New Delhi: The Classic Bagh Festival is a unique and intimate festival set within the grounds of Sundar Nursery, Delhi, formerly known as Azim Bagh, or Bagh-e-Azeem. Much like a garden, ‘Classic Bagh’ is reflective of a number of values – ecological sensitivity; inclusivity, variety and diversity; qualities definitive to a style or an artist; wisdom in tradition; artists who are emerging strong and are likely to sustain and flower over time; arts which have already withstood the test of time.
Designed as an immersive and environmentally conscious experience, the free one-day festival has been developed as a site-conscientious response to the luscious green setting of Sunder Nursery and its broader location within Nizamuddin, celebrating Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya’s vision of pluralism and kindness, and the legacy and contribution to Hindustani music of his favourite disciple, father of Qawaali and Urdu literature, Hazrat Ameer Khusrau. The festival strives to engender an atmosphere of inner quietude, peace and a calm and a gracious respect for nature; the new normal for the future. Open to visitors of Sunder Nursery, the Classic Bagh festival hopes to highlight the importance of community and celebrate inclusiveness.
Split into three periods, the Classic Bagh festival will open with a lakeside dawn chorus (6:00 am-9:00 am) of vocal recitals from the Hindustani, Sufi, Bhajan, Shabad and Qawwali traditions by the remarkable singers Smita Bellur and Jasleen Kaur Monga. Later in the morning (9:30 am-1:30 pm), in the heritage monument-straddled garden north of the Amphitheatre, a short set by the Langa Ensemble will flag off the session, followed by Delhi’s own renowned Qawwali singer Dhruv Sangari ‘Bilal Chishti’ followed by a series of classical-sufi-folk covers by emerging Delhi artist Bawari Basanti. The festival will draw to a close later in the evening (6:00 pm-10:00 pm) with an eclectic set – a special Jangda recital from the Manganiyar tradition led by Barkat Khan, ghazals by emerging artist Sraboni Chaudhary and soul-stirring performances by renowned masters Ustad Saeed Zafar Khan, now the Khalifa of the Dilli Gharana, and Qawaal Bachchey Warsi Brothers, performing in Sunder Nursery’s amphitheatre.
Jonathan Kennedy, Director Arts British Council India, said, “British Council works with emerging and established festivals towards the development and economic empowerment of India’s emerging festivals sector through collaboration between India and the UK around sustainability and developing skill sets. Classic Bagh is a special UK-India celebration which brings together artistes and audiences in a safe environment and supports the festivals sector in India as it grapples with the impact of Covid-19. We understand that this is a difficult time for the creative sector, the artists and the creative professionals. So, in partnership with Jodhpur RIFF and the Aga Khan Foundation, the British Council reach out across digital frontiers, from the beautiful Sunder Nursery in Nizamuddin Delhi, in solidarity with the many inspiring artists in India and the UK to bring to audiences an enchanting musical experience showcasing some of the most talented voices in the country, as culture truly connects us.”
Artistic Director and Creative Producer, Divya Bhatia says, “Nizamuddin is a very special place from a musical and spiritual perspective. JodhpurRIFF has designed the festival to acknowledge that legacy but also to go wider and include lineage or forms or artists resonant with the spirit of Khusaru’s work while bringing into the spotlight women artists who enrich and nourish our artistic and spiritual traditions.”
The Classic Bagh festival is conscious of the challenges professional musicians and performers have faced through the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and underlines the British Council’s aim to support artists by bringing them face-to-face with audiences again. Part of the British Council’s Festivals for the Future programme that features a series of UK-India musical collaborations between Jodhpur RIFF, Wales, and Northern Ireland, the Classic Bagh festival reflects support for India’s emerging festivals sector, developing crucial skill sets and strengthening India’s creative economy and art and culture festivals, in partnership with the UK.
With Holi just around the corner, a special focus on ‘Rang’ will also transcend through the evening’s repertoire.
Both morning performance sets will be open to anyone visiting Sunder Nursery, encouraging new audiences to interact with the especially curated music.
Extra care is being taken to design the festival experience from a COVID-19 safety point of view, with mandatory masking, socially distant seating and capping seated audiences to less than half the capacity of the amphitheatre for the evening performance.