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Singing Religious Poetry in North India: Text / Music / Performance

Singing Religious Poetry in North India: Text / Music / Performance

Renowned Kabir singer PRAHLAD SINGH TIPANYA and group 

Prahlad Singh Tipanya 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.

Tipanya-ji’s 2017 tour is being organized by Dr. Linda Hess, a well-known scholar of Kabir and Senior Lecturer in the Department of Religious Studies at Stanford University. He will be accompanied by five other musicians, singing and playing instruments. Dr. Hess will also be traveling with them, providing translations of the bhajans during performances where that is appropriate. At academic institutions they will be available for class visits. The Indian Council for Cultural Relations is supporting the tour by providing international airfare and other assistance. Each host will be asked to provide their share of domestic transportation costs, hospitality, and an honorarium.

For further details please contact Linda Hess,



Friday, April 14, 2017. 07:30 PM


Dinkelspiel Auditorium


Center for South Asia, Department of Religious Studies, Department of Music, Department of Theater & Performance Studies, Stanford Humanities Center