The Fireflies Festival of Music last night was a wonderful experience. The Fireflies Ashram itself is charming and the setting was just right for a night of music under the stars (actually visible, for a change) in the open-air amphitheater. The stage was demarcated by a gorgeous, spreading Banyan tree whose abundant leaves and gnarled trunk formed a better backdrop than anything man-made could hope to. The lighting was beautiful and it added to the other-worldly atmosphere. The place reminded me a little bit of summer nights long ago at Pilani, JNU – places like that – when the air was rich with youth and freedom and the common spirit of loving something bigger than oneself.
This was the fifth year of this annual music festival, previously known as Bhoomi Jathre. It’s the first time I was able to make it though (another example of how dreadfully boring I was as a corporate stooge). We reached the ashram around 10 pm so we had missed some of the performances because they started at 6.30 pm. Of the ones we saw, I particularly enjoyed Oikyotaan, who combine traditional Baul music with fusion guitar to produce some soul-stirring sounds. Lead singer ‘Bonnie’ Chakraborty’s soaring voice rent the night air, conjuring up visions of the Ganges, fishermen in the early morn, Shantiniketan, love.
Kartick Das Baul produced some fascinating tunes on the khomok (or gubgubi). The khomok is a traditional Baul instrument comprising a skin head pierced by a string, which passes through the wooden drum-shaped body to attach to a small brass handle. The drum is tucked under the arm and player plucks the string while pulling on the brass handle.
Shafiq Pervez’s group of Qawwali singers were good fun, especially for those who like Sufi music (which I do). I also liked this band of tremendously energetic folk musicians and dancers, whose names I unfortunately missed.
As dawn slowly lengthened across the sky, Serbian jazz guitarist Nemanja Rebic with Bangalore’s Kartik Mani on the drums played some interesting fusion music.