Journeys with Kabir Concert & Film Series looks at the man and his poetry

The poetry of Kabir, who was born into a caste of Muslim weavers at the turn of the 15th century, has for generations inspired the poetic imagination of his followers. Even today he is still venerated by followers from different sectors of Indian society. The poetry and the man will be explored at the upcoming Journeys with Kabir Concert & Film Series.

Kabir is known as one of the so-called “poet-saints” who inspired religious movements which departed from the established practices of Islamic orthodoxy as well as the dominant Brahmanic traditions. Selected verses of Kabir’s spiritual hymns have also been included in the Sikh scriptures and are thus part of the daily recitals in Sikh Gurdwaras.

Left: Prahlad Singh Tipanya

The Journeys with Kabir Concert & Film Series will take place March 16 and 17 at York, and will celebrate this Indian poet’s life with the award-winning music of Prahlad Singh Tipanya and his group from India. The series will also feature the most recent films about Kabir by Indian filmmaker Shabnam Virmani.

The concert will begin at 7:30pm on Monday, March 16 at the Price Family Cinema, 102 Accolade East Building, Keele campus. Tipanya will perform traditional bhajans, or devotional songs, in honour of Kabir. Along with his ensemble, Tipanya will represent one of the traditional ways in which Kabir’s poetry still deeply touches the lives of many people in contemporary South Asia. The singing and music accompanying Tipanyas’ vocals are grounded in a vernacular idiom, but they extend beyond language, country and culture.

Three films by Virmani exploring the work, life and influences of Kabir, will run as part of the film series depicting the many different faces of Kabir through a visually and musically engaging documentary filmmaking style, considered among the best of its kind. For times and locations, visit the YCAR Web site.

The first film, Had-Anhad (Bounded-Boundless), explores the relevance of Kabir’s ideas in the context of a society marked by communal violence and political antagonisms. The second film, Kabira Khada Bazaar Mein (In the Market Stands Kabir), investigates Kabir’s relevance in questioning the religious-secular divide. The final film, Koi Sunta Hai (Someone is Listening), interweaves the oral folk traditions of Kabir in central India with the intensely personal narrative of the late classical singer Pandit Kumar Gandharva, keeping the spiritual ideas of Kabir as the central binding thread.

Left: Shabnam Virmani

In addition to being a celebration and examination of the life and poetry of Kabir, the concert and film series also demonstrates some of the key tenets of Kabir’s philosophy by bringing together many elements to create something that can been meaningful to all people. The inclusion of traditional and modern elements, of various forms of media and of different, yet equally important, approaches to understanding Kabir as a man and poet creates a common space in which anyone can seek to understand the man and his work.

The Journeys with Kabir Concert & Film Series has been organized by Linda Hess, a professor in the Department of Religious Studies at Stanford University. It is sponsored by the York Centre for Asian Research (YCAR) and York’s South Asian Studies Program. The events are sponsored by the Office of the Vice-President Academic & Provost, York’s Department of Languages, Literatures & Linguistics, Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute and Scotiabank.

The event series is open to the general public. Admission to all film screenings is free. Concert admission is $15 or $5 for students. Reservations are encouraged and can be made by contacting YCAR at or by telephone at ext. 44068.

For more specific event inquiries, contact Professor Michael Nijhawan at