The Vancouver Tagore Society’s seventh annual West Coast Tagore Festival, at Richmond’s Gateway Theatre, proved yet again the power of arts and multiculturalism to bring people together. Featuring local and foreign artists in music, poetry, dance, acting, and lecture, there was never a dull moment to be found within the four “parts” the program was loosely split into over the weekend of August 11-12.
West Coast Tagore Festival 2017: Year of the Mystic Bauls
This year, the Festival moved to the much larger Gateway Theatre, and imposed on itself the theme of “Tagore and the Bauls.” A small group of Bengali mystic minstrels and proponents of social reform and spiritual wisdom, the Bauls and their philosophy are natural vessels for the arts; as such, they fit seamlessly into the event. Through their folk songs, the Bauls express endorsement of deep spirituality, universal and divine love, humanity, equality, social change and an ascetic-like way of life. Baul culture has had profound influence on Rabindranath Tagore, who wrote many pieces inspired by them, as well as on Bengali culture as a whole.
One of the key highlights of the festival was a Baul-inspired poetry contest, including poets from the Lower Mainland, the Sunshine Coast, Bellingham, WA and Atlanta, GA.
It is fascinating to note that the winners of the contest hailed (originally) from Lithuania, San Diego, and Baghdad.
First-place recipient Lilija Valis, is the author of a book of poetry, Freedom on the Fault Line. Her poetry has been published in eight anthologies and various magazines. She also has two poetry CDs out. She has read her work, solo or with musician/singer/songwriter Enrico Renz, at numerous local and Bellingham poetry and dance events, including Poetic Justice, Twisted Poets Literary Salon, Surrey Muse, Renaissance Books, Writers International Network, musical and philosophical events, at Cobalt Theatre and the Vancouver Fringe Festival. Leta Lagaunda from Atlanta, Georgia and Lozan Yamolky from the Lower Mainland won the second and third prizes respectively.
Also Read: Know more about the Vancouver Tagore Society
The Festival also saw a fascinating lecture on Bauls, and their connection to the history of Indian social reform and Rabindranath Tagore over time, by Santanu Mitra; performances by students of the Vancouver Tagore Society’s new weekly Tagorean song and dance Workshop Series; a multilingual poetic “Woven Tapestry of Words” by World Poetry; music and poetry by several esteemed artists; and selections of Baul songs from Rabindranath Tagore, Kabir, and Lalon Fakir by many amazing artists such as Akhil Jobanputra and Navida Ikram.
The weekend’s feature presentation was “Amol,” a wonderful piece of theatre weaving together songs, dance, poetry and drama, based on the character from Tagore’s drama “Post-Office.” The story took audiences into the mind of Amol, an innocent orphan boy unable to leave his home. Over the course of the drama, he meets a wise Baul and learns to find peace and refuge in fantastical places. The theatre was scripted and directed by Dr. Shankhanaad Mallick, Sabuj Mazumder and Avik Dey; noted dancer Arno Kamolika choreographed and directed the dance segments. The Festival was coordinated by Ayan Sarkar.
To know more about the Vancouver Tagore Society, or the West Coast Tagore festival, log on to www.vancouvertagoresociety.org