Sur Jahan : Celebrating Traditional Music for World Peace

Bengali folk performance ⓒ

Come February, the eastern Indian city of Kolkata will host the ninth edition of Sur Jahan, an annual, non-ticketed, open-to-all World Peace Music Festival that has acquired a loyal audience and is registering a steady rise in international audiences. After Kolkata, the festival will be hosted at Goa, a popular tourist destination on the western Indian coast. The dates and venues are 1 to 3 February at Mohar Kunj in Kolkata and 6 to 8 February at the International Centre in Goa.

At Kolkata different genres of Bengali folk and Baul-Fakiri music will be presented. Bauls and Fakirs are spiritual but non-conformist communities of balladeers who oppose orthodoxy and blind faith and sing about love, peace, and tolerance. They believe in discovering God within the human body and spirit, and their songs are often called Soul Music. There are also the boatman’s song, called Bhatiyali, and the pleasant tunes of Bhawaiya, the songs of the sons of the soil, the farmers.

Collaborative performance ⓒ

Among the international bands are Mario Lúcio from Cape Verde, Mawlawiyah from Egypt, Monsieur Doumani from Cyprus, Liona and Serena Strings from Spain, Babra from Hungary and Madagán from Northern Ireland (in Goa only). Mario Lúcio is a WOMEX Lifetime Award winner singer-songwriter and a lifetime researcher of traditional music. Led by Amer Eltony and formed in 1994, the internationally revered Mawlawyiah is synonymous with Egypt’s Mevlevi musical heritage, with its trademark whirling Dervish dance. Monsieur Doumani presents traditional Cypriot music with an eclectic mix of tzouras, trombone, flute, and guitar. The band received the prestigious German Records Critics Award in the World Music category. Liona & Serena Strings specializes in Jewish Sephardic music. The band moves from chamber music to Spanish tunes, eastern sounds, and Arabic rhythms all the while remaining faithful to its antique roots. Based in Budapest and formed in 2014, Babra presents authentic south Slavic music with a unique mix of tamburas, clarinet, and accordion that reflects the musical heritage of the lands along the Danube River. Madagán plays traditional Irish music with uilleann pipes and concertina, instruments largely unknown outside Ireland. Its repertoire reflects the thriving Irish dance music and Scottish and Celtic melodies.

Sur Jahan  stands out for its daytime workshops where the world musicians share about their traditions and jam with local musicians. The performances are held in the evening.

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