The Kabir Festival
Four films, one live concert based on the work of the fifteenth-century mystic poet
Kabir, the fifteenth-century poet who is one of the most intriguing and celebrated personalities in the history of Indian mysticism, will be the topic of an eponymous festival hosted by UC Berkeley’s Center for South Asian Studies from February 5 – May 1. Through an array of events including film screenings, lectures, and a musical performance, the festival will delve into Kabir’s influence in South Asian music, religion, and society today.
A provocative and challenging figure, Kabir is admired by Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, secularists, and atheists alike, as well as by followers of a Kabir sect who claim him as a God. At once a profound mystic, a biting social critic, and a Dalit hero, Kabir’s modern influence is especially notable in vibrantly diverse forms of music.
The 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. The films highlight folk and classical musicians who sing and reflect on Kabir’s poetry, as well as address Kabir’s presence in the social, religious, and political life of contemporary India and Pakistan. All four documentaries will be screened, along with discussions moderated by scholars specializing in Kabir’s works.
On May 1 the festival will culminate in a live performance by Prahlad Singh Tipanya, a renowned Kabir folksinger and one of the main artists featured in Virmani’s films. In 2008 Tipanya received the prestigious Sangeet Natak Akademi award from India’s National Academy of Music, Dance, and Drama.
For a complete list of events, see the Center for South Asian Studies website.