'We want to take Kabir to many people'

In a chat with TNIE, Dastaan Live founder Anirban Ghosh dwells on role of arts & music, and responsibility of an artist.

Art and expression know no bounds or limitations; they can create magic and profoundly impact those who experience it. Dastaan Live came to life from the vision of its founder Anirban Ghosh (Baan G) with this very purpose in mind.

By incorporating lines of famous poets, the band innovatively combines music and visuals, offering a unique experience that sparks conversations and critical thought. Recently, they performed their popular work Kabira Khada Bazaar Mein in Thiruvananthapuram

In a free-wheeling chat with TNIE, Anirban Ghosh, the founder of Dastaan LIVE, shares his thoughts on the band, the role of art and music, an artist’s responsibility and more.

Can you walk us through the journey of Dastaan Live?

I founded Dastaan Live in 2016 with some like-minded artists. The idea was to compose works of progressive poets from this region, such as Faiz Ahmed Faiz, A N Ludhianvi, Baba Nagarjun, Pash, Kabir, and others who were part of the progressive artist movement.

We were trying to create a live show incorporating music and visuals influenced by their text. Dastaan Live was born to engage in discussions about the socio-political landscape prevailing in our country. Art has a really important role to play in society. Our band tries to address certain pertinent issues that need to be talked about through true art.

What draws you to these particular poets and their works?

It is the progressiveness of what and how they have written. Like, for instance, when everyone else has written all good things about the Taj Mahal, Sahir Ludhianvi is the only poet in history who has critiqued the Taj Mahal. But even in his critique, the way he has written it, I have never read a more beautiful line about the Taj Mahal. The way Kabir says “Where are you searching for me? I’m right next to you. You’re going to mountains, you’re going to hills, you’re going to rivers, seas to look for me. I’m right here.” It’s so simple, yet beautiful. These guys have already written a lot of stuff that can be interpreted in so many ways. We are interpreting these poets in our own way.

The band became popular with the Kabira Khada Bazaar Mein...

The first show we made was called Surviving Democracy, where we were composing different poets. In the second show, we performed Kabira Khada Bazaar Mein. That is a collaboration with M K Raina. It is a play written by the renowned author Bhisham Sahni, about the life of Kabir Das, the 14th-century poet, and his poems. The play was directed by M K Raina in 1982 and ran for a decade. M K Raina got in touch with us, we had multiple meetings. I put together a team that can reinterpret the texts. The interesting thing is that what was said in the 15th century is now being reinterpreted as a musical performance and what Kabir had said that time, for me, is very relevant even today.

Kabir is often perceived as a saintly figure, but the band tried to portray a different side of Kabir’s poetry.

Look, people only associate Bhagat Singh with someone who carries a gun and bombs. No one knows the romantic side of Bhagat Singh or that he had also set up libraries. Similarly, with Kabir. We know Kabir as a saint. That’s one story that people associate with Kabir. But Kabir also portrayed what he witnessed in the 15th century. I would call it very progressive, critical, and contemporary in that time and also in today’s time. We forget Kabir’s critical side when he questions and challenges the status quo.

What, according to you, is art, and what is the artist’s responsibility in today’s world?

Art has to ask tough questions and it should make you think. Art should make you question, make you ponder. That is the role of art in today’s world. It is like people have lost touch with humanity. The idea is to create conversations around humanity, loving each other, and being kind. Most importantly, as artists, we must be critical by way of art. Otherwise, what are you creating?

The band faced controversy following a performance at the Goa Festival for allegedly hurting religious sentiment. How do you see that now?

What is a controversy today? Is it a real controversy or is it created by some vested people with vested interests? You have to also look from that perspective. We are musicians and we use art as a medium to talk about what’s going on in our society, what needs to change, and what needs to be talked about. If someone finds even that basic conversation confrontational, I don’t know what to say. Controversy is a subjective thing.

Do you think artists today are scared?

Everybody is scared these days to say anything critical and challenge the status quo that is non-mainstream. But today and in the past, artists always say what they have to say, without worrying too much about what’s going to happen. Nothing can stop them from doing that. Artists should be able to do art without being fearful of who is going to listen to them, how it is going to be taken by people, and what is going to happen next. All these things are sort of eventualities. If you worry too much about the future, you will never be able to do art. For an artist, it’s very important to be honest and be relevant.

How do these visuals enhance the audience’s understanding and engagement with the music and messages that you’re trying to convey?

The visuals are a very important part of the larger narrative and storytelling. We can convey things in a much bigger and grander way using these multi-art forms and mediums. We don’t use random visuals; the lighting design is not the regular lighting design like others which just light up the stage and do some flickering. We think about the colours and why that particular colour. We are doing critical work in our music; we have to be critical about the show as well. That is how that multi-arts sort of approach helps create a stronger sort of narrative.

What is the role of audience participation in your music?

The audience is the most important piece of the puzzle in a performance. If we don’t have the audience participating then it’s like you’re staying in a vacuum. After all, it is not Dastaan Live solely saying some opinion.

The band’s future...

We want to take Kabir to as many people, as many spaces, as many languages, and as many regions as possible. Not just in India. Right now, I feel the words of Kabir need to go to every person. Because his words are so universal. Music is powerful and, unlike any other form, it has the power to reach people and strike a chord.

Related Stories

No stories found.