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Bhakti Utsav: Dialling D for devotion

There are three ways in which we can relate to devotion in music,” says Rajeev Bhargava, director of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies. As a political theorist, Bhargava doesn’t usually step into the empirical puddle of sociology.

art and culture Updated: Apr 22, 2011 22:08 IST
Amitava Sanyal

There are three ways in which we can relate to devotion in music,” says Rajeev Bhargava, director of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies. As a political theorist, Bhargava doesn’t usually step into the empirical puddle of sociology.

But as a music lover, he has waded right into the subject by penning the foreword to this year’s Bhakti Utsav. He explains: “You can listen to it only musically — in which case, it wouldn’t be easily reducible to one of the nine rasas. Two, to listen to it the way we relate to anything outside ourself. The third way, through text, could be really difficult. For example, in Saguna songs it’s difficult to distinguish between love and devotion because its so personalised. And in Nirguna, how do you relate to an abstract without any qualities?”

Listeners at the eighth edition of Delhi’s best-known concert of devotional music will not be put through such tugs: Manganiyar Padmaram Meghwal promises to sing both Saguna and Nirguna bhajans tomorrow.

But how is the devotional aspect switched on in music? Psychologists Jamshed Bharucha and Meagan Curtis of Tufts University claim the minor third clearly signifies sadness in music as in speech. But such research hasn’t yet been done on devotional music.

Whatever one’s cultural baggage, it’s undeniable that people can feel it. And that’s what listeners at this weekend’s concerts hope to take home from songs and chants set in Sanskrit, Tamil, Hindi, Malwi, Rajasthani and Urdu.

Rajeev Bhargava’s brother Sanjeev, director of the eighth edition of the concerts, feels it on his goose-pimpled skin.

Ustaad Rashid Khan feels it in the notes. “You cannot but feel it when you sing Yaman, Marwa or Pooriya. I know I’m singing for uparwala (god). So the bhaav (emotion) is bound to follow... What else is the pukaar (call) about?”

Here’s hoping Delhiites get to listen to the answer to the call, too.

Today and tomorrow, 6.30 pm, at Nehru Park. A live webcast will be available at www.sehernow.in