A slice of Israel and Spain in India

It is a rare chance to hear Sufi qawwali in Hebrew. But in Delhi, everything has a possibility! At a recent event in the city, the Kamani Auditorium was packed with audience which turned up to listen to music and enjoy fusion dance performance, one after the other.

Organised as part of the ongoing Delhi International Arts Festival, the evening was mesmerising for those who enjoy music. Even those who don’t have much knowledge of Sufi enjoyed the melodious tunes that emanated from morchang, bhapang, dholak,
flute, harmonium and other musical instruments along with guitar.

In the hands of Israeli artiste Shy Ben Tzur, the strings of guitar moved in rhythm with the harmonium played by Zakir Ali qawwal (Ajmer) and bhapang played by Chugge Khan. The presence of an Israeli Sufi singer, Indian qawwals and manganiyar on the same stage was in itself an unparallelled sight. The notion of music transcending countries and languages was thus reinforced when Tzur sang his compositions in Hebrew and the Indian musicians accompanied him by singing in the same language and vice versa.
Before each composition, Tzur narrated the lyrics and then sang it without disturbing the tonality of Indian music.

“When I compose, I take into account what will go with Indian musical instruments since it is very rich and the composition must be natural,” Tzur said after the performance. During the show he requested Khan to play kartal, in Hindi. The audience was floored by the artiste’s humble gesture which made the performance interactive and offered a chance to listen to live jugalbandi, along with some six compositions!

It was an intelligent decision to sing just a paragraph of few of the qawwalis initially and sing the rest at length to enable the listeners to feel the emotion behind each. After listening to the popular qawwali Chaap tilak..., the audience demanded Dama dum mast qalandar but time played spoil sport for the request to be fulfilled.

After a short break, the curtains went up again and six male dancers walked on to the stage to take their positions one after the other. Their namaskars were performed to the music of Ganesha stuti which energised the ambience. But the unsynchronised choreography didn’t present a very good picture.

This performance, titled ‘Soul Pait’, incorporated Kalaripayattu (Indian martial art) and Urban Contemporary Dance by Dani Pannullo Dance Theatre Company from Spain. Divided in 12 sections, the performance had both the forms in equal proportions but unfortunately the two don’t come across as one.

The lead performer of Kalaripayattu – Visakh Thankappan stood out for his expertise in rotating sticks, swords, knives and other war weapons. The rest, however, were unable to match up to his performance and thus the visual appeal of the show remained unimpressive.

In particular sections where Spanish dancers Julián Gómez, Miguel Ballabriga and Sufian Ben Yacoub present their B-Boying skills, the audience was impressed but the general impression was that other Indian dancers (apart from Thankappan) - Ramlal Raveendran and Vishnu Lakshamanan could have been exploited more by the choreographer.

The Indian music, though welcome initially, was shrill as a siren later. The lights, however, throughout the dance performance were managed quite well and made for a spectacular visual.      

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