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Singing Religious Poetry in North India

Five scholars and two artists explore poetry, music, society, performance. The performances and symposium are in conjunction with the South Asia by the Bay Graduate Student Conference.


April 14, 2017 - 7:00pm to April 15, 2017 - 7:30pm
All events are free and open to the public

Friday, April 14

7:30 pm, Dinkelspiel Auditorium

Concert by Padmashri Prahlad Singh Tipanya, renowned Kabir singer, with accompanying musicians

3 pm, Building 50 Room 51A

Symposium: Chair and Commentator Anna Schultz

Panelists: Kirin Narayan, Sukanya Chakrabarti, Vivek Virani, Linda Hess

7:30 pm, Campbell Recital Hall, Braun Music Center

Concert by celebrated Baul singer Parvathy Baul

About the Artists


Prahlad Singh Tipanya still lives in his natal village of Lunyakhedi in Ujjain District, Madhya Pradesh—the heart of the cultural region known as Malwa. He is renowned for his singing and interpretation of Kabir, the great fifteenth-century Hindi poet, along with other Hindi poets associated with nirgun devotion. Nirgun refers to a God or ultimate reality beyond word and form. Kabir is famous for both his profound mystical insight and his sharp social commentary. His voice is often invoked as inspiring communal harmony and social equality. A lower-caste weaver who debunked birth-based systems of hierarchy, Kabir remains a hero for lower-caste communities in North India today.

A village schoolteacher, Tipanya-ji began singing and playing the 5-string tambura in the folk style of the Malwa region in 1978, when he was 24. Nearly four decades later he is a household name; countless people enjoy his audio and video presence as well as his live performances. Many acknowledge him as having powerfully contributed to a resurgence of Kabir oral traditions and music in Malwa and beyond.

Since 1980 Tipanya-ji’s voice has been heard widely on All India Radio and Doordarshan, Indian national television. In 2003 his troupe performed in London, then toured the US for over two months. Other international performances have occurred in Canada, Pakistan, and Bhutan, with a second US tour in 2009. His awards include Malwa Ratna, Shrestha Kala Acharya, Isuri Samman, Bhajan Bhushan, Madhya Pradesh ka Shikhar Samman, and the Sangeet Natak Academy award. In 2011 he received the prestigious Padma Shri award, one of the highest honors bestowed by the Government of India.


Parvathy Baul is a practitioner, performer and teacher of the Baul tradition from Bengal. She is also an instrumentalist, storyteller and painter. She has performed in over a dozen countries, including such prestigious venues and festivals as the Noh Theater in Kyoto, the World Music Center in New York City, and the Festival of World Sacred Music in Fez, Morocco. Parvathy’s technical virtuosity – her mastery of vocal pitch and tone while playing multiple instruments and dancing – has been lauded by music experts, while the overall impact of her performance has been described by critics as “riveting” and “spellbinding.” She is the founder of Tantidhatri, an international women’s performance festival, and co-founder of the Ektara Kalari school in Kerala for training in both song and traditional spiritual practice. 

Parvathy’s performance work emerges from a long lineage of master Baul singers, dancers, and spiritual teachers. Practitioners date the Baul tradition back as far as the eighth century C.E. Baul songs are revered by Bengalis and others around the world and have been declared a “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” by UNESCO. Parvathy studied closely with two of the most respected Baul singer-gurus of the previous generation, Sri Sanatan Das Thakur Baul and Sri Shoshanko Goshai. She was recognized by Sanatan Das Baul as both a musical and spiritual teacher, carrying forward his spiritual legacy.While fully embodying traditional Baul music and practice, Parvathy is also renowned for her continued efforts in renewing this ancient heritage. As the most recognized woman Baul performer in the world, she is making systematic training in traditional Baul arts available to women on a scale that has never occurred previously. She is a tireless advocate for both preservation and renewal of the tradition.         



Free and Open to the Public

At both concerts, the sung poetry will be translated.

Questions? Contact Linda Hess: