The Classic Bagh Festival enthrals connoisseurs of classical music with a rich line-up
The recently concluded Classic Bagh Festival felicitated the harmonious and enriching congregation of artistes of repute in Delhi. Organized by British Council in association with Aga Khan Trust for Culture, the festival saw an exciting line-up that offered a magical experience to music lovers throughout the day. Split into three periods, the festival opened with a lakeside dawn chorus of vocal recitals from the Hindustani, Sufi, Bhajan, Shabad, and Qawwali traditions by the unmatched Smita Bellur and Jasleen Kaur Monga. Performances by emerging artiste Sraboni Chaudhary, amid some stalwarts of the Sufi music scene such as Barkat Khan, Ustad Saeed Zafar Khan, and the Warsi Brothers, made it a memorable edition. Jonathan Kennedy, Director Arts India, British Council tells us more about the festival and its inclusive nature and the many upcoming projects by the Council. Excerpts:
Tell us about the Classic Bagh festival and what were the security measures adopted?
The Classic Bagh festival has been designed to bring the artists and the audiences together in a controlled and safe environment. The various performances were planned at three different locations to prevent overcrowding. Special care was taken to design the festival experience from a COVID-19 safety point of view, and all government of India guidelines for public events was followed such as mandatory use of face masks, temperature checks, and sanitization of hands and surfaces. The socially distant seating for the main evening event was capped to less than half of the capacity of the amphitheatre.
The festival is about promoting inclusiveness. Do you think we need that more now?
The Covid-19 pandemic has been a leveler. The world has been united in the pandemic while families, friends and colleagues around the world have been isolated from each other during various shifting patterns of lockdown.
The setting and design of the Classic Bagh festival look to the future and considers what the world needs now. Much like the Sunder Nursery, Classic Bagh is reflective of a number of values – ecological sensitivity; inclusivity, variety, and diversity. These are important qualities and the musicians and artists who are performing echo them in their cultural traditions alongside new artistic innovations online.
The intangible heritage that Sunder Nursery holds with our partners the Aga Khan Trust for Culture and the UNESCO world heritage monuments inside the gardens reflect an atmosphere of peace and calm and respect for nature.
Did the pandemic affect the line-up?
The festival was imagined as an exemplar of social inclusion to provide a platform for emerging as well as established artists to reunite with new audiences and fans. The line-up of artists performing at the Classic Bagh festival brings that vision to life. The Delhi audiences witnessed some of the biggest names in Hindi, Sufi classical music space brings weave magic in the air through their magical and soothing voices.
Taking account of current international travel restrictions and making a virtue of the move to online digital innovation. The evening concert, with the invited audience, included screening short films from India-Wales and India-Northern Ireland musical collaborations with British Council and Jodhpur RIFF over recent years including a special jugalbandi recorded with the luminous Nitin Sawhney and Dhruv Sangari to mark the launch of Nitin’s new album, Immigrants, on Friday.
A specially curated UK-India playlist was available online. The festival respects traditional Indian music and is also completely of the moment with live performances and digital artists collaborations.
What are the other upcoming projects/events by the British Council for 2021?
Close on the heels of the Classic Bagh festival, we have also announced the 7th edition of our Five Films for Freedom festival – the world’s largest LGBTIQ+ digital campaign that has reached over 15 million people from more than 200 countries. The digital festival invites audiences worldwide to watch chosen five short films online in solidarity with LGBTIQ+ communities in places where freedom and equal rights are limited and to spread the word. The online screenings are being supplemented with Covid-sensitive community screenings across the country and a digital storytelling workshop for the LGBTIQ+ members in India and Nepal. We are delighted to have partnered with The Queer Muslim Project and JIoCinema for the 10-day festival.