Kabir, the 15th-century mystic poet and saint has been the inspiration behind many classical songs through his timeless poetry. However, a Mumbai-based band, Kabir Cafe is interpreting his verses via rock music while providing a modern twist to his mysticism.
The 15th-century weaver poet is the inspiration behind the band, fronted by rhythm guitarist Neeraj Arya.
The other members of the band are Raman Iyer (mandolin), violinist Mukund Ramaswamy and percussionist Viren Solanki.
The band, which has pioneered the genre Kabir Rock, fuses Carnatic elements with Kabir's popular verses such as 'Chadariya jheeni re bini...', 'Moko kahan dhoondhe re bande', 'mann lago mero yaar fakiri mein'.
"We don't change the basic tune and keep the lyrics same. We simply play around it. We follow Prahlad (Singh Tipanya) ji's music, whatever he sings we sing the same, it is just that we try and make it peppy for the younger generation," Ramaswamy told PTI.
The violinist says while classical music is timeless, Kabir is an important poet and his music should reach youth.
"A lot of people have questioned the way we sing and try to experiment with Kabir. But with change, any form of music is prone to comparison. There were people who didn't like it and felt offended but we have reached the people we want to," he says.
The band, which has gained popularity after concerts in Kolkata, Chennai, Pune, Mumbai, also performs in villages during the annually held Kabir Yatra.
"We go to Kabir Yatra and perform in villages every year. In those places, people might not know what a sound-track is but they enjoy music. It is a different experience playing there. There is a sense of collaboration as people simply cherish the music," he says.
The musician says what Kabir spoke centuries ago is still relevant. "He spoke about humanity and gender equality and we do not see that. Caste system is still prevalent.
The message from Kabir was unity and oneness, to forget all this and form a bond with human beings simply as a human."
The band performed at the recently concluded Mahindra Kabira Festival.