august 2008 programmes

 

 

 

friday 1st august
Dialogues of Faith Series at The India International Centre
(Main Auditorium)
6.30 pm
"Secularism, Atheism and Agnosticism” a talk by Mani Shankar Aiyar

tuesday 5th august
6.30 pm 'Urdu Hai Jiska Naam ' (The Story of Urdu) a documentary film introduced by Sohail Hashmi

saturday 9th august
6.30 pm ‘Love Ballads of the Rainy Season’ a vocal recital by Pooja Goswami

thursday 14th august
7.00 pm ‘
X Marks the Spot’ Excerpts from the writing of Jeanette Winterson  by First City Theatre Foundation

thursday 21st august
6.30 pm ‘Understanding Hindustani Classical Music’ a talk by Manjari Sinha

saturday 23rd august
6.30 pm ‘Whisperer of the Wind’ a flute recital by Ajay Prasanna

tuesday 26th august
6.30 pm ‘Rudra: The Idea Of Shiva’ an introduction to her book by Nilima  Chitgopekar

thursday 28th august
7.00 pm ‘
The Secret Diaries of Adrian Mole - Aged 13 ¾  and onwards …’  by First City Theatre Foundation

saturday 30th august
6.30 pm ‘The Indore Gharana - An Introduction to the Music of Ustad Amir Khan & Pandit Amarnath’ a lecture- demonstration by Bindu Chawla

 

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Dialogues of Faith

This series of 8 talks and 4 performances is meant to highlight the syncretic nature of India’s religious and musical traditions.   They will show that there are no absolutist distinctions in the mélange of ideas, concepts and teachings that form our religions, music and art. That India has the unique distinction in its tolerance and diversity where there is no ‘other’ , where the concepts of nirvana, ahimsa, martyrdom, asceticism, moksha, charity and  shariat exist side by side, where gurbani, choir, sufi and bhajan music are all part of a common heritage.

This series is organized jointly by The Attic and The India International Centre.

 

friday 1st august
Dialogues of Faith Series at The India International Centre
(Main Auditorium)
6.30 pm
"Secularism, Atheism and Agnosticism” a talk by Mani Shankar Aiyar

Secularism is not against religion. Indeed, it is not even limited to merely tolerating religion. Secularism is essentially about the celebration of the diversity of belief, including the right to not believe. It is about respecting the right of others to hold beliefs that are not your own.

It is difficult for an atheist to be secular. This is because many, perhaps most atheists, are so incensed with the excesses of organised religion, and the dogmatism of most scripture, that they rail against all religion, thus matching the fanaticism of religious belief with fanaticism of their own repulsion to religion
Atheists I can put up with? It’s those 
 wishy-washy agnostics I can’t stand!’

The agnostic runs the risk of being so sceptical about all things that scepticism marks also his attitude to the spiritual convictions of the true believer.

Thus the most admirable secularist is he of profound faith in his own religion who sees Truth and Beauty in faiths that he does not subscribe to; who shares the enquiring mind of the agnostic without falling into the cynicism which is the trademark of the agnostic; and who understands the questioning mind of the agnostic without sharing the agnostic’s despair over ever finding the Truth.

It is, however, entirely possible to be an agnostic and yet be secular, for to doubt human fallibility in matters spiritual need not be to deny that there are perceptions beyond the material. And that if religious belief is essentially about seeking answers to questions which are beyond human reason or human experience that need not invalidate either the need of others for the spiritual quest nor the comfort such spiritual quest demonstrably imparts to the mind and soul of those in need of comfort from Beyond. 

The same goes for the atheist. I am an atheist. I think there is an inherent contradiction between asserting that God is the sum-total of all that cannot be grasped by the human intellect and then elaborating in great detail what the premise says is, by definition, unknown to the human mind or human experience. But seeing the contradiction is not enough to explain the great and enduring influence that spiritual belief has had on building that human intellect and experience. So, while I might be spiritually impotent, I can only respect those whose belief transcends disbelief and for whom the Truth that lies beyond is as palpable as the truth that lies within the human grasp. 

Mani Shankar Aiyar is the author of “Confessions of a Secular Fundamentalist” still available in paper-back. Hindi and Tamil editions are due later this year. He is also the founder-President of the Society for Secularism, on whose behalf he undertook in 1992 a 44-day Ram-Rahim Yatra from Rameswaram to Ayodhya between Gandhiji’s birthday (2 October) and Panditji’s (14 November) to warn against the impending doom to the Babri Masjid if Government were to fail to take action against the gathering kar sevaks. The warning fell on deaf ears as the Union Government of the day demonstrated “that death was not a necessary pre-condition for rigor mortis to set in”, as he bitterly remarked at the time.

He has been a Member of the 10th, 13th and 14th Lok Sabhas, representing the Tamil Nadu constituency of Mayiladuturai, and is at present Minister for Panchayati Raj and Minister for the Development of the North-East Region. He was educated at Welham, Doon, St. Stephen’s and Cambridge, and served 26 years in the Indian Foreign Service (the last five as Joint Secretary to Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi) before plunging into politics in 1989.

 

tuesday 5th august
6.30 pm 'Urdu Hai Jiska Naam ' (The Story of Urdu) a documentary film introduced by Sohail Hashmi

The story of Urdu begins many centuries before the arrival of the language itself. It starts with the break away from Sanskrit with Gautam Buddh and Mahavir Jain using Pali and the Prakrits -the languages of the people leading to the birth of  Gujrati, Sindhi, Punjabi, Braj, Avadhi, Maghdi, Maithli, Bangla and Khari Boli in the 11th century

The arrival of the Sufis, Central Asian Armies and large number of traders in the next 100 years brought in new technologies, new crafts, new languages and scripts and all these began to combine with their South Asian Counterparts to create new vocabularies of Music, Attire, Architecture and Creative Expression. All this took place at the Shrines of the Sufis, in Army Camps, in the Bazars and the Sarais

The shifting of the Capital from Delhi to Devgiri led to the spread of Hindavi or Dehlvi or Zaban-E-Delhi to the Deccan where it gradually developed into Dakini under the patronage of the Qutub Shahi and Adil Shahi Rulers and reached back to Delhi as Rekhta around 1705. From the beginning of the 18th Century, Rekhta grew into Urdu, that became the language of the Royal Fermaans of Bahadur Shah, the Ishtihaars of the rebels of 1857. Through the great Urdu poets (Meer and Sauda and later through Ghalib  Zauq, Anees, Dabeer , Nazeer and Insha) it came to be established as the literary language of the North.

In the next 100 years Urdu led the progressive movement in India through Jafari, Majrooh, Kaifi, Firaq, Faiz, Josh, Bedi, Krishan Chandar, Ram Lal and others. It was again the same language born of the coming together of diverse cultures that rose up in protest against the senselessness of war and of the division of India.

This 4 part documentary which includes the Ghazals of Quli Qutub Shah, Meer Taqi Meer, Mirza Ghalib  and Faiz Ahmed Faiz will be shown – Part 1 & 2 6 to 7 pm, tea 7 to 7.15, Parts 3 & 4 7.15 to 8.15pm.

Sohail Hashmi is a former Director of Leap Years - a Creative Activity Centre for Children, a founding trustee of SAHMAT and a producer of documentary films.  He has also been involved in scripting and producing a 9 part series on Pioneers of Women's Education in India and a 5 part series Shehernama on the history of Shahjahanabad. He has recently scripted 6 half hour documentaries on the real life stories of 6 rural women and their struggles to become literate and self reliant. Sohail writes a regular column on the lesser known monuments of Delhi and its history in 'Landscape' and blogs irregularly, on issues of culture and communalism. He organizes heritage walks and loves to cook and talk about food.

Researched and Scripted by Sohail Hashmi
Directed by Subhash Kapoor
Ghazals
composed by Shubha Mudgal & Dr. Aneesh Pradhan and sung by Shubha Mudgal
Produced by Meka Films and Kaamna Prasad
For Public Diplomacy Division Ministry of External Affairs Govt. of India

 

saturday 9th august
6.30 pm ‘Love Ballads of the Rainy Season’ a vocal recital by Pooja Goswami

                                     The folk music of any culture constitutes the foundation of its classical music – this is especially so in India, with its classical music often appropriating melodies and rhythms from a vast variety of folk music traditions. The simple songs and rhythms of the rural and village people represent the soul or essence of the country or region – telling stories of love and longing, of bountiful harvests, of swinging in the Jhoola, of sowing and reaping, of pleasure at the sight of the dark clouds or regaling the legends of real and mythical heroes, gods and goddesses. It is the simple evocative beauty of these songs, sung through the semi-classical idioms of the Thumri, Dadra, Kajri, Chaiti and Jhoola, that both soothes and excites the soul at the same time.

On the other hand, the vibrant and sophisticated verses of the Urdu Ghazal, the quintessential love song, amply bring out the moods of love in all their multihued splendor – of the anguish, woes and disappointments, its rare moments of joy and bliss, and its myriad moods of dalliance, serenading, coquetry, mock-anger and the teasing give-and-take. The poetry of the greatest Urdu poets Ghalib, Meer, Dagh, Momin and many others is suffused with these emotions.

Dr. Pooja Goswami’s concert will present a delectable bouquet of these songs, selecting from the semi-classical traditions of the Thumri and Dadra, to the romantic Ghazal and to the folk-inspired forms  Kajri, Chaiti and Jhoola.

Pooja was born in a musical family and received her early training in Hindustani vocal classical music from her father Sri. Surendra Goswami.

She received her M.Phil and Ph.D from the University of Delhi and continued her training in semi-classical music from the eminent vocalist Smt. Shanti Hiranand, the reigning queen of Thumri and Ghazal( a disciple of the late Begum Akhtar). Her versatility is evident in her ability to sing Thumri, Dadra, Ghazal, Bhajan and various folk genres, Chaiti, Kajri besides the classical Khayals.

Dr. Goswami has performed in Jaipur, Delhi and Hanoi. She recently co-composed the score for Pangea World Theater’s “The Partition Project” staged in Minneapolis. She has performed widely within the USA. She is presently a visiting faculty at the School of Music, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, USA, teaching courses in Indian music and culture.

thursday 14th august
7.00 pm ‘
X Marks the Spot’ Excerpts from the writing of Jeanette Winterson  by First City Theatre Foundation

When Jeanette Winterson was asked (so the story goes) by a British newspaper questionnaire distributed among the nation's writers, whom she considered to be the greatest living prose stylist in English, her answer was unequivocal: Jeanette Winterson. Perhaps this is arguable, but one cannot deny the British writer – as author of books such as Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit and The Passion – her satin-upholstered seat amidst the finest of contemporary authors for whom writing is a craft. Her prose is sharp, elegant and disarming, as it spins stories out of love, desire and the boundaries of human interaction. The First City Theatre Foundation presents a dramatic reading of excerpts from her work, including The Power Book, Lighthousekeeping and The Stone Gods.

 

thursday 21st august
6.30 pm ‘Understanding Hindustani Classical Music’ a talk by Manjari Sinha

Indian Classical Music is essentially the art of Raga, in both the Carnatic and Hindustani styles. It is not possible to respond to raga music passively, without some participation. The intellect and emotions have to be acutely alert for raga music. It needs conscious, expert listening with a carefully nurtured effort of attention because it does not merely please and entertain its listener, it informs, enriches, nourishes and uplifts him to higher planes.
A little initiation is required to enjoy Hindustani classical music. The art of listening has to be cultivated. Understanding its luminous meaning
adds to the delight and enchantment of listening to Hindustani music.

Manjari Sinha has a Master’s Degree in Sanskrit from Allahabad University and a ‘Sangeet Prabhakar’ in Vocal, Tabla, Sitar and Kathak Dance from Prayag Sangeet Smiti, Allahabad. She also received further training in Sitar from Shri Arvind Parikh. She is the author of ‘Ustad Bade Gulam Ali Khan’, published by Roli Books and has written the chapter on ‘Kathak’ for the book ‘Indian Dances - The Ultimate Metaphor’. She has given Lecture – Demonstrations on Indian Classical Music and Dance in various institutions in India and abroad as well as presenting a series of illustrated talks on Begum Akhtar on Vividh Bharati’s ‘Sangeet Sarita'. 

She has written prolifically on Music (Hindustani & Carnatic), Dance, Art & Culture in various music journals and periodicals in both English and Hindi. She has contributed columns on Music & Dance in Nav Bharat Times, Hindustan, Jansatta, Varta and Deccan Cronicles. She also contributes to Narthakionline and Worldmusic central.org on internet. Currently she is writing for The Hindu.


This lecture is an attempt to inculcate this understanding by an introduction to Hindustani music, its brief history, the concept of its building blocks like Raga and Tala, the time theory, the different forms - Dhrupad, Khayaal and Thumri, the instruments used for accompaniment or solo performances and above all to develop an ability to make its undercurrent of feelings more accessible.

The best way to understand the timeless inheritance of Hindustani music is to experience it and not look for the facts about it. Extracts will be played to illustrate the points for it is the feeling of the music that makes the knowledge of this intangible art fall into place.

Manjari Sinha has a Master’s Degree in Sanskrit from Allahabad University and a ‘Sangeet Prabhakar’ in Vocal, Tabla, Sitar and Kathak Dance from Prayag Sangeet Smiti, Allahabad. She also received further training in Sitar from Shri Arvind Parikh. She is the author of ‘Ustad Bade Gulam Ali Khan’, published by Roli Books and has written the chapter on ‘Kathak’ for the book ‘Indian Dances - The Ultimate Metaphor’. She has given Lecture – Demonstrations on Indian Classical Music and Dance in various institutions in India and abroad as well as presenting a series of illustrated talks on Begum Akhtar on Vividh Bharati’s ‘Sangeet Sarita'. 

She has written prolifically on Music (Hindustani & Carnatic), Dance, Art & Culture in various music journals and periodicals in both English and Hindi. She has contributed columns on Music & Dance in Nav Bharat Times, Hindustan, Jansatta, Varta and Deccan Cronicles. She also contributes to Narthakionline and Worldmusic central.org on internet. Currently she is writing for The Hindu.

 

 

saturday 23rd august
6.30 pm ‘Whisperer of the Wind’ a flute recital by Ajay Prasanna

The bansuri is not just a musical instrument, it has a great cultural and religious significance among Hindus and the land where Lord Krishna was born and spent his youth, are still alive with the Krishna- legend and still redolent with the music of his flute. Numerous common names reflect these epitaphs of Krishna - Venugopal, Bansilal, Murali and Muralidhar for example. ‘The Lila’ is the mosaic of music and dance of Krishna with the ‘gopis’ as a group and with Radha in particular. In Indian mythology, painting, dance and music the flute is so intimately associated with Krishna and the ‘gopis’ that no flautist can bypass trying to recreate the haunting melodies with which Lord Krishna seduced the young girls of Brindavan. Much inner meaning has been given about the symbolism of this metaphor imitating the relationship between God and devotee, where the melody flowing from Krishna's flute is the call of the Divine, inviting all creatures to rejoin God in eternal bliss. It is also remarkable how the life force (pran, or literally "breath") is converted into a musical resonance (sur) using nothing but a transverse length of bamboo with 6 holes cut into it. 

Ajay Prasanna comes from a family of classical musicians. He received his training in flute from his father Pandit Bholanath Prasanna (of the Benaras gharana), the guru of Pt. Hari Prasad Chaurasia. He gave his first performance at the age of 6 in Allahabad and has gone on to perform across the globe in Dubai, Singapore, Bangkok, Kenya, Russia and other countries. Apart from his solo concerts he has played with renowned classical musicians Ravi Shankar, Amjad Ali Khan, Shiv Kumar Sharma, Zakir Hussain and Shubha Mudgal. He has also worked on a project with Sting and experimental fusion projects with Anoushka Shankar and others.

He has recorded CD’s with Music Today, Sa Re Ka Ma, T Series, Navras records (London) and a German label.

 

tuesday 26th august
6.30 pm ‘Rudra: The Idea Of Shiva’ an introduction to her book by Nilima Chitgopekar

Beyond sin and virtue, beyond joy and sorrow, beyond scripture, ritual and pilgrimage, and beyond familiar experience. This is Shiva, in essence.

Once feared as the capricious and terrifying Rudra, Shiva, the most un-Brahmanic' of gods, has traditionally been shunned by orthodox Vedic religion. Although the Shiva we recognize today retains much of his original contrarian nature, he is firmly ensconced in popular imagination as the awe-inspiring Mahadeva, supreme lord of the universe.

In a unique attempt to explore the varied planes of thought and belief that Shiva has represented over millennia, Nilima Chitgopekar imaginatively recreates the defining moments of the great god's life through the eyes of his most intimate mythological companions. Vishnu, Sati, Daksha, Parvati and Ganesha take turns to praise, criticize, explain, complain, sermonize and rationalize--and through the prism of what they choose to reveal of the Shiva they know, there emerges the vision of a god who assimilates in his person the most extreme contradictions. For Shiva is as reclusive as he is accessible, as loved as he is feared, and as fallible as he is divine.

This evening Nilima traces the diverse threads of history, philosophy, anthropology and faith that have coalesced to create this intriguing deity, she uncovers the deeper truth about Shiva's unmatched appeal--a credo of simple devotion to a unified godhead, one that reflects the eclecticism and humanity that form the very core of Hindu thought. Questions are encouraged.

Nilima Chitgopekar has been teaching history for 25 years at the Jesus & Mary College and to the MA students of Delhi University. She is the author of 'Encountering Sivaism: The Deity, the Milieu, the Entourage’ and 'The Book of Durga' and edited 'Invoking Goddesses: Gender Politics in Indian Religion.

 

thursday 28th august
7.00 pm ‘
The Secret Diaries of Adrian Mole - Aged 13 ¾  and onwards …’  by First City Theatre Foundation

Even as a fictional protagonist, in a series of books by the British author Sue Townsend, Adrian Mole joins the likes of Prince Charles, Tony Blair, Hugh Grant and David Beckham on the ‘Who’s Who’ of British men in the last two decades. From the adolescent pangs of his first ‘secret diary’ (aged 13 ¾), to his ‘pathetic slide towards gum disease, wheelchair ramps and death’ (aged 33 ¾) in Adrian Mole and the Weapons of Mass Destruction, he has kept us amused and keenly in tune with British life over the years. The First City Theatre Foundation presents a reading of excerpts from these compelling and wildly entertaining diaries.

 

saturday 30th august
6.30 pm ‘The Indore Gharana - An Introduction to the Music of Ustad Amir Khan & Pandit Amarnath’ a lecture- demonstration by Bindu Chawla

One of the more recent of the gharana styles that evolved in the early 20th century is the Indore gharana. Its lineage began with the legendary Ustad  Amir Khan Saheb, whose father, Ustad Shahmir Khan and  grandfather, Ustad Change Khan, served at the courts of the Holkars of  Indore. The distinct style of this gharana is marked by a deeply meditative attitude to the khayal, a weave of the swaras based on the ancient system of permutation and combination known as merukhand and meaningful pauses during singing. Its powerful vilambit laya strongly influenced the other gharanas. Its Sufi concerns were further enriched by a repertoire of poignant khayal lyrics created for the style--and for Hindustani music- by his well-known disciple, Pandit Amarnath ji.
 
Bindu Chawla, daughter and disciple of Pandit Amarnath, discusses some of these highlights of the gharana along with a demonstration.  She tells us memorable stories about the emotional guru-shishya relationship in the gharana, as she saw it lived off-stage, and also discusses the controversies and questions related to her gharana's vital history.   

She has intensely researched the principles of the music handed down to her by her guru to evolve her own style.  She is also well-known for singing the wide range of rare Sufi khayal bandishes created and composed by Pandit Amarnathji.  She has written widely on the subject through books and a large collection of articles and is a recipient of the Times of India Fellowship Award (1995) for her research project 'The Musical Idea in Hindustani Music'.

Bindu now teaches music and is the Chairperson of the Pandit Amarnath Memorial Foundation, which is dedicated to the compilations of his archives and music.