Last night I have seen one of the most amazing and beautiful performances in my life – traditional Indian music in front of the thousands in the artistic Center of Vienna, Austria. I just did not expect such an interest to this kind of music, which really needs some “adjustment” for the Western listener…
Indian play director Roysten Abel has brought 43 Manganiyars (caste of musicians who traditionally performed for the kings of Rajastan in India) to Europe – that was not easy, he said -to get visas for 43 Muslims with the name Khan 🙂
The Manganiyar sing ballads about the kings and also Sufi poems written by the mystics. Even though they are classified as folk musicians their traditional music is classical and it clearly indicates the roots of classical music in India. However the rawness of the folk and the complexness of classical music is what makes their music so special. They live in the deserts of Rajasthan and their style of singing is very similar to that of the Spanish Flamenco singers.
The performance was built up like a magic box: 43 musicians were seated in 36 red-curtained cubicles arranged in four horizontal rows one on top of the other; and the concert began when a single cubicle lit up and the first singer began his song. Soon another cubicle lit up and then another thus creating a dramatic and astounding build-up of musical instruments and voice as young men, children and the elderly of the Manganiyar community took the public into a world which is beyond… Actually it looked like the magic opening of the advent-calender .)
What I really enjoyed a lot was the fact that everyone around enjoyed the music same way – at the end of the performance the faces of the public where almost shining with the child-like joy! – which is rather unusual in the sophisticated West 🙂 I tell you, Indian music makes wonders, it is really the most powerful and beautiful music in the word in my opinion! And although the performance was going non-stop for 1,5 hours – it seemed to be so short and people just did not want to leave…
On top of the whole thing there was a fact that among 43 musicians there were 2 Hindus. The group was singing sufi-quawalli, praising Allah. And then the same group (41 Muslims + 2 Hindus) sang one Krishna Bhajan (Hindu religious song). Can you imagine a Christian Church chorus singing praise to Allah?