Sur-Jahan, literally, music of the world, aims at doing just that - bring the world music of the world together, for global peace, harmony and the brotherhood of man. In its earlier avatar, the festival was known as Sufi-Sutra, an annual event that had curved out a niche for itself, both in the global musical calendar and in the hearts that beat as one, held each February in Kolkata with a follow up act in Goa.
A unique facet of the festival is the workshops it throws up – collaborations between the visiting bands and the local musicians and troupes. These workshops are in fact a tool – a binder of souls that brings diverse sounds from the far corners of the globe together – transcending the barriers of space and time in search of some greater truth. Workshops, that are a treat to the performing artists and the audience alike as they savor the process of creation, the union of musical strains in the melting pot of life.
Grant McFarlane of Cherry Grove, Scotland hit this chord of cultural assimilation through music when he said, “it has been very exciting to hear all the bands from all over the world. We don’t often get to hear the different cultures and their music. We were sitting in one of the concerts last night and were very excited about the music. We danced and enjoyed ourselves to the fullest. It was just amazing to experience the different types of music from all over the world”
Sidhu, the front man of the Bengali Rock Band from Kolkata, Cactus, who collaborated with the Cherry Grove also highly appreciative of the effort: “you know, when the weathers of the two countries are different, the music is ought to be different. This was kind of an amalgamation of genres of music”. His band mate, Dibyendu too, was equally enthusiastic “It was filled with positive energy throughout. There was a lot of energy and it was looking nice from the stage. I liked the audience a lot”.
Alanna McCuaige, who performed as part of the team Cherry Grove, both in Kolkata and Goa was swayed by the underlying spirit of the festival and was categorical in her desire to be a part and recreate the feelings in the future as well. “I would take this opportunity to thank everyone for Sufi Sutra - Amitava and his whole team. We would love to come back here and it has been a great experience”.
Mamadou Diabate , the front man of Percussion Mania, was much more detailed in his take : “I can say that Sufi sutra is a very big experience for me, and coming here and meeting such nice people feels amazing. The program was very good and my colleagues, who are now my brothers, sing very well. It’s fantastic and I have a very good feeling here. Sufi sutra is very well organized and I hope to come here every year and bring more musicians with me and to meet the children in India, particularly in Kolkata. It is very important to organize something like this. It’s good for the children and also for people like me who come from other countries and get a chance to promote their music and culture. If not for Sufi Sutra we wouldn’t have been here. Upal is like a big brother. Also, I just want to say that Sufi Sutra should organize more programs and bring more people from different countries together. Thank you very much for the invitation. We would love to get in touch with Upal and play music for his band”.
Upal, singer, composer and one of the lead vocals of cult Bangla Band Chandrabindoo, who collaborated with Percussion Mania was equally ecstatic “I was really scared in the beginning because this is a whole new experience for me. I feel that if one does something from their heart it is bound to succeed. And that’s what matters. It was a wonderful experience and I never thought that it would come out so well on stage. I am familiar with African music from quite a long time. I have heard a lot of musicians from Africa, but the people from Kolkata are not familiar with it. Africans have a great tradition of music. I think Sufi Sutra is doing a great job by bringing Africa and India, especially, Kolkata together. We are very eager to get a call from Burkina Faso, so that we can work with them again. I have also heard from Amitava of banglanatak that Mamadou’s band has a Kora player and we desperately needed one while recording our ninth album but we didn’t have anyone in Kolkata. In fact I am not sure if there is a Kora player in India. So I would love to contact them again through emails and work with them”.
“It is not only something that is esoteric” says Amitava Bhattacharya, of banglanatak dot com, who initiated the Sufi Sutra, has been the moving spirit behind its journey so far and is now preparing to take it forward with a new name and style “when Upal talks of incorporating a Kora player from Mamadou’s band, the richness that such an introduction brings to the music that emerges, is also a goal achieved for the festival. Similar is the case when musicians from Africa talk about enjoying the company of children in Kolkata”.
At the end of the day” says Amitava with a smile of contentment, “the festival is about souls connecting. For, when hearts unite and souls merge, music follows naturally.” Touché!
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