Cultural kaleidoscope

The SAARC Folklore Festival 2009 got together a host of traditional offerings from eight countries

By Shivani Mohan

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Published: Fri 20 Nov 2009, 9:43 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 8:18 AM

A four-day SAARC Folklore festival was held in Chandigarh between November 6 and 9. Organised by the FOSWAL (Foundation for SAARC Writers and Literature), this festival showcased folklorists from amongst nomads and tribals — unlettered men and women who have nurtured tradition and culture in their songs and dances. The second chapter of the festival was held at Shimla on November 11 and 12.

The festival attracted participants from eight SAARC nations — Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and India. The roots of all cultures lie in folklore: folksongs, fables, folktales, folk paintings, folk crafts, dances, theatre myths, legends and grandmothers’ tales. The SAARC region is connected at a deeper level through different forms of articulation: shared histories, myths, traditions, cosmologies, rituals and folk knowledge systems that together constitute a cultural identity.

It was with this sentiment in mind that FOSWAL, the SAARC apex body dedicated to nurturing cultural bonding and connectivity in the region, started working in this direction in 1975. FOSWAL has initiated many efforts to encourage cultural interactions for peace and tranquillity in the region through people-to-people contacts and dialogue.

This year, there was a virtual smorgasbord of stunning performances: Mauj Folk Band and Shafeeq Mureed Musical group from Afghanistan; Fakirs from Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai’s Dargah and Whirling Malangs (or dervishes) of Shah Hussain’s mazar, from Pakistan; Lubna Marium’s Poddar Nachon Group from Bangladesh; Peacock Dance from Nepal; and folk performances from Sri Lanka, Maldives and Bhutan.

The Indian contingent too had some scintillating participation showcasing all that is vibrant and unique about each region in India. Steering clear from any form of the techno-remix variety of folk, the audiences, for a change, got to witness Indian folklore in its purest form: the Yak Dance from Arunachal Pradesh, Yakshagaan from Karnataka, Laavni from Maharashtra, Hafiz Nagma from Kashmir, Purna Das Baul group’s folk tradition from West Bengal and Ustad Qadri Sardar Ali’s Qawwali group from Punjab amongst others.

Along with the cultural festival, an Academic Seminar on Folklore was held to discuss ‘The Intangible Heritage of the Region’ where noted scholars and writers such as Dr Abid Hussain, former Indian ambassador to the US, Dr Shamsuzzaman Khan, eminent folklore researcher from Bangladesh, Dr Azizuddin Ahmedzada Panjshiri, eminent scholar and diplomat from Afghanistan, Dr Raza Rumi, writer- blogger from Pakistan, Ms Ajeet Cour, noted Punjabi writer and founder president of FOSWAL, Dr Lubna Marium, general secretary of ‘Sadhana’ and dancer-researcher-writer from Bangladesh presented and shared their views about consolidating and preserving the region’s cultural traditions.

The cultural performances spread over various venues in Chandigarh, including schools, colleges and public places, enthralled the crowds with their vigour, grace and colour. All barriers of language and political boundaries seemed immaterial.

As a fitting end to the festival, the final event at the city’s Tagore Theatre saw a standing ovation given to all performers. Mir Makhtoon, a singer from Afghanistan enthralled audiences with a ballad that he’d written specially for the occasion. It had some not-to-be missed references to Lata Mangeshkar, Mohd Rafi and noted composer of yesteryears Madan Mohan. Later the Afghani troupe played to the gallery by a stunning instrumental rendition of Leke pehla pehla pyaar, a popular Hindi song from the 50s. It was their first visit to India, after all, and hopefully not their last.

The highlight of the festival was, when in an impromptu jugalbandi, a qawwali session presented by Ustad Qadri Sardar Ali from Punjab, India, was graced by the inimitable Malang dancers from Pakistan and later joined by artistes from Kashmir.

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