Thursday, November 25, 2010

Seduced by the Manganiyars

LW and I watched the U.S. premiere of The Manganiyar Seduction last Tuesday at the Rose Theater. Conceptualized and directed by Roysten Abel, conducted by Daevo Khan, the production was mesmerizing in its music and fabulous in its theatricality. In red-curtained boxes outlined by pulsing lightbulbs, which recalled both the red-light district of Amsterdam and the garish festival lights in India, thirty-six musicians sang and played the kamancheh (string), dholak (drum), murli (flute), kartal (wooden clappers), sarangi (string), morchang (percussion), bapang (string-percussion), algoza (woodwind) and dhol (drum).

A caste of Muslim musicians from the Indian state of Rajasthan, the Manganiyars are mainly settled in the districts of Jaisalmer, Barmer and Jodhpur, the heart of the Thar Desert. They played for kings, though nowadays they are far more likely to play for wealthy patrons, at births, marriages and feasts. Their repertoire encompasses secular ballads and Sufi poems. As their instruments suggest, their music is a fascinating blend of classical and folk. They also sing of Indian gods, a favorite being Lord Krishna. Their syncretism is immensely appealing. 

From "A Note on the Music" by Anjuly Chakraborty in the evening's program:
The performance is structured as a cyclic spiral, where the main song, "Alfat Un Bin In Bin," is rearranged to accommodate two other songs celebrating the ebb and flow of the life. The circles it creates are the dramatic narratives of the dance of delirium that Bulleshah performs to reach God.
Sufi song by Bulleshah: Alfat Un Bin In Bin 
... He praises the presence of God, who is visible everywhere in the three worlds: land, living things, and the universe. God has given his name to all of this; whatever you see and feel, you can experience God in it....
People make their pilgrimage to Mecca to find God, but Bulleshah thought that the holy place of Mecca was also present inside of his own heart....
... On his personal way to reach God, Bulleshah became a dancer who transcended his sexual identification and experienced the presence of God through his dance. 
Halariya: The birth of Lord Krishna
... When Krishna was born in Mathura, the musicians played dhol--the Indian drum--to welcome him and to announce his birth to the whole world and also to the Jat chieftain Gokula. The lucky mother of Krishna is praised for her glorious son. 
This song shows the love and affection of a wife for her husband. She wants to enjoy more time with him; therefore she finds many reasons why he should not sleep early [taste a special sweet wine, try a delicious dinner, walk in a beautiful garden--my words].

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