Three passionate and talented Sufi singers are working hard to bring the Sufi philosophy of “unconditional love” to audiences. Their performance “Sounds of the Sufis” brings the genre of Interactive Musical Documentary Theatre Performance to India. The trio are Anuraag Dhoundeyal, Priyanka Patel, and Karan Chitra Deshmuk.
Anuraag is a musician trained in Hindustani classical music, and a music educator. Priyanka is a psychologist and arts educator, whereas Karan has been a tabla player and a drummer. “Sounds of the Sufis” emerged out of a music workshop that Anuraag and Karan did together. The idea was to spread awareness about the works of Sufi saints and explore what Sufism means in the Indian context.
Says Priyanka, “We were asked to convert the workshop into a performance to reach a larger audience. So, in 2014, Anuraag, Karan and I decided to go on a journey, to discover what Sufism means to different people. We met experts on Sufism, qawwals, dervishes from Turkey, and scholars on Sufism. After four-six months, we thought the most honest representation of this journey would be through the Documentary Theatre format, where the actors represent themselves in the play, and talk about their own life experiences.”
Karan says that Sufism isn’t just music. “It’s a philosophy, a way of life. We need to help audiences understand the essence of Sufism.” For the trio, the crux of Sufism boils down to “unconditional love”. The group has taken this message to audiences at the Prithvi Theatre Festival, the Kalaghoda Festival in Mumbai, Bangalore, Pune, Delhi, and more recently, London. “In London, we had people everywhere: they were sitting on the aisles, they were standing, and we even had people sitting on the stage behind us! It was crazy! The energy was exhilarating,” says Karan.
Adds Anuraag, “Our performance is contemporary and interactive. We also provide the audiences with booklets that have the lyrics and the meaning of the words.”
The group makes sure that the audience joins in the singing and clapping along. There have been times when people have gotten up and danced as well!
Catch the trio’s performance on June 29 at Stein Auditorium, India Habitat Centre, 7pm