull Books (http://www.seagullindia.com/books/forthenactment.asp), and a book on Kabir oral traditions in rural Madhya Pradesh is in progress. Prof. Hess will introduce these events.

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