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Singing Religious Poetry in North India: Concert by Prahlad Singh Tipanya with accompanying musicians
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.
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.