Pandavani, African wisdom and qawaali — Ruhaniyat is back in Hyderabad with an eclectic line-up
You can’t help but be in awe of Meena Sahu as you listen to her speak about her love for performing arts. The 50-year-old Pandavani artiste from Ranchirai (Chattisgarh) is one of the forerunners in the field, who has travelled across the country narrating tales of Mahabharata. Having started performing at the age of 13, Meena is quite a fearless artiste. “I wasn’t scared to perform even when it was my first time. I loved the stage, audience and mythology, and that’s what takes me places,” she shares.
She was introduced to Pandavani (folk singing style involving narration of tales from Mahabharat) when she watched Padma Bhushan award-winning exponent Teejan Bai perform in her village, more than three decades ago. Completely absorbed by Teejan’s style, Meena learnt Mahabharata from a neighbour and began performing in less than a week. Her biggest moment, she recollects, was when Teejan herself contacted her, after watching her narration, and offered to train. “It was a big achievement for me. She taught me about expressions, narrative techniques and voice modulations,” she adds.
After more than a 1,000 performances in front of yesteryear actresses like Vyjayanthimala, Meena will bring her eight-member troupe to the city for Ruhaniyat music festival. “I don’t decide and prep in advance for my shows. Having performed for so many years, I take impromptu decisions based on the audience. One of the most popular narrations is the Draupadi Haran, which is usually a part of my show,” she says.
Back with its 19th edition, the day-long festival will bring to stage collaborations between Indian and international musicians. Inspired by Urdu word ‘ruh’, meaning soul, the festival is a celebration of lesser-known soulful artforms. “Ruhaniyat is like a timely reminder of the human capacity to love, nurture and preserve. As a platform, it brings together so many artistes from other countries every year, breaking boundaries. The aim has always been to discover and promote rare forms and new talents,” Nandini Mahesh, director of Banyan Tree Events.
Ruhaniyat started off in 2000 debuting in Mumbai and soon moved to cities like Chennai, Bengaluru, Delhi and Hyderabad. “The idea came to our mind in 1999 and we wanted to begin the new millennium with it. However, there was very less support. There were no sponsors. So, we launched our own event company and started the music festival,” says Nandini.
Line-up for the evening
And the forest stood witness: Kapalik Pandvani — Meena Sahu
Voices of Mystics of Iran: Mehdi Emami and Vasl trio
So said the saints of Maharashtra: Avadhoot Gandhi and group
When hearts connect: Indo Iranian production — Avadhoot Gandhi and Vasl trio
Resonating ancient African wisdom with Kora: Dawda Jobarteh
Mystic Shabad from Punjab: Bhai Nirmal Singh Khalsa and group
Qawwali: Hifzur Rehman Hakimi and group
December 15, 7 pm.
At Taramati Baradari.