Field Recording: Varkari singing in Mumbai

I spent the winter break in Mumbai and on my last weekend there, early in the morning of a Sunday, I heard some very nice music wafting up to our 3rd floor house. Closer inspection showed the two gentleman above singing a bhajan. So I quickly ran down with my mic and got this awesome recording:

I didn’t have a camera at hand from which I could take a video of him singing, but I’m quite happy with the audio recording. Now you’re probably wondering why there is so much traffic at the back. It’s because we’re on the main road, where even on Sundays there are buses plying. I didn’t try to isolate them, because in today’s day and age, it’s part of their song, this noise of traffic.

Here they’re talking a little bit about themselves:

They are varkari which is defined here as:

Varkari (meaning “a pilgrim”) is a Vaishnava religious movement (sampraday) within the bhakti spiritual tradition of Hinduism, geographically associated with the Indian states of Maharashtra and northern Karnataka. Varkaris worship Vithoba (also known as Vitthal), the presiding deity of Pandharpur, regarded as a form of Krishna, an Avatari (source of various Avatar (incarnation)). Teachers associated with the movement include Dnyaneshwar, Namdev, Chokhamela, Eknath, and Tukaram, all of whom are accorded the title of Sant.

The Varkari movement includes the worship of Krishna in the form of Vithoba and a duty-based approach towards life emphasising, moral behavior and strict avoidance of alcohol and tobacco, strict vegetarian diet and fasting on Ekadashi day (twice a month), self-restraint (brahmacharya) during student life, equality and humanity for all rejecting discrimination based on caste or wealth, the reading of holy books by all castes, the reading of the Haripath every day and regular bhajan and kirtan.

This particular duo is from a district called Baramati in Maharashtra, and have been in Mumbai for about 3 days. An interesting thing they mentioned was that earlier they would start walking around, singing at about 4AM waking people up, but after they got into a bit of trouble a number of times, they started doing their rounds starting at 6:30AM. Hence, the noise of traffic almost becomes essential to preserve the authenticity of the modern listening experience.

On another note, here’s a look at the instrument that he’s using while singing, because it is only one of them playing the ‘instruments’ as well as singing.

good morning!

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