Kahat Kabir: Kabir’s poetry and thoughts are timeless

We caught up with Kabir enthusiast, Carnatic musician and guitarist, Vedanth Bharadwaj, on his journey with the Sufi saint, music and more.


[Editor’s Note]  The Kahat Kabir series is an ode to the mystic weaver-poet and radical reformer who was equally loved and contested in his times. The most quoted poet of today, Kabir, his famous Dohas and his philosophies remain critically relevant to contemporary times. Come discover Kabir through modern music, books, films, experiences and more.

A classically trained Carnatic musician, qualified guitarist from the Trinity College of Music, London, and Kabir enthusiast, Vedanth Bharadwaj has been practicing and performing music over the last 8 years in Chennai. Vedanth makes music for films, documentaries, advertisements, albums, theatre and dance productions.

With his unique style of singing Indian Classical and folk music and accompanying himself on his guitar, Vedanth has given concerts at renowned theatres like the Playhouse Company South Africa, Singapore, Ladakh Music Confluence 2010, TED Conference 2011, Congo Square Jazz Festival in Kolkata 2010, Chennai Sangamam 2012, Coimbatore Vizha 2011, Fireflies Festival 2011, TEDx Chennai 2012, and more.

We caught up with the singer on his passion for Kabir, music and more:

When and how did the influence of Kabir enter your life?

Kabir came into my life when I was a student at Rishi Valley School. My friends used to play audio tapes of Pandit Kumar Gandharva. It was through his music and renditions of Kabir, that Kabir came into my life. I used to sing his songs while strumming the guitar. A few years later, when I began discovering the depth of the meaning in every song, it all started to make sense.

How has the experience informed your music?

The experience of singing the poems of Kabir has made my music more minimal and true. Kabir’s lyrics are so stark that they just make me stick to the meaning of the song. The song decides the path and course it wants to take and surprises me with the truth that it brings in. I have been able to let go of myself and my music a lot more. It’s a great feeling.

Kabir’s poetry is known to have found expression in a variety of musical styles that cut across cultural boundaries, ranging from folk to the qawwali. How has classical music featured in this canvas? Do you see classicism as being antithetical to what Kabir represented?

I feel Kabir’s poetry cannot be pinned down to any particular genre or form of expression. His poetry is an embodiment of free expression. We have great folk and classical musicians singing his songs. We also have students, travellers, and people of all kinds, places and religions singing his songs. Each one feels and reaches out to Kabir in his/her own individual way.

It’s amazing to see an entire movement inspired by Kabir. We do see philosopher-poets endure through music and literature. But Kabir has transcended this to affect people’s ways of living in very tangible ways. How do you see this?

According to folklore, Kabir was a movement even when he was alive and affected people’s ways even then. He saw the bigger picture, beyond human kind, God, nature, the universe… and that bigger picture is beyond time. I don’t think by singing songs of Kabir or any other philosopher-poets, I or any other musician or artist are bringing them back to life and spreading their word. Their poetry has lived through hundreds of years and will continue to live.

Personally, what has this journey with Kabir meant to you? Anecdotes/highlights you’d like to share with us?

Personally I have been able to learn a lot more about myself. And through this – more about my music, the people and the world around me. More than a guide, his words have been a friend to me and I feel very safe and at home while in them. At the same time, his words also disturb me and make me feel very uncomfortable. I think this is my way of learning true ‘acceptance’.

How has the experience at the Kabir festival been?

This is the first time I am performing at the Kabir Festival in Bombay and it was great. I enjoy collaborating with my friend Bindhumalini. She is an amazingly talented singer with a voice that can pierce through your soul. The other musicians at the festival – Shabnam Virmani, Prahlad Singh Tipanya, Mukhtiyar Ali, Mooralala Marwada, Parvathy Baul and Lakshman Das Baul are all people I really admire. I was also fortunate to travel with them as a part of the Kabir Yatra in Rajasthan.

Kabir and his music really grow on you, as most people will affirm. Here’s an introduction to the same: The Essential Kabir listening list, picked out by Vedanth.

Also read:

Dastangoi is the most minimalistic way to tell a great story: Ankit Chadha
Walking with Kabir
Kahat Kabir: Mast hua toh ab kya bolein


  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Preeti Mohan is a practising lawyer in the courts in Tamilnadu. She is deeply interested in socio-legal issues and their impact on the evolution of the law, and juxtaposes academic analysis with the real-life experiences of court practice. She is interested in the study and analysis of the Indian constitution, its values and norms and has published papers on the same. Preeti is drawn naturally to ... more

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  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Preeti Mohan is a practising lawyer in the courts in Tamilnadu. She is deeply interested in socio-legal issues and their impact on the evolution of the law, and juxtaposes academic analysis with the real-life experiences of court practice. She is interested in the study and analysis of the Indian constitution, its values and norms and has published papers on the same. Preeti is drawn naturally to ... more

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