A two-day cultural festival celebrating Urdu culture and heritage will take place online this year as social distancing measures remain in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The Jashn-e-Rekhta festival, which usually is usually held in Delhi, was scheduled to take place abroad for the first time this year in London with an estimated 30,000 visitors attending the event.

But the sixth edition of the world’s largest Urdu language festival will still go ahead online across the weekend of September 5 and 6, 2020. Art, literature, poetry, storytelling, ghazals, Sufi music, qawwali, dance and drama all scheduled for the event, which will be broadcast virtually.

Attendees will be able to watch 32 sessions of entertainment across three stages across the weekend and will also be able to re-watch or catch up on events for 15 days after the festival has finished.

Sanjiv Saraf, who set up the Rekhta Foundation, made the decision to take the festival online this year. He said: “It is my ambition to spotlight everything the Urdu-language has given us, from poetry, prose, philosophy, a humane and civilized medium of communication and of course, timeless romance.

“Unfortunately, we cannot, as yet, host a physical event in London, but the UK is an obvious destination for the festival. Urdu is the fourth main language in England and Wales and ranked third in the top 10 most spoken languages in London. Hopefully, we will be back in the UK soon with a live festival.

“As one of the most elegant languages, Urdu can express love in all its manifestations, divine and earthly, using the most beautiful symbolism. No matter who speaks it, magic is always felt. This global festival gives us the opportunity to experience this magic through musical performances, discourses, dance and theatre.”

Acts taking part in this year’s festival include:

  • Javed Akhtar and Manoj Muntashir, poets and lyricists from two different generations present ‘Cinema – Kal Aur Aaj’ – a conversation around films, lyrics and Urdu poetry.
  • Dr Azra Raza, the highly acclaimed physicist, scientist and author presents the world of Ghalib in her grand style.
  • The play ‘Miya, Biwi Aur Wagah’ – an Indo-Pak story told through letters by the UAE based journalist duo Amna Khaishgi & Ehtesham Shahid, will be screened, marking its first-ever screening in the UK region.
  •  Zia Mohyeddin will recite Padhant and Anwar Maqsood will share Aina Khane Mein Lafz
  • Yawar Abbas relives the golden years of radio with fellow broadcasters Raza Ali Abidi and Pervaiz Alam.
  • Sania Saeed, renowned Pakistani actor, Tanuja Chandra, Indian film director, and Nasreen Munni Kabir, filmmaker and author, will discuss the contribution of Urdu to the world of cinema and television.
  • Celebrating the 500th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev, another specially curated session of music and poetry will be showcased.
  • Shilpa Rao and Talat Aziz popular Bollywood & Ghazal singers will talk on ‘Reviving Ghazals for Millennials’.

A video of how the virtual festival will look is available on the festival’s YouTube channel here: https://youtu.be/P8gtf19gCOE 

More information on the Jashn-e-Rekhta festival including the schedule and act information can be found here: https://jashnerekhta.org.uk