Discovering Vadnagar

I visited Vadnagar because of a photograph.

Yes, really. It was a random photograph that had popped up when I was browsing through an equally random photo-stream. The photograph was of a grand and towering toran or a decorative arch with the caption, “Kirti Toran, Vadnagar”.

My first reaction was where is Vadnagar? I mean, I knew that Vadnagar was in Gujarat and also that it was India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s native town, but where was it? When a location search revealed that it was only about 40 km from Mehsana, I was stunned, for at that time, I was planning my North Gujarat trip in December 2014 at that time. And Mehsana was to be my base ! I took this happy coincidence as a sign that I needed to visit Vadnagar. :)

And visit I did, but without realising at that time that what I thought would be a quick trip to see the Kirti Torans would turn into something more. Vadnagar, Solanki Dynasty, Kirti Toran, Gujarat Continue reading

The Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2015

I received an Asus ZenFone 4 for review just a couple of days before the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival (KGAF) began giving me the perfect opportunity to test out the phone camera, something that is very important for me in a smart phone. Enjoy reading my KGAF post, but do let me know what you think of the photographs too.


Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2015, KGAF 2015, Mumbai, Iconic Arts FestivalWhen I ended my post on the 2014 edition of the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival (KGAF) last year, it was with mixed feelings. Though I had liked the installation / visual art on display, I hadn’t particularly enjoyed the way the events (or rather the heritage walks I had participated in) had been organised and conducted. I was upset enough to write a post on all that was wrong with the way the heritage walks were organised.

KGAF 2014 had also ended with uncertainty about the 2015 edition of the festival. A Kala Ghoda resident had filed a case complaining about the inconvenience and nuisance caused by the KGAF and the Bombay High Court was considering shifting the venue elsewhere.

Over the last one year, I followed the news on all developments pertaining to the KGAF and read the arguments and the counter arguments, the demands made and the compromises offered… till one day, I saw the announcement for the KGAF 2015. At Rampart Row. And to be held as usual from the first Saturday of February.

That was on 7th February and I visited the KGAF on that very day. And then again on the 8th. Then the 10th, the 12th and finally on the 13th. I went alone and with friends, attended programmes and also met up more friends. Want to see what I did at the KGAF 2015? Read on…

Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2015, KGAF 2015, Mumbai, Iconic Arts Festival

These colourful ladders were not part of any installation. I just saw them lined up and had to take a photo. Never say no to colour !

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The incredible music of Salim Khan and Sikander Langha

It has been almost 3 weeks since my Suryagarh trip, a trip that will go down as one of those trips of a lifetime. Being able to see the incredible monsoon desertscape, to visiting lesser known and popular sights in Jaisalmer, to the food feast laid out for us, to the pampering … everything was special.

But the reason that makes Suryagarh really special was an experience that stood over and above everything else and one that remains with me even today — the incredible music I heard at Suryagarh. Right from the Padhaaro Mhaaro Desh (please click on the song to hear it being rendered by Meelu Khan and Maqsood Khan) that welcomed me to the hotel or the performance of Manganiar musicians during dinner on the first day or the Langha musicians performing during dinner on the second day or hearing Algoza for the first time or discussing Rajasthani folk music…it was music, music and more music all the way.

Langha folk artistes, Kahnoi sand dunes, Jaisalmer, Suryagarh

Langha musicians performing at the Kahnoi sand dunes

Music is a quiet passion for me. While I enjoy hearing new kinds of music and am always open to hearing different kinds of music, I rarely seek music, local or pre-recorded, during my travels and Suryagarh was no different. But music was everywhere at Suryagarh and one that enveloped me in its melodious magic. While all the music I heard was truly incredible, two performances stood out for the sheer quality and for the interaction I was able to have with the musicians concerned.

I’ll introduce them to you a little later but for now let us call them the singer at the sand dunes and the musician at the window. Because that is how I first saw them and heard their magical music. My interactions with both of them left me feeling truly blessed and like the chosen one :-)

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My “now” song: Anjan ki siti

Do you ever have a song, an idea, a storyline, or an image stuck in your head? And it just refuses to go away? For some time at least? I have this with music — it could be a song, an instrumental piece, a jingle, etc. This becomes my “now’” song, and the “nowness”  (pardon my English here) could be for any length of time.

I love the rains, not so much for the romance associated with it, but for the freshness that it brings. It is a time for to take things a little slowly, for long walks, hot cups of tea, books to be read and listen to lots of music, particularly folk music. If you were to ask me what the connection is between folk music and the rains, I have no explanation.

Therefore, it is not surprising that my “now song is Anjan ki siti mein mhaaro man dole, a folk song sung by Rehana Mirza.

A mix of Rajasthani and Haryanvi, Anjan ki siti... has been pretty addictive and I have this song playing at home, at office… and often singing along with it as well. :) I was introduced to this song by Teevramadhyam and I can’t thank him enough for this.

What is your “now” song?

My “now” song: Dasht-e-Tanhai

Do you ever have a song, an idea, a storyline, or an image stuck in your head? And it just refuses to go away? For some time at least? I have this with music — it could be a song, an instrumental piece, a jingle, etc. This becomes my “now’” song, and the “nowness”  (pardon my English here) could be for any length of time.

I discovered Coke Studio Pakistan (CSP) sometime last year, and life was never the same again. The musicians featured here have opened up an entirely new world through their folk numbers or ghazals or qawwalis or raga-based pop numbers. The sheer variety and quality of music has always amazed and delighted me and has given me hours of pleasure.

One such song is Dasht-e-Tanhai, a ghazal by Faiz Ahmed Faiz and sung by Meesha Shafi. Ever since I came across this song about 2-3 weeks back, I have been listening to it or singing along with it during all my waking hours. And I think I hum this song in my sleep as well. Little wonder then that this song is my “now” song.

Dasht-e-Tanhai was originally sung by the legendary Iqbal Bano (you can listen to her version here). Though her version is very good, Meesha Shafi’s rendition of this song is a sensory delight. It is a song that is full of pathos, longing, hope, love, romance and Faiz’s beautiful Urdu poetry is matched by Meesha’s sensuous and earthy voice. You can actually feel the emotion behind each word in this song and when I listen to…

apni khushboo mein sulagti hui madham madham
door ufaq par chamakti hui qatra qatra…

I get goosebumps. (Please switch on the sub-titles option in the video for the English translation). What a song ! What. A. Song. :-)

Have you listened to this song before? Which rendition did you like — Iqbal Bano’s or Meesha Shafi’s?

To listen to other songs from this series, please click here.

My “now” song: Daya ghana

Do you ever have a song, an idea, a storyline, or an image stuck in your head? And it just refuses to go away? For some time at least? I have this with music — it could be a song, an instrumental piece, a jingle, etc. This becomes my “now’” song, and the “nowness”  (pardon my English here) could be for any length of time.

These days, I have been listening to a lot of both film and non-film songs based on Raga Puriya Dhanashree. And one of those songs has become my “now” song: Daya ghana, sung by Suresh Wadkar to lyrics by Sudhir Moghe and music by Hridayanath Mangeshkar for the 1981 Marathi film, Sansar.

I am a great fan of Suresh Wadkar and, in my opinion, this is one of his best renditions ever. A highly underrated and under appreciated singer, no one else could have sung this song.

Daya Ghana is a song about the futility of this life and is directed towards God asking for the explanation of the reason behind this entire existence. The song is dark, questioning and sombre and quite reflects my own reflective, inward-looking mood these days. Whenever I listen to this song, the existential angst conveyed by the lyrics touches a chord, while the calming music soothes me.

Does your music reflect your mood or does your mood choose the music?