Prahlad Tipanya, who in 2011 received the Padma Shri, is in Mumbai for the ongoing Kabir Festival. The reclusive artist, who performs Kabir bhajans in Madhya Pradesh's Malwi folk style, speaks to dna about his involvement in the festival and Kabir’s message to the world.
Are you nervous for tomorrow's performance?
[Laughs] No, not really. We have been doing this for a long time. The audience like our performances and come back each year. I am actually more excited than nervous.
You just said the audiences return each year for your performance, how do you always manage to keep them engaged? What new can they expect from your performance?
I try to come up with something new every single time to keep audiences engaged and to develop their interest in Kabir's message and to get them to adopt his teachings. We seldom have a fixed line-up. We perform keeping in mind the interest and preferences of the audience and the energy we feel at the venue.
Are you playing any favourites tomorrow?
I can’t tell you much at this point, but we will play a few of the usual songs such as Kabir's Guru Vandana, Niragun, Vedh Vaniya.
You'll be collaborating with Parvathy Baul for one of the sessions. Tell us more?
I perform because I want Kabir's message to reach people; it doesn’t matter if it is in Bengali or Hindi or any other language. I requested Pravathy-ji to conduct a session of
Baul music and teachings of Kabir and she agreed. She may sing in the Malwi folk style, but that is entirely up to her. My idea behind the collaboration was just to show the audience that Kabir's message can be understood in any language, through any medium.
Is your fascination for the Tambura still the same as it was when you had just started?
Yes, it is the same. In fact, my love for the instrument has only grown over the years.
What do you feel when you sing Kabir Bhajans?
Each time I sing a bhajan or a Doha I feel different, even if I've performed the bhajan before. It gives me a new perspective towards every individual and his outlook towards a materialistic life. It's a good thing that the festival has been taking place in Mumbai for the past four years. We want Kabir’s message of peace and harmony to reach as many people as possible. We want to bring about a change in the way people react to negative emotions.
Prahlad Tipanya will perform at 7pm on January 9 at Sangeet Mahabharati, 10th Road, Opposite Amitabh Bachchan’s Bungalow, Juhu.