Language and Music I use in compositions

Kabir has lived in an age where language was slightly different from the manner we use it today. So in my choice of pada, doha or saakhi (पद, दोहा, साखी) I have deliberately tried to use those poetic pieces which are clear in meaning even to the modern man. I have not tried to things whose meanings are not clear to me myself. But sometimes I must admit that when I did start the singing the meanings were not as clear as they became much later as I sang them over years and the many layers of thoughts came to me.

I am sure, knowing Kabir for what he was, he never tried to make things difficult to understand. Sometimes when I hear from people from the countrysides of UP and Bihar speak with one another I find those same sounds and I am so happy to see that language is still being spoken in its sweetness and melody. Its another matter I hardly understand most of it!!

Moreso, my music. Though I have had a long training with a number of gurus, in at least two different gharanas of singing, my bhakti music is devoid of any affectations of classical styles. This is for two reasons. Firstly, when I started to compose music (at 27 years) I did not have such a grasp of composition and ragas. Secondly, I started to sing Kabir as an answer to my inner quest- not as a thing which was an extension of my singing. So for me bhakti came first, not the raga. The raga is a tool, not the paramount thing in singing Kabir.

Before, I started to sing Kabir of my own sort, the only other person whose Kabir singing I had heard was Pt.Kumar Gandharva. Having heard him, there was no way I wanted to sing Kabir in that manner. His style was the acme of his singing and established him as a singing Nirguni singer, made him popular among the educated, middle class audiences and created a new wave of bringing Kabir into the mainstream consciousness of India. His classical music was a different story altogether. And yet, it was not a style that could be easily emulated.

I certainly can sing a few bhajan in the manner he sang them, but I do not want to compose music like that (not that I can either) I wanted to have such a simple musical expression that anyone who heard them could learn them easily and my Kabir (merakabir) could become  a part of day-to-day lives. The additional deliberation I did in this case was I did not record the albums in any other format than a solitary voice. I could easily have got a chorus together...but I chose to remain singular, so that it could be the scenario anyone could be in - alone by themselves and singing.

Much later, I heard a lot of styles of singing Kabir. Some of it also came from the movies Shabnam (Virmani) made. But I realised all the more that these are not the styles that most people can sing by themselves, unless they are trained in a certain way. All the more I am comfortable within me about what I made out of my Kabir consciousness. It is an offering out of my deepest love for that man, who had the highest philosophy to offer to the world- love. Since then my whole quest has been to become more and more simple, at peace within (though life is as difficult and heart-breaking as it could get) and grounded in music and service rather than aggrandizement of the Self.

पोथी पढ़ पढ़ जग मुआ, पंडित भया न कोय
ढाई आखर प्रेम का, पढ़े सो पंडित होय 
pothi padh padh jag muva, pandit bhayaa na koy
dhai aakhar prem ka, padhe so pandit hoy

My simple interpretation-
with all its scholarly searching and reading numerous books, nobody became learned- a scholar (in the true sense). He alone is learned who has learnt the meaning of the simple word 'love'

Mera Kabir, whether as my writing, my singing or my lecturing is a part of that simplicity of Kabir as I see reflected within and borne out of that same small word love.

Satguru mohae bhaavae

From my four CD Kabir album, called Kahe Kabir, this is one bhajan that I am now in a position to share. It was recorded when I was i...