Business Standard

Mahindra expands cultural outreach with yet another festival: Percussion

Day-long event in Bengaluru on Saturday is the newest in the conglomerate's Nov-March calendar patronising the arts

Mahindra Kabira Festival

Mahindra Kabira Festival

Ritwik Sharma New Delhi
On November 8, 1945, a print ad of a month-old venture, then called Mahindra and Mohammed, listed a set of guiding principles of what is now the Mahindra Group.
 

It did not advertise any product, betraying as it did the anxieties of a business house eager to build a soon-to-be-born modern nation. It spelt out tenets such as to “raise the standard of living of the masses”.

As the multinational conglomerate flags off a new percussion festival in Bengaluru on Saturday, its link with art and culture to that end has only grown stronger. The day-long Mahindra Percussion Festival will be held at the city’s historic Jayamahal Palace and celebrate multiple genres featuring local and international musicians.

Asha Kharga, chief customer and brand officer, Mahindra Group, says that 77 years after the debut advertisement, the essence of the group’s existence as a “good corporate citizen” remains the same --“driving positive change in the lives of our communities”.

“Many decades ago, we were primarily a manufacturing company, and this meant that we were predominantly left-brained. We were conscious of the fact that ‘whole-brained’ thinking is critical to the development of society,” says Kharga. “By incorporating arts and culture into our core values, we hope to inspire ‘creative thought’ and creativity within Mahindra, and in the communities that we are a part of. Culture would also help humanise our brand.”

The Mahindra Percussion Festival is the seventh in the group’s culture calendar spanning November to March.

Asked about the idea behind the newest festival, Kharga says percussion and drumming are among the most infectious artistic movements that break down all barriers.

“Percussion ensembles can be a unifying experience, encouraging self-expression and camaraderie while also having a lot of fun,” she says, adding that the festival intends to democratise various art forms. Drummer and music arranger Ranjit Barot is the curator of the inaugural event.

Last month, the group also began the Mahindra Roots Festival, a three-day event in Mumbai that presented theatre performances, storytelling, folk and classical music, and poetry in multiple Indian languages.

Says Kharga: “The common thread that runs through all our festivals is our purpose of bringing communities together and supporting art and culture in meaningful ways. Each of our festivals is conceptualised and executed with complete authenticity.”

The oldest piece of the group’s culture outreach is the Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards, which started in 2006 and is into its 18th season this month in New Delhi.

The Mahindra Sanatkada Lucknow Festival followed in 2010, an annual five-day affair dedicated to the famed “Lucknowi tehzeeb” celebrating the city’s rich heritage of craft, music, dance and cuisine.

Two other events—the Mahindra Blues Festival and Mahindra Kabira Festival—too have carved their own niche.

Kharga returns to the 1945 ad, when asked about the festival named after Kabir, the poet-saint. “A line in the ad reads: ‘Acceptance of the fact that ability is the sole test of merit and advancement, and that neither colour, creed nor caste should stand in the way of harmonious working.’ This statement, in today’s context, would fall under ‘diversity and inclusion’,” she says.

Respecting and embracing differences and encouraging diversity — akin to the messages of love and brotherhood that the 15th century mystic preached — have been part of the Mahindra Group since its inception, says Kharga. “Kabir’s messages are very similar to what our founders instilled in us. Kabir was a major unifying force among the many cultural strands of India, and his power of integration can serve as an immense source of inspiration in today’s world. It is for this reason that we decided to celebrate Kabir and take him back to his birthplace by way of the Mahindra Kabira Festival.”

The blues festival began 11 years ago to connect with farmers and ranchers in the Mississippi Delta where one of the oldest styles of the musical genre originated. The festival, staged in Mumbai, has sought to revive and promote blues, and has hosted stalwarts like Buddy Guy, who started his farewell tour by headlining the event last month. As the blues legend strummed on his guitar one last time in the city, a packed crowd that included celebrities from the film industry soaked up the mood.

With the launch of the percussion festival, the group hopes it will drum up similar support and a loyal following in the years to come.

Mahindra Kabira Festival


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First Published: Mar 17 2023 | 5:05 PM IST

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