Every once in a while there are nights
that make you fall in love with this city. At Jahan-e-Khusrau, Delhi’s annual
Sufi music festival, such nights seem to come one after the other. In its sixth
year, the festival this year did yet again all that it does so well—Humayun’s
Tomb shone breathtakingly, the voices of an eclectic and energising selection of
artists rang through the clear night air, and Delhizens put on their best
culture-soaking attire for three days and turned out in numbers that would make
a Bryan Adams concert manager turn a very rich shade of green.
Jahan-e-Khusrau seems to be that rare event where the performers enjoy performing as much as the audience enjoys listening to them. Throughout the three days, this writer couldn’t help but be distracted from the wonderful music by the obvious joy that the performers got and gave during their performances. At a time when there are as many technically near-perfect yet oddly uninspiring classical music performances as there are people willing to sit through them, to see everyone from Daler Mehndi and Sukhwinder Singh, from the Rumi Group of Iran to everybody’s darling Abida Parveen to first time performers Aman and Ayan Ali Bangash, lose themselves in their performances and sing purely as people who love their art, was a welcome surprise indeed.
At the risk of sounding clichéd, each of the performers brought something new to the concert, and this writer was spared from ever once looking at his watch in frustration. But, let’s face it, platitudes aside, Abida stole the show. It is perhaps unfair to ask others to compete with a crowd-rousing rendition of Dum Mast Qalandar as the final song of the festival, but the truth is that she had them beat far before that. Effortless, engaged, and—in another welcome contrast to years past—seemingly willing to sing happily for hours, she made sure she was worthy of the ovation she received before she had even sung a note! The unlikely challenger to her throne, however, was this year’s surprise—Daler Mehndi. Shedding his ‘Bolo Tara Rara’ avatar for more of the wonderful vocal rendering we heard for the first time in the song ‘Ruh Ba Ru’ from the Maqbool soundtrack, Daler Mehndi seems to have evlolved his kalam in new and wonderful ways—now if only he would leave that electronic synthesiser behind and let his voice lead the way, all would be perfect. The Rumi Group from Iran made its fourth appearance, and the dafs this time kept wonderful sync not only with Abida but lent ample support to the lead vocalist’s stunning vocals that so beautifully brought the verses of Rumi to Humayun’s final resting place in our city.
Kudos to the organisers—they oversold tickets just enough, the screens worked, the monuments looked lovely despite the lavender lighting (pray tell, why?) and the slightly strange fake stone podiums that they will hopefully avoid next time—but they pulled off an event that rightly has a proud place in the city calendar.
This article originally appeared in Delhi City Limits, March 31, 2006