Khwaja mere khwaja dil mein sama ja You’ve probably heard this popular song by AR Rahman from the movie Jodhaa Akbar. But did you know its significance? That’s exactly what Sama’a: The Mystic Ecstasy, NCPA’s annual Sufi music festival, will help you find out. In its second year now, the three-day festival commences today at the NCPA Experimental Theatre with a poetry reading by Kabir Bedi of Mevlana Rumi, a 13th century poet and Sufi mystic.
The brainchild of Dr Survanalata Rao, head of programming (Indian music) at the NCPA, Sama’a is a tribute to the mystical tradition and is open to both patrons and those not in the know. "We wanted to put Sufi music in the right context. The ideology behind the music is the union with God. Orthodox Islam states that one will meet the Creator on the day of final judgment. Sufi followers believe that one can seek union with the Creator in this lifetime itself through music," she says.
The first day will see Bedi take the stage for a poetry recital along with excerpts of Sufi music in the background. "I enjoy Sufi music along with the ideology behind it, so I naturally accepted the offer when NCPA approached me," mentions Bedi. "The aspect of direct communion with God through music has always awed me. I especially like qawwali such as the works of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Abida Parveen." Rao mentions "Kabir has a powerful voice so I wanted him to do the reading. His rich lineage and interest in Sufism made him the ideal choice."
Day two performances include one by Tunisian dervishes Hadra Sidi Mansour ensemble, who will perform ‘brotherhood music’. The group, including singers, instrumentalists and a dancer, will present recitations and instrumental pieces. The generations-old repertoire retains the flavour of the Mediterranean coast of North Africa. Traditional qawwali by Haji Aslam Sabri and group marks the second half of the event.
The last day offers Sufiana compositions by singing duo, Roopkumar and Sunali Rathod. “I wanted to present contemporary expressions with known names to connect with the audience,” says Rao.