An Electrifying Concert by Kabir Cafe at Pragati Maidan, New Delhi || A Musical Culmination to our Day at the New Delhi World Book Fair 2023

While we had read Kabir's dohas in our school and had studied about Sant Kabir a bit, our knowledge about Kabir, his philosophy and poetry, and a whole arm of fusion folk music dedicated to the poet today, increased significantly when we attended the Kabir Festival in Varanasi in 2022.

While we had read Kabir's dohas in our school and had studied about Sant Kabir a bit, our knowledge about Kabir, his philosophy and poetry, and a whole arm of fusion folk music dedicated to the poet today, increased significantly when we attended the Kabir Festival in Varanasi in 2022. 


From legendary Solo artists, such as Prahlad Tipaniya, Mooralal Marwada, Shabnam Virmani, to full fledged bands, such as Kabir Cafe, there's so much one can explore. Fusion music by Kabir Cafe has also made this genre approachable to our Gen Z. 


And I can say this with confidence, because just after listening to the trance-like rendition of "Mat kar Maya ko ahkaar" in our car a few times, our 10-year-old niece, Urvi, had started humming it instinctively. And the second proof was yesterday, when we discovered that Kabir Cafe is performing at New Delhi World Book Fair yesterday. 


We happened to be at the New Delhi World Book Fair on Sunday evening, because of a poetry reading that my publisher Hawakal had invited me to. Otherwise, Sunday is the worst day to visit the book fair because of the crowd. After reading out my haiku, tanka, and prose poetry to a small but attentive crowd, we were just heading out, when we heard the Kabir Cafe version of "Jara Halke Gaadi Haako" playing somewhere. It was a billboard announcing that the concert is about to start at 6PM. We just couldn't believe our luck.    

The reason we were so familiar with Kabir Cafe is that their music had kept us constant company during our 14-day long drive from Noida to Rameshwaram and back. The peppy "Chadariya", "Halke Gaadi Haako", and the serene "Mat kar maya ko ahkaar" played on a loop throughout this drive. Only very rarely did we switch to anything else. 

Neeraj Arya, a self-taught musician and a student of the legend Prahlad Tipaniya ji, started off by performing his music on the streets of Mumbai, as part of the non-profit organization, Natural Streets for Performing Arts (NSPA). He was later joined by violinist Mukund Ramaswamy. By 2013, more band members had joined and the band Kabir Cafe had started coming together. 

Band members never fail to mention that the very first band member is Sant Kabir, because the songs they perform are based on his poetry and philosophy. When the band performed in Delhi last night, they had the violinist Vishnu playing instead of Mukund. Not sure if this is a permanent change or just for some tours. Anyway, the violinist performed really well yesterday. 


On the harmonium was Piyush Acharya, who also supported Neeraj Arya in the vocals. During the performance, the audience also witnessed a spectacular jugalbandi between the drummer Viren Solanki and the percussionist Vikram (Vikki) Bramhankar. On the bass guitar was Britto Khangchian. They were ably supported by Rajat Dawda, the sound engineer. 


Neeraj Arya congratulated Rajat for completing the tuning in record time and he said that he felt it was in record time because audience had not complained. I think the credit here goes to the audience, because they were tuning their equipment for more than half an hour. The show was supposed to start at 6, but it was only able to start at about 6:45. 

After tuning their equipment till 6:30, bizarrely, the band members walked off the stage. This was followed by an announcement welcoming Kabir Cafe to New Delhi World Book Fair. After this, the band members took a good 10 minutes to walk back onto the stage. The Delhi audience was very patient through all this and I want to say this out loud because Delhi people are stereotyped as being boisterous and short tempered. But here they were very sweetly waiting for the band to start performing. 

There was also another moment through this concert that made me feel very very proud of Delhi. Neeraj Arya asked the audience how many of us had actually come for the book fair, obviously expecting very few people to raise their hands, assuming that people were there to listen to the music. But each and every member of the audience raised their hands. And this made me so happy. This was true for us too. we were there for the books, the music was a welcome addition. 

Kabir Cafe started their performance with an electrifying rendition of "Chadariya", setting the stage for a great evening with Kabir's philosophies and great music. They went on to perform "Mann lagyo mero yaar faqiri mein", "Halke Gaadi Hako", "Munia Pinjare waali", "Mat kar Maya ko ahkaar" and a few more numbers. 


Overall, it was a great culmination to a literary evening. We came back home feeling relaxed and enriched and peaceful beyond expectations. It was a welcome and thoughtful initiative at part of the New Delhi World Book Fair organizers to get Kabir Cafe here. Their music and lyrics resonate very well with a festival of literature. 

Related Blogposts -

With lot of travel (personal & business) in last 5 months, we are lagging behind in sharing some of these experiences. We were in Benaras during Mahindra Kabira Festival, which happens in the month of November every year. During the same trip, we also took out time to walk around the beautiful city of Kashi and one of the most talked experiences of Varanasi is Ganga Aarti, which takes place on different ghats during morning as well as evening. Through this blogpost, we want to share these Ganga Aarti experiences on different ghats and will also share some recommendations.Ganga Aarti in Varanasi - Is it really an exceptional experience or an over-hyped activity to do in Kashi of India?


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