Wednesday, July 27, 2016

like headless chickens

Published on Aug 20, 2015
Running around as we are – like headless chickens in a hundred different directions – this song stops us in our tracks. In his sharp and in-your-face manner, Kabir asks us the most basic question of all, which we persistently neglect to ask ourselves: Where have we come from? Where are we going? How could we have a satisfactory direction to our lives without grappling with this fundamental question? And how could we possibly grapple with this question without looking deeper into our own selves?

(Click on Settings for subtitles in English & Hindi. Click ‘B’ on keyboard to remove the black background in subtitles.)

In 2003, this 15th century mystic poet from north India – Kabir – came alive in the unlikely context of north America, in a performance tour of the Malwi folk singer Prahlad Tipanya. This unusual journey was captured in the film – Ajab Shahar: Kabir in America – in which these songs of Kabir are interwoven with glimpses of the Indian folk artists discovering the culture of north America in myriad encounters. In a delightful moment at the end of this video, they discover the wonders of Acapella when they bump into students rehearsing in a corridor!

Prahlad Singh Tipanya is one of the most popular and respected folk singers of Kabir in the country. A school teacher by profession, Prahladji’s life took a deep and profound turn when he first heard the tambura – the five stringed folk instrument. That became the gateway for him into the world of Kabir, and since then he has been tirelessly sharing the power of Kabir with countless rural, urban and international audiences over the last 4 decades. His village Luniyakhedi in Madhya Pradesh has become a destination for many seekers of Kabir. Along with his son Ajay Tipanya, Prahladji organizes the vibrant Malwa Kabir Yatra every year, where many singers gather and journey along with seekers into the villages of the region in a travelling festival. Contact Prahlad Singh Tipanya at +91-94250-84096 or his senior troupe member and violin player Devnarayan Saroliya at +91-98064-40481.

The USA tour was organized by Dr. Linda Hess, one of the finest scholars and translators of Kabir into the English language, based in Stanford University. Write to her at The video – Ajab Shahar: Kabir in America – is one of several films on Kabir made by Shabnam Virmani, filmmaker, singer and director of the Kabir Project, located at the Srishti School of Art, Design & Technology in Bangalore, India. Write to her at DVD of the film along with a book of song texts and translations is available at, Hindi version at

This song was later edited into the film Chalo Hamara Des where the meanings and contexts of Kabir unfold on Prahladji’s own turf – in the villages of Malwa, Madhya Pradesh – where he has learnt, imbibed and re-expressed Kabir in deeply profound and inspiring ways over the last few decades. View the film episode at

This is one of a series of uploads for Ajab Shahar, an upcoming webspace featuring songs, images and conversations around Bhakti, Sufi and Baul poetry from India and thereabouts, currently under construction by the Kabir Project team.,

Song Credits:
Vocals & Tambura: Prahlad Tipanya
Second Vocals & Manjira: Ashok Tipanya
Dholak: Ajay Tipanya
Violin: Devnarayan Saroliya

Translation: Linda Hess

Video Credits:
Camera & Direction: Shabnam Virmani
Location Sound: T. Jayashree
Editing: Shabnam Virmani & Waseem Sheikh
Editing Support: Tara Kini & Vasanth D. Kummy
Sound Mixing & Mastering: Clay Kelton
Collection: Kabir Project

Place of recording: Syracuse University, USA
Date of Recording: November 2003

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