Wednesday, April 15, 2009

UI to celebrate Kabir legacy

"Kabir Lives!," a festival of events celebrating the legacy of the 15th century weaver-poet Kabir, will take place Thursday and Friday, April 16 and 17 in Iowa City and on the University of Iowa campus. The festival features five folk musicians from India, a documentary filmmaker and a noted scholar and translator.

"Kabir was a radical mystic from a low-caste community in North India, whose songs challenged both Hindus and Muslims to move beyond their prejudices," said Phil Lutgendorf, a professor in the UI Department of Asian and Slavic Languages in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences ( CLAS ) and the South Asian Studies Programme co-director. "He is still enormously popular today and his presence can be found in multiple social, religious and political locations. His poems are quoted in everyday speech and appear in vibrantly diverse forms of music."

Linda Hess of Stanford University, a scholar and translator of Kabir, has organized an American tour by a group of celebrated Kabir folksingers and an award-winning documentary filmmaker.
The tour's visit to Iowa includes the two-day program in Iowa City.

A film screening of Had-Anhad: Bound-Unbound: Journeys with Ram and Kabir will take place at 8 p.m. Thursday, April 16 in 3505 Seamens Center on the University of Iowa campus. The film is a documentary that features performances by contemporary Kabir singers in both India and Pakistan. Virmani will answer questions following the screening.

The festival continues at 4 p.m. on Friday, April 17, with a book reading and conversation with Hess at Prairie Lights Bookstore. Hess will discuss and read from her celebrated translation of Kabir's Bijak and her forthcoming book, Singing Emptiness. At 8 p.m. on Friday, there will be a concert by Prahlad Singh Tipaniya and Party at Trinity Episcopal Church.
All events are free and open to the public.

The singers, Prahlad Singh Tipanya and Party, hail from a village in the Malwa region of Madhya Pradesh State. A member of India's Dalit, former "untouchable" community, Tipanya has gained wide recognition as an exponent of Kabir's music and message. In March of 2008, he received the prestigious Sangeet Natak Akademi, a national foundation for the arts award for his achievements.

Tipanya's group, accompanied by Hess, toured many American cities and campuses in 2003, to great acclaim. This year's return tour was inspired by the completion of filmmaker Shabnam Virmani's four documentaries on the radical saint poet's legacy: Journeys with Kabir, and by the imminent release of Hess' new book on the Kabir musical tradition, Singing Emptiness. Virmani and Hess are accompanying the five musicians.

Sponsors for the Iowa City festival include the following: UI South Asian Studies Program; UI International Programs; the UI Department of Religious Studies and UI School of Music, both in the UI CLAS; Trinity Episcopal Church, Grinnell College, Kala Mandali: Friends of South Asian Arts; the Singh Foundation; and the Indian Council for Cultural Relations.

For more information visit or call 319-353-2700. International Programs is part of the UI Office of the Provost.
STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500
MEDIA CONTACTS: Philip Lutgendorf, 319-335-2157,; Meena Khandelwal, 319-335-2496,; Kelli Andresen, 319-335-2026,

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