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‘Verses and Voices against Violence and War’ gathers momentum as artists voice opposition to conflict…

‘Verses and Voices against Violence and War’ gathers momentum as artists voice opposition to conflict…

A Leading South Asian arts group is behind initiative to express solidarity and speak out against violence as war in Ukraine deepens…

By Mamie Colfox

POETS, singers, spoken word artists and other performers have joined together to support an event billed as ‘Verses and Voices Against Violence and War’.

It will take place at Rich Mix in London on Sunday (April 24) and is a free event organised by Saudha, Society of Poetry and Indian Music with the support of UK-based South American literary platform La Ninfa Eco. The event coincides with other similar gatherings in Oxford, Birmingham, Leeds, Southampton and other big cities.

Laboni Barua

This event, ‘Verses and Voices Against Violence and War’ will also raise awareness of racism, violence and brutality which often feed into conflict and war.

Ahmed Kaysher, co-founder and director of Saudha is himself a poet, dramatist and folk singer, and told why he helped bring more than 42 artists (in all) together to raise awareness and create understanding between communities through art – something he and Saudha have always been very passionate about from its inception.

Drawing on the terrible events in Ukraine, Kaysher said artists tend to feel conflict intensely – even though they may not be directly involved – and it often disturbs their sense of wellbeing and encourages them to create.

He told acv: “They feel anguish. This is very much about what kind of impact the war is putting on artists’ minds and how artists are reacting to it.”

Originally from Bangladesh, he knows about the trauma and deep social scars of war.

Kevin Davy

As a child, he heard stories of how the country achieved its independence just over 50 years ago after a brutal and punishing conflict.

He sees horrible parallels between what is going on in Ukraine, communities once close and similar in outlook have been riven by division, argument and conflicts over identity, faith, language and nationhood.

“I went through so many experiences of writing and war, because I’m from Bangladesh, and unfortunately, I knew what war means to the Bangladeshi people.”

He sees art as a way of combatting ignorance, furthering understanding and creating empathy.

“Wherever we go, we are connecting with some artists from the local communities, as well as artists joining from London as well,” he told acv as the number of performers has increased as news of the event spread.

Among those performing on Sunday are well-known Bangla TV presenter Urmee Mazher, musician Kevin Davy, award-winning composer and pianist Helen Anahita Wilson, as well as poets and singers, Laboni Barua and Nandita Mukherjee. Olympian slam champion poet David Lee Morgan and award- winning poet Stephen Watt are also set to perform. Well-known singer Gouri Chowdhury has also recently joined the roster of artists set to perform. The concert is free to attend but you must register. (See listings details below.)

Kaysher said it will be an immersive experience and many who support and follow Saudha were backing this initiative too.

Urmee Mazhar

Last year, Saudha marked the centenary of two epic and epoch defining works – one from the West, in TS Eliot’s ‘The Wasteland’ and Kazi Nazrul Islam’s ‘Bidrohi’ (‘The Rebel’) which was penned in Bengali, as India strived for independence from the British Raj. (See here for this story.)

Saudha also helps to organise the now annual Jibanananda Festival, which celebrates the Bengali poet Jibanananda Das (1899-1954), a writer widely admired for his sense of melancholy and delicacy of temperament and who was also much influenced by both Western poetry and Indian great Rabindranath Tagore. (See here for the story )

Caption for lead picture: Top row: Kevin Davy, Laboni Barua, Jah-Mir Early
Middle row: Esha Chakravarty Bhattacharjee, Aritri Kundu, Helen Anahita Wilson
Lower row: Sharmishtha Pandit, Urmee Mazhar

‘Verses and Voices Against Violence’ – Sunday 4.45pm, April 24, Rich Mix, 35-47 Bethnal Green Road, London E1 6LA . Free, but must register for event here:

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Written by Asian Culture Vulture