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Kolkata’s music festival gaining world attention

The three-day festival is in its seventh year.

kolkata Updated: Feb 06, 2017 15:09 IST
Snigdhendu Bhattacharya
Snigdhendu Bhattacharya
Hindustan Times
Sur Jahan,Kolkata,Banglanatak dot com
Swedish folk band Ale Moller Quartet performing at Sur Jahan, World Peace Music Festival in Kolkata on Sunday, February 5, 2017.)(Samir Jana/HT PHOTO)

Zlata Holusouva, the director of the famous Czech music festival Colours of Ostrava who is also a member of European Forum of Worldwide Music Festivals, has come all the way down from Czechoslovakia to Kolkata to attend Sur Jahan, the music festival that had its seventh edition.

Saleem Zoughbi, president of Bethlehem Academy of Music, has come with the intention of taking a few leaves out of Sur Jahan’s book for a festival they are planning to organise in Palestine later this year.

The festival was earlier known as Sufi Sutra, and has started making its mark on the map of world music festivals in different parts of the world. It ended on Sunday.

Danish fold bank Virelai during a workshop in Kolkata. The man to the extreme right is playing hurdy-gurdy, an instrument that was becoming extinct about 200 years ago. ( Banglanatak dot com )

“We in Palestine, too, organise festivals with international bands. But the way Sur Jahan has brought a wide range of folk music together, along with various forms of folk art is something to learn from,” Zoughbi told HT.

“It has become an important festival celebrating tradition music of the world,” Holusouva said.

Annette Bellaoui, coordinator and co-founder of Copenhagen World Music Festival, has come to the festival for the second time. Her previous visit resulted in Bengali folk singers performing at Copenhagen World Music Festival. According to her, “This is a place to spot fresh talents in world music.”

During the evening concerts on Saturday, the second day of the three-day festival, when the members of BraAgas, an all-women band from the Czech Republic, enthralled the audience with Occitanian, Galician, Scandinavian and Balkan traditional music, Bengal’s scroll painter-singers known as potua, performing simultaneously on another dais, took the audience back to the world of Mangalkabya with their paintings accompanied by songs.

About an hour later, Darjeeling’s lion dancers and Purulia’s Natua dancers were performing on the small dais, while Danish band Virelai had got about a hundred members of the audience dancing in front of the main podium to medieval-era Scandinavian tunes.

Swedish band Elika Solo Rafael practising in the city. The man on the left is playing kora, a 21-string instrument that originated from West Africa. ( Banglanatak dot com )

It’s an open air festival where entry is free. Hundreds of music lovers gathered at the venue during the daytime workshops and evening concerts.

“The festival was initially aimed at promoting the Sufi and baul genre of music that preaches peace and love and, therefore, was named Sufi Sutra. As it grew in size we felt the need to bring together all forms of traditional music around the world and the festival has been rechristened as Sur Jahan,” said Amitava Bhattacharya of Banglanatak dot com that organises the event.

This year, five international bands performed alongside folk singers of Bengal and Punjab in Kolkata. From Kolkata they will perform in Goa (February 8 to 10).

The musicians brought along more than a dozen of folk instruments – such unique string instruments as the 21-string kora, the medieval-era cister, the dulcimer and the keyed string instruments called nyckelharpa and hurdy-gurdy, such drums as djembe, davul and darbouka and wind instruments chalameau and shawm.

Most of these instruments are of West Asia, West African and European origin.

First Published: Feb 06, 2017 15:09 IST