Even after so many days, I can still hear the beat of the Taiko drums and the rhythmic tease on the earthen ghatam. When I had sifted through the schedule of Sirpur National Dance and Music Festival 2015, I knew this was a festival like no other. With world renowned artistes performing at the event, I quickly made a what-not-to-miss mind map.

Inaugral performance by Rekha Dewar.
Inaugural performance by Rekha Dewar.

And even though the percussionists had my undivided attention, this festival was a feast for all music lovers. Here are some highlights from the 3-day annual event.

Day 1 highlights:

Rekha Dewar introduced me to Dewar Geet. These are story songs true from the land of Chhattisgarh of the Gonds, which are recited by singing and dancing. After a good warm-up to the festival, I remained focussed on the much awaited performance by Pete Lockett. The collaboration of Taal Chhattisgarh (a band of 50 different tribal percussionists) performing alongside Anubrata Chatterjee (on the tabla), Giridhar Udupa (on the ghatam), Swaminathan (with the kanjira) and Umar Faruq (playing the bhapang) made this one very special. The unique sound of the bhapang did enhance the conclusion of this power-packed performance, though Umar Faruq’s expressions with the beat were even more enjoyable. I have never seen such brilliant jugalbandi!

The very graceful Yasmin Singh took on the stage with her delicate Kathak performance. Her expressions beautifully kept me occupied till her concluding enactment of Draupadi’s Cheerharan, which was remarkable. I’ve never really understood Kathak, till now.

Yasmin Singh's Kathak.
Yasmin Singh’s Kathak.

Day 2 highlights:

Sans clairvoyance, I reached the venue late amidst Rahul Sharma’s santoor play. Milap was a fusion collaboration amongst Rahul Sharma (with his santoor) and Rajasthani folk musicians. In the 30 minutes of my attendance, I was transported to the beautiful mountains of Kashmir many times, only to be brought back into an equally cold night in Sirpur.

My focus remained with the percussionists even on the second day, I remember impatiently waiting to hear the Taiko drums from Japan. Fully aware of what these large and loud drums sound like, it was an ethereal experience to hear them live. I suppose I have Leonard Eto and his group of two to thank for this once in a lifetime experience, which continues to stay with me.

Rahul Sharma and the Rajasthani folk artistes.
Rahul Sharma and the Rajasthani folk artistes.

Day 3 highlights:

Needless to say with Pt. Birju Maharaj’s name on the schedule, anything else would be seemingly unimportant on the closing day. In all honesty, I was looking forward to the scintillating collaboration of Ustad Shujaat Khan, George Brooks, Prasanna and Vidwan Vikku Vinayakram and it was my favourite in the entire event. With the beautiful poetic words recited by Ustad Shujaat Khan, as he played the strings of his sitar while Prasanna added the charming guitar notes delicately; it was only moments until Vidwan Vikku’s ghatam raised the crescendo for George Brooks’ saxophone to join in. The entire set was put together by Mahesh Babu of Banyan Tree. I’m still at awe of their magical musical creation.

Pt. Briju Maharaj.
Pt. Birju Maharaj.

Good to know:
– Unlike most other cultural festivals I have attended, Sirpur National Dance and Music Festival 2015 was punctual. Though the last performances of day 2 and 3 were moved ahead without notice, making me a little upset to miss a part of each.
– It was remarkable that they facilitated Wi-Fi at the venue. Even though my phone had no connectivity, I was successfully tweeting away!
– The sound system and the acoustics at the venue were comparably one of the best I’ve heard anywhere. There was never a sound blare, making it a very pleasurable live music experience.
– The festival was organised by Chhattisgarh Tourism and this was the third consecutive edition. I take this opportunity to thank Mr. Santosh Misra, MD Chhattisgarh Tourism Board, for inviting and allowing me an extraordinary experience.
-Sirpur is approximately 80 kilometres away from Raipur, capital city of Chhattisgarh. The connecting roads are very good with very few places to stopover for refreshments, though with good photographic prospects.

Amrita Das

I have been a travel and culture independent journalist. My bylines have appeared in many publications worldwide including National Geographic Traveller India, Lonely Planet Magazine India, The Indian Express and World Travel Magazine. A fellow of Media Ambassadors India-Germany 2019 program by Robert Bosch Stiftung and Centre for Media Competence, University of Tübingen. Currently, I am the photo editor for RoundGlass Sustain, a wildlife and conservation e-publication. I live in India.

More Posts - Website


4 thoughts on “Sirpur National Dance & Music Festival 2015- A Percussion Lover’s Delight!”

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Katie. I’ll follow you across the world to attend any percussion music festival! :D

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *