Pulse south asian music and dance
Autumn 2014 - #126
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INSIDE In Profile Jaswinder Singh In the Frame Synchronised Young Pulse Sonia Sabri on Riyaaz Part 3 Reviews Synchronised Guru Purnima Celebrations Kiran Ahluwalia The Bridge and True Brits Indian Summer
Dance Producers Farooq Chaudhry, Karthika Nair, Anand Bhatt
Sculpting Space Mayuri Boonham Bombay Talkies
Talvin Singh & Roopa Panesar
Temple Architecture Doria Tichit
sound in print
connecting asian dance and music communities
EX NIHILO THE HUMAN EDGE
Two brand new works, Ex Nihilo / The Human Edge, draw on the epic creation myths of sacred Indian texts to explore the ancient questions of creation and human life through dance.
“One of the foremost exponents of new Bharata Natyam dance”
Luke Jennings, The Observer
7.30pm / 30 October 2014 Pavilion Dance South West, Bournemouth www.pdsw.org.uk 01202 203630 7.30pm / 29 November 2014 The Performance Academy, Newcastle College www.gemarts.org 0191 440 4124 7.30pm / 10 December 2014 The Ivy Arts Centre, Guildford www.surrey.ac.uk/arts 01483 686876
principally commissioned by
Dancers: Jaslyn Reader & Yuyu Rau. Photographer: Chris Nash
A tragic tale of passion, exploitation and loss based on Mirza Hadi Ruswa’s Umrao Jaan Ada
NAUTCH GIRL Produced by Phizzical in association with Embrace Arts with choreography by Sonia Sabri and music by Devesh Sodha
Thu 11, Fri 12, Fri 19, Sat 20 December 2014, 8pm EMBRACE ARTS Leicester 0116 252 2455 phizzical
Go for the eloquent movement; go for the haunting music mantras. RODERIC DUNNETT, THE STAGE
Pulse Autumn 2014 — Issue 126 ISSN 1476-6019 Published by Kadam Asian Dance and Music c/o The Hat Factory, 65-67 Bute Street, Luton LU1 2EY +44 (0) 1582 876 038 Editorial Team Commissioning Editor Sanjeevini Dutta
2 Editorial 4 News 5 Listings 6
Make it Happen The Role of the Dance Producer What does it take to bring dancers Akram Khan, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Aakash Odedra to their audiences? Sanjoy Roy talked to their producers to find out: Farooq Chaudhry, Karthika Nair and Anand Bhatt.
Young Pulse What is Riyaaz? Part 3 Kathak dancer and choreographer Sonia Sabri continues her series with suggestions on when, where and how riyaaz can be made to happen.
Sculpting Space – Mayuri Boonham Mayuri Boonham speaks to Donald Hutera about creative challenges and the philosophy and art that drive her creative impulses.
In the Frame: Synchronised Balbir Singh’s Pool-based Dance Show.
Meeting of Musical Minds – Talvin Singh and Roopa Panesar Classical and experimental, rooted and free – Talvin Singh and Roopa Panesar talk to Seetal Kaur Gahir about their collaborative explorations.
Assistant Editor Gopa Roy Editorial and Marketing Assistant Parbati Jill Chaudhury Design Art Director Pritpal Ajimal Photography Director Simon Richardson Subscriptions, Advertising & Info email@example.com
Contacts firstname.lastname@example.org Disclaimer Pulse is published by Kadam Asian Dance and Music. Kadam are a part of SADA (South Asian Dance Alliance). No part of the magazine may be reproduced in any form without the written permission of the publisher. Copyright of the text is shared with its authors. Copyright of the photographs/images reside with contributing photographers/ artists. All other rights reserved. The views/opinions expressed in Pulse are the authors’ and not necessarily those of the editor or publisher. While reasonable effort has been made to avoid errors, no liability will be accepted for any that may have inadvertently occurred. Annual subscription £32 with free delivery Cheques payable to Kadam, c/o The Hat Factory, 65-67 Bute Street, Luton LU1 2EY. For online subscriptions and payments please visit www.pulseconnects.com Published by
connecting asian dance and music communities
Pulse serves the arts sector by recording, critiquing, profiling and archiving South Asian dance and music in the UK through Pulse magazine and the website: www.pulseconnects.com.
Kadam forms part of the SADA Alliance
Jaswinder Singh Asian Arts Agency Director in Profile Jaswinder Singh talked to Sanjeevini Dutta about sharing the excitement of fresh musical influences with audiences in the south-west and beyond.
Indian Temple Architecture In the second of our three-part series, Doria Tichit looks at the inventiveness and renewal that characterise the variety of temple architecture of North and South India.
Reviews Dance Performance Synchronised (Balbir Singh Company) Guru Purnima Celebrations (Pratap Pawar)
Theatre The Bridge and True Brits at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival
Exhibition Indian Summer at the Albemarle Gallery
The magazine relies solely on income from subscriptions, advertising and donations. All donations welcome through our website www.pulseconnects.com
Contents Page Photo Credits
Music Performance Kiran Ahluwalia at the Jazz Café
FC Anand Bhatt, Karthika Nair, Farooq Chaudhry 6 9 10 12 14 18 22
Photo: Simon Richardson, Courtesy Karthika Nair, Simon Richardson
Puz-zle | Photo: Koen Broos Sonia Sabri | Photo: Simon Richardson Ex Nihilo | Photo: Chris Nash Beth Bracegirdle & Sooraj Subramaniam | Photo: Maya Almeida Araujo Talvin Singh | Photo: Kajal Nisha Patel Udayeshvara temple, Udayapur, India | Photo: Adam Hardy Kiran Ahluwalia | Photo: Santosh Sidhu/Swing 51 Archives AUTUMN 2014 PULSE 1
UPFRONT — LETTER FROM THE EDITOR/NEWS
Letter from the Editor Dear Readers As the year’s most prolific performing season is upon us, we look at the contribution dance producers make in the conception and distribution of dance works. The term dance ‘producer’ was practically non-existent two decades ago, in my life as a performing artist. Dancers made work, fund-raised, and sold the show to venues. Even the busy contemporary dance companies would have company ‘managers’ and ‘tour managers’ but they were not called ‘producers’. We only ascribed the word ‘producer’ to fat cigar-smoking, well-heeled big daddies of the film industry. However, in 1999 when Farooq Chaudhry, an ex-dancer, met the burgeoning young talent Akram Khan, an auspicious alignment of circumstances was to create one of the most successful partnerships of the dance world, and imprint the word ‘producer’ into our collective imagination. Khan could not be where he is today without the support and shared vision of Chaudhry. A marriage made in heaven, you may say. Kerala-born and Frenchtrained arts manager Karthika Nair has for eight years produced one of the foremost international choreographers, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, and shares with insight and humour the skills needed to stay at the top of the game. A more recent entrant into the profession is Aakash Odedra’s former dance class colleague turned manager, Anand Bhatt. In the short space of three years, Bhatt has taken this young company to an international stage, and the list of dates for the two shows touring is as long as my arm. In a sense we are seeing a parallel in the South Asian music industry. Jaswinder Singh, the director of Asian Arts Agency based in Bristol, describes his role as that of a ‘music producer’, hunting talent and helping artists to articulate their vision in the context of the market. His agency has taken the risk of bringing North American artists unknown in the UK, such as Red Baraat and Sufi singer Kiran Ahluwalia (see review page), to reap just rewards. There is no doubt that the competition for dates is fierce. Mayuri Boonham of ATMA, who 2 PULSE AUTUMN 2014
has for the past two years been choreographic affiliate at the Royal Opera House, has made a major new double bill Ex Nihilo and The Human Edge which had its première at the Linbury Studio Theatre, Royal Opera House. The show has three dates in the autumn, and hopefully will go on to gather more momentum, but it’s still hard. Looking at the Listings, the paucity of dance dates hits the eye. Is this the shape of things to come? In times of economic squeeze, are we voting with our feet? The popular theatre shows book up months ahead, the popularity of live music continues unabated, but dance, which has a special place in our hearts, must be nurtured and lovingly tended. Dance producers play a big part in keeping the form in a dialogue with the public. With warm wishes for the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, Sanjeevini
Looking Ahead Darbar Festival 2014 Artistic Director’s Festival Picks Every year people ask me which concerts they should attend at the Darbar Festival. Honestly, it’s a hard ask as I spend about four or five months every year thinking about who I’m going to have and how I’m going to programme the festival to make every concert count. Every year I have a theme around which I try to hang the concerts. So, last year it was to try to focus on women artists, given the particular challenges they face in getting a break. The theme this year is to showcase great musicians who haven’t yet performed in the UK and will give audiences a slice of authentic Indian classical music right here in London. Concerts There is something for everyone at the Darbar Festival 2014. For those of you who like instruments we have some really special ones this year: the melodic sarangi and taus (bowed instruments), the evocative sarod (lute) and the ethereal bansuri (flute); and for you rock and rollers the jori (percussion). For those who prefer vocals, don’t miss the sensational Pandit Vinayak Torvi who presents the khayal tradition that originated from the Mughal Emperors about 500 years ago and Pandit Prem Kumar, who
will be bringing the mesmeric dhrupad tradition to the festival. The finale of the concert is Dr Prabha Atre who has been inspiring audiences around the world for over sixty years. We have a number of concerts repeated unplugged in smaller more intimate spaces in the Royal Festival Hall building. This is to evoke the experience of how concerts were heard hundreds of years ago in Indian temples. Musicians will play in rooms overlooking the river with some of London’s most iconic landmarks in the distance. There are also free concerts: try out the Beats of India on Sunday afternoon in the Queen Elizabeth Hall. The concerts are deliberately spread throughout the day from morning, afternoon and evening so that you can experience the raagas (melodies) at the correct time of day. Darbar Pop-up Record Shop And if, after attending the concerts, you can’t wait for the next festival, come along to the Darbar Pop-up Record Shop where you can buy rare CDs from the famous Rhythm House in Mumbai. Browse my hand-picked collection of recordings, featuring music from Northern and Southern India, as well as many of the musicians performing in this year’s Darbar Festival. Music Appreciation Course Back by popular demand is our Indian Classical Music Appreciation Course. Designed for complete beginners, this course helps fans of Indian classical music learn more about its theory and context. Run by the awardwinning broadcaster, journalist, novelist and critic Jameela Siddiqi, this course demystifies the ancient traditions and practices of Indian classical music.
Mythical Explorations Mayuri Boonham draws on the epic creation myths of sacred Indian texts to explore the ancient questions of creation and
Ex Nihilo | Photo: Chris Nash
human life through dance in two conceptually complementary new works. Ex Nihilo is an expression of the poetic thinking and abstract imagery questioning the time before the Big Bang; The Human Edge draws inspiration from the story of Sati: the choreography evokes the drama of Sati’s life and death as a metaphor of a star. The works feature sound installations by Bill Fontana and the music is composed by Boonham’s long-term collaborators, Midival Punditz. 30 October | Pavilion Dance, Bournemouth | www.pdsw.org.uk 29 November | Newcastle College Performance Academy www.gemarts.org 10 December | Ivy Arts Centre, University of Surrey, Guildford | www.surrey.ac.uk/arts/whatson www.atmadance.com
Dancing into the unknown Shobana Jeyasingh’s first work for Rambert premières at Sadler’s Wells as part of Rambert’s new
Yogabliss And when you’ve had enough of sitting around in halls, stretch, bend, twist and ease your mind in Yogabliss hatha yoga classes on Saturday and Sunday. Don’t miss a beat. Book your tickets now. Sandeep Virdee Artistic Director, Darbar 18–21 September | Southbank Centre | www.southbankcentre. co.uk/whatson/festivals-series/ darbar-festival
Shobana Jeyasingh | Photo: J.P. Masclet
autumn season. Terra Incognita draws on urban legends and ancient cartography to look at the politics and power of journeying into the unknown. The new electro-acoustic score is by London-based composer, DJ and producer Gabriel Prokofiev,
with whom she collaborated for Strange Blooms in 2013. It will be performed in London alongside Mark Baldwin’s new creation The Strange Charm of Mother Nature and Ashley Page’s Subterrain, and in Edinburgh together with Christopher Bruce’s rock ’n’ roll classic Rooster and Barak Marshall’s The Castaways. 18–22 November | Sadler’s Wells | www.sadlerswells.com 020 7863 8198 27–29 November | Festival Theatre, Edinburgh | edtheatres.com 0131 529 6000
Utkarsh – Open Classical Choreographic Commission Akademi has announced its open application commission for upand-coming South Asian dancemakers to create classical South Asian dance work. This annual scheme will support two South Asian dance artists per year from the UK on their choreographic careers. Successful recipients of the Classical Associate Artist
Utkarsh | Photo: Courtesy Akademi
Programme will be awarded with a substantial financial commission to present a new short work for a nominated performance, with marketing and production support from Akademi. Further details will be released shortly. www.akademi.co.uk/portfolio/ utkarsh
Between the Lines – Re-thinking Tagore for the Twenty-first Century Kadam/Pulse with the Tagore Centre is pleased to announce a day dedicated to exploring how Tagore’s legacy speaks to us in the twenty-first century.
We give space to artists of the current generation who are re-interpreting Tagore through music, dance, drama and film:
entered the gardens in their journey of Ascension to the heavens, in a work inspired by Dante’s Paradiso and Hindu astrology. They danced among the audience and through the spheres, vividly communicating the qualities of the planets (such as the inconstancy of the Moon and the warriors of Mars), to the powerful and expressive strings of Ash Madni’s music. The piece
Sharmila Chauhan | Photo: Kajal Patel
Ansuman Biswas, Sahana Bajpaie, Rishi Banerjee, Sangeeta Datta, Tanika Gupta and Sharmila Chauhan, among others. The keynote address will be given by novelist and scholar
Odedra Unbound Khavita Kaur, Kali Chandrasegaram and Manuela Benini | Photo: Courtesy Akademi
Amit Chaudhuri | Photo: Courtesy fictionarium.in
concluded in delighted harmony on the outdoor stage. Ascension, choreographed by Manuela Benini, has been touring in London, Kendal and Manchester. It is part of a larger-scale outdoor project planned for 2016.
Amit Chaudhuri, whose essays On Tagore illuminate the modernist tendencies of the poet: simplicity www.akademi.co.uk of language and speech rhythms (moving the written language from the Victorian literary form to naturalistic spoken form); the plot Sukanya – Pandit Ravi from high drama to exploration Shankar’s dance opera of everyday emotions; and relationships between protagonists Panditji’s parting gift to his wife Sukanya was a dance opera in her who come from a wide spectrum name, which had a first airing of society, such as that between at the Linbury Studio Theatre, a postmaster and an orphan Royal Opera House on 14 July girl. Moreover, the beauty of his 2014. Panditji’s artistic output writing lies in the exploration of was both wide and deep. He was ambivalence, ambiguity and in not only one of the greatest sitar the suggested and hinted at. How players of all time, he also wrote these qualities come through the work of artists currently practising film scores and dance-dramas, undertook musical collaborations is an area that Between the Lines with Western musicians like wants to open up. A new commission for a dance Yehudi Menuhin and towards the end of his life scored a piece to live accompaniment will symphony; and finally the last be a highlight. There will also be challenge, a full-length opera. an ‘Open Forum’ to which people The trailer of Sukanya revealed a can apply to share thoughts, harmonious blending of operatic performance poetry, music and singing, supported by two sets dance. Please contact of musical traditions – Western email@example.com classical by London Symphony Orchestra musicians, and Indian 2 November | 11.15 – 7 | Rich Mix classical by daughter Anoushka www.richmix.org.uk Shankar with musicians from the Bhavan. The two traditions held simultaneously, as in the epic east-west encounters of Heavenly Bodies Ravi Shankar with the London Symphony Orchestra under Down the windswept and rainy conductor André Previn. steps of the handsome side Stunning visual projections entrance of St John’s Church and impressive dance sequences, in Waterloo, the three dancers choreographed by Sujata
Banerjee, gave the production a multi-dimensional quality. The conductor and producer David Murphy had been mentored by Ravi Shankar and was therefore in a good place to interpret Panditji’s work. The principals, soprano Susanna Hurrell and Bombay-born tenor Amar Muchhala, won hearts with their spirited performances. The depth and quality of both the music and the production whetted the appetite for a full-scale work. The mantle for producing and presenting the work has since been accepted by the Royal Opera House, the best possible outcome for the opera Sukanya.
Aakash Odedra and Turner Prizewinning artist Chris Ofili have together been creating Unearthed, a new ensemble dance piece with dancers from the Royal Ballet, inspired by the myth of Prometheus. Ofili paints directly on to the bodies of the dancers, transforming them into transient living canvases. The music is composed by Talvin Singh. Unearthed is part of Sampling the Myth, curated by The Royal Ballet and The National Gallery’s Minna Moore Ede. It premièred at the Linbury Studio Theatre on 5 September. Rising and Murmur and Inked continue to tour in the UK and overseas through the autumn and in the New Year.
Dance India 2014 We asked 3 participants in Dance India’s kathak and odissi classes about their experience this year. Sooraj Subramaniam (kathak) Pranav Yajnik (kathak) Parvati Rajamani (odissi) This year the focus has been on technique. How has this worked in the class situation? SS: The classes were structured around the ‘repertoire’ of kathak, and we learned tukras and tihais with focus on the details of the aesthetic. Rather than having to remember any choreography, the objective was to raise awareness of alignment, transitions, dynamics, tempo, accuracy and precision, and expressive tone of each movement. PY: As a general comment, I preferred the technique focus. This may be for some personal reasons. I have reached a stage AUTUMN 2014 PULSE 3
UPFRONT — NEWS
with some quite particular training requirements and where finessing and fine-tuning is more important to me than coming out at the end of the week with a choreographed piece on recorded music. Maharaj-ji is very detailed, and allowing this detail to be explored fully in class without the distraction of a long piece and struggling to remember choreography was a blessing. It also better suited Maharaj-ji’s mode of working.
cohesive, more a unit, somehow, though maybe I was in a more harmonious mood! Also we were learning an abhinaya, an ashtapadi with excellent inputs from other scholars and teachers from music and other dance streams which was wonderful; and the abhinaya performances were exquisite across the board.
PR: With Madhavi-ji technique is always the primary focus. Having specific time slots for the tala etc allowed all the students to focus more on these essentials.
SS: That dance had to be enjoyed, rather than feel laboured.
Birju Maharaj at Indika 2014| Photo: Courtesy Milapfest
What have you found most valuable? Is there anything that has stood out from your previous experience? SS: The lecture-demonstrations were particularly wellstructured, considered, thoughtprovoking and inspiring. It felt that each speaker had spent time preparing their lectures and addressed the audience in wholesome, inclusive ways. PY: The stand-out for me every year is spending a full week in the presence of a great master of kathak. In recent years it has been Kumudini Lakhia; this year it was Maharaj-ji. The amount of class time devoted to learning from him was precious and his attention to detail and concentration on his style was extremely valuable. He made corrections to my dancing which were instantly visible, and which as soon as he had made them, I wondered why I had not thought of it in that way before. However, I would say that the social side of the week is just as important – being able to talk to the teachers in an environment which was wholly supportive, and being with like-minded people with whom one can discuss dance in any of its aspects, without fear of boring them, is an equally valuable gift. PR: This was an enjoyable year – the class appeared more 4 PULSE AUTUMN 2014
What was the most important comment or piece of advice from your teacher?
PY: A number of Maharaj-ji’s similes in explaining particular kathak movements were priceless and immediately changed my dance. His particular method of using similes to explain the feeling behind a movement works very well and automatically the quality of the movement changes because that change is coming from within, rather than trying to map a form onto the body externally. PR: The most important piece of advice was to keep the tala constantly in the mind, even in abhinaya pieces. What are your top two reasons for attending? SS: Close friends would be attending, too; and it would perhaps be the only opportunity I would have to learn from Birju Maharaj-ji.
so we often had to stop abruptly in the middle of something and when people were eager to learn more and he was just as eager to carry on teaching. Are there any other comments you would like to make? SS: While the competitions for the Yuva awards made interesting evening shows, I felt it stole precious performance time away from the professional artists. I am biased because I don’t personally favour competition, and considering the short duration of the workshop it would have been preferable to see more from the artists from India. PY: It might be expensive for some, though one can’t really put a price on being taught at the level and in the way we were taught; plus there were so many stellar artists in one place.
PY: Maharaj-ji’s style of teaching is very free and open-ended. He said he often felt curtailed by the strict timetable which mandated we vacate the classroom at certain times when he was in mid-flow. We would have been happy to stay longer but there were other people waiting to use the room
Wednesdays / 7pm Mark Hamilton (dancer for 27 years) trained under Priya Sreekumar.
His classes explore footwork, postures, gestures and expression to find stillness and silence. “things standing shall fall, but the moving ever shall stay.” Study Society, 151 Talgarth Road, Barons Court, London W14 9DA £5 Voluntary donation
PR: I would have liked perhaps more emphasis on the students creating a piece – but this would probably need a whole separate seven days! And also consistency in the teachers who are called, since frequent changes in the teachers disrupt the continuity.
Odissi Classes in Angel with Katie Ryan
Kadam/Pulse with the Tagore Centre present
Tagore through Dance
Workshop with Bisakha Sarker
Sunday 21 September / 11am-1pm
PY: The presence of one of the greatest kathak teachers alive and of very good friends, plus evening performances from artists of the highest calibre. PR: My top two reasons for attending were that my guru was coming and the high quality of performances. Is there any way in which your experience could have been enhanced? SS: It is difficult to say; the experience was near perfect.
(Song of the City)
Experience the grounded strength, sculpturesque grace and expression of this classical Indian dance style. Thursdays from 2nd October 6:30 - 7:45pm Beginner 7:15 - 8:30pm Intermediate Block of 6 classes Adults £60 | Students £48 FREE trial class for beginners Studio: Urdang 2, 259 - 263 Goswell Road, London, EC1V 7AH Booking and information: firstname.lastname@example.org
Bisakha Sarker, Creative dance practitioner, has reached for Tagore’s songs and poems as the starting point of many pieces she has self-choreographed. Her journey in dance is punctuated with Tagore milestones. Bisakha will share her process with a view to inspire dancers to original thinking, and lead a workshop setting creative tasks. Open to dancers of all genres, levels and experience. Observers also welcomed. Bisakha Sarker is a leading practitioner of Indian creative dance. She was trained by Uday and Amala Shankar and later with Manjushri Chaki-Sarker. She has worked as a performer, choreographer, researcher, educationalist, and video maker. Tagore Centre, Alexandra Park Library, Alexandra Park Road, London N22 7UJ Free entry
LISTINGS — UPFRONT Music Sarod Recital: Debashish Bhattacharya with Shahbaz Hussain Sage, Gateshead www.sagegateshead.com
Listings SEPTEMBER 13
Dance Rabindra Sandhya: Nupur Bhavan Centre, London www.bhavan.net Dance Confluence: Divya Kasturi King’s Place , London www.kingsplace.co.uk Theatre The Shroud: Siddhartha Bose, Avaes Mohammad Central Library, Gateshead online.gateshead.gov.uk
24 15 Oct
Talk In the World of Nahid Siddiqi: Nahid Siddiqi mac, Birmingham www.sampad.org.uk
Music Rhythm Diaries: Bernhard Schimpelsberger New Art Exchange, Nottingham www.nae.org.uk
Music Darbar Festival Southbank Centre, London www.southbankcentre.co.uk
Film Charulata: Satyajit Ray Hebden Bridge Picturehouse, Hebden Bridge www.bfi.org.uk
Spoken Word, Exhibition, Performance SAWCC presents Women Against Fundamentalism Book Launch: Authors: Sukhwant Dhaliwal and Niral Yuval Davis Rich Mix, London www.richmix.org.uk
Theatre Dirty Paki Lingerie: Aizzah Fatima Rich Mix, London www.richmix.org.uk 25-26
Music Sitar recital: Partha Bose & Shiv Shankar Roy Bridgewater Hall, Manchester www.bridgewater-hall.co.uk Dance & Music Jagao Sudharobey: The Tagoreans Bhavan Centre, London 01707 696 343 / 07776 164 973
Dance Workshop Tagore Through Dance: Bisakha Sarker Tagore Centre, London www.tagorecentre.org.uk
Talk The Devadasi Heritage: Lakshmi Vishwanathan The Nehru Centre, London www.nehrucentre.org.uk
9 Exhibition Contemporary Sri Lankan Art 20 Dec Brunei Gallery, SOAS, London www.soas.ac.uk 10
Film with live score Devi: Talvin Singh & Roopa Panesar / Satyajit Ray Pavilion Dance, Bournemouth www.asianartsagency.co.uk
Music Sitar Recital: Nishat Khan, Shahbaz Hussain Cadogan Hall, London www.pulseconnects.com
Film Charulata: Satyajit Ray Saffron Screen, Saffron Walden www.bfi.org.uk
Dance Triple Bill: Phoenix Dance Theatre The Castle, Wellingborough www.thecastle.org.uk
Dance, Music & Poetry Sound of Soul: Saudha Purcell Room, London www.southbankcentre.co.uk
18 9 Nov
Festival LIAF Jazz Café / Rich Mix / Kenneth More Theatre / Brunel Museum, London www.liaf.co.uk
26 5 Oct
Musical Indika Cast, Doncaster castindoncaster.com
Film Charulata: Satyajit Ray Plough Arts Centre, Great Torrington www.bfi.org.uk
Music Sitar recital: Partha Bose & Shiv Shankar Roy Capstone Theatre, Liverpool www.milapfest.com
Spoken Word The Retold Ramayana: Dalit Nagra Rich Mix, London www.richmix.org.uk
Dance Yerma: Amina Khayyam Company Performance Academy, Newcastle www.gemarts.org
Music Najma Akhtar Dorchester Arts Centre, Dorchester dorchesterarts.org.uk
Theatre My Name is... : Tamasha mac, Birmingham macbirmingham.co.uk Music Hidden Variables: Soumik Datta, Param Vir CSBO Centre, Birmingham www.bcmg.org.uk
Music Rhythm Diaries: Bernhard Schimpelsberger University of Leicester, Leicester uk.patronbase.com Music Santoor Melodies: Pandit Tarun Bhattacharya & Kousic Sen Capstone Theatre, Liverpool www.milapfest.com Music Najma Akhtar Queen’s Theatre, Barnstaple www.northdevontheatres.org.uk 31
Music Najma Akhtar The Old Chapel, Calstock www.calstockarts.org.uk
Dance He Who Tells a Story / Akademi Adda: Abhay Shankar Mishra Rich Mix, London akademi.co.uk Festival Diwali Celebrations: GVEMSG and GemArts Civic Centre, Gateshead www.gemarts.org Music Botown: The Soul of Bollywood, Botown The Drum, Birmingham www.the-drum.org.uk
Dance, Music & Spoken Word Between the Lines:Tagore in the 21st Century: Kadam/Pulse & Tagore Centre Rich Mix, London www.richmix.org.uk Music Sitar & Cello with Tabla: Shubhendra Rao, Shaskiya, Rajkumar Misra Bhavan Centre, London www.bhavan.net Lecture Rabindra Sangeet: Sreyashi Mitra Southbank Centre, London www.southbankcentre.co.uk Music Chakraphonics: Bangalore Quartet Ruddock Performing Arts Centre, Edgbaston www.sampad.org.uk
Dance, Music & Drama Time and Timelessness with Tagore: Chhandam & Associates Bhavan Centre, London 07889 336715
Study Afternoon South Asian Textiles Study Afternoon: With Jasleen Kandhari Morley College, London www.morleycollege.ac.uk
Dance Jugni: Sonia Sabri Company Stephen Joseph Theatre, Westborough, Scarborough www.ssco.org.uk
Dance Torobaka: Akram Khan & Israel Galvan Sadler’s Wells, London www.sadlerswells.com
Music Najma Akhtar Colston Hall, Bristol www.colstonhall.org
Music Najma Akhtar Rich Mix, London www. richmix.org.uk
Dance Ex Nihilo / The Human Edge: ATMA dance/Mayuri Boonham Pavilion Dance South West: Bournemouth www.pdsw.org.uk
Music Tarang: A New Beginning Theatre by the Lake, Keswick www.milapfest.com
Film Charulata: Satyajit Ray New Park, Chichester www.bfi.org.uk Dance & Music Bangla Music Festival Rich Mix, London www.richmix.org.uk
Music Tarang: A New Beginning Capstone Theatre, Liverpool www.milapfest.com 26
Dance Jugni: Sonia Sabri Company Ivy Arts Centre, University of Surrey, Guildford www.ssco.org.uk Music Najma Akhtar Exeter Phoenix, Exeter www. exeterphoenix.org.uk
Music Tarang: A New Beginning Bridgewater Hall, Manchester www.bridgewater-hall.co.uk
Music Najma Akhtar Roses Theatre, Tewksbury www.rosestheatre.org
27, 28, Music Tagore Festival at the Globe: 29 & Anoushka Shankar 4 Oct The Globe, London www.shakespearesglobe.com
Music Masters of Percussion: Zakir Hussain Barbican Hall, London www.barbican.org.uk
Music United Rhythms: Mendi Mohinder Singh The Drum, Birmingham www.sampad.org.uk Music & Theatre The Rehearsal Room Presents: Curated by Yasmin Khan Rich Mix, London www.harrowarts.com
Symposium Contemporary South Asian Youth Cultures and Fashion Symposium London College of Fashion, London estore.arts.ac.uk Dance Something Then, Something Now: Seeta Patel, Pushkala Gopal Lilian Baylis Studio, Sadler’s Wells, London www.sadlerswells.com
Music Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan Tribute Concert: Ansar Khalid The Drum, Birmingham www.the-drum.org.uk 20
Music Rudra Veena concert: Jyoti Hegde Sage, Gateshead www.gemarts.org
Lecture Course Art & Archaeology of the Indian subcontinent: John Marr & Wendy Marr Bhavan Centre, London www.bhavan.net
Dance Tiranga, Jai Jashn Dance Blakenhall Community & Healthy Living Centre, Wolverhampton www.sampad.org.uk Film A Little Poland in India Nehru Centre, London www.nehrucentre.org.uk
Lecture Course Introducing Asian Art: Lecturer: Jasleen Kandhari Ashmolean Museum, Oxford www.ashmolean.org/eventsi
Music The Inner Vision Orchestra: Baluji Shrivastav Rich Mix, London www.richmix.org.uk
Music Drumscapes: Jon Sterckx Rich Mix, London www.richmix.org.uk 14
Music Rhythm Diaries: Bernhard Schimpelsberger Vortex Jazz, London www.vortexjazz.co.uk
Music Grand Music Concert: Sudha Raghunathan Bhavan Centre, London www.bhavan.net
AUTUMN 2014 PULSE 5
MAKE IT HAPPEN
Make it happen The role of the dance producer
What is a dance producer? What does it take to be one? Sanjoy Roy spoke to three very different producers – Farooq Chaudhry, Karthika Nair and Anand Bhatt – to find out what they do and how they got where they are.
Farooq Chaudhry has been working with Akram Khan since 2000 and as a producer for the English National Ballet since 2014.
PHoto: Laurent Ziegler
PHoto: SIMON RICHARDSON
interviewed by Sanjoy Roy
6 PULSE AUTUMN 2014
became a producer through a beautiful accident. I started out as a dancer, and always loved the process of making work, sometimes more performing it. Then for a while I was a dance manager, working with choreographers Russell Maliphant, Charles Linehan and Aletta Collins. And though I found I was quite good at raising money and finding co-producers, I missed that connection with the creative process. Then I met Akram Khan in 1999. He was a solo dance artist interested in becoming a choreographer, I was an ex-dancer interested in process, and we were both fledglings, discovering what we were doing. The alignment was perfect. I called myself a producer rather than administrator or manager when I began working with Akram. My priorities shifted onto the production itself rather than managing the people and organisation around it. It’s a step closer to the artist. To the art, actually. I always say to Akram: “I don’t serve you, I serve the art; you are part of that process.” A producer needs endurance and conviction. You need to believe in the art first. If you have the belief, you then need endurance, because building the framework to realise it can be very fragile and unpredictable. I love having a lot of input in the production. Sometimes it’s hard to pinpoint who had which idea, because we’re so closely involved in those discussions together. One of my biggest roles is in the final stage of creation, as an editor. I used to be more involved throughout, but when you do that you begin to accept the flaws in the work, or not see them, or maybe even fall in love with them. So it was good for me to maintain more distance during development and play a bigger role in the final edit. One significant change since I started is the world around us. A decade ago, no one was working simultaneously in China, America, the Middle East and Africa. It happens a lot more now. Our technology and mobility enable contact with a bigger pool of cultural riches. It’s a reflection of what’s happening globally. A producer always has one eye on the art and one eye on the money, but there’s also a third eye that senses where you are in the world. So you have to be aware of that broader context, whether it’s dealing with cultural perceptions or watching global currency markets to see how they affect your contracts. You have to be that plugged-in to stay ahead. But that’s what I love: this wonderful interplay between the artist, yourself and the outside world, which you’re constantly trying to make sense of.
Babel | photo: koen broos
hen an artist demands an elephant on stage, the producer is the person who replies: “African or Asian?” She’s also the person who may have to say, some weeks into rehearsal: “Can we use a stuffed elephant or a video projection on tours? Otherwise this beautiful show will have such a limited life.” It sounds like an analogy, but it really happened. I became a producer by accident. I was a journalist in Kerala and found myself working at the Alliance Française there, almost accidentally. I ended up handling fund-raising, management and production, before even knowing what those terms meant. It was only later, while studying arts management in France, that I discovered a fullyfledged sector. The reason I started in contemporary dance was, ironically, because I knew nothing at all about it. I had worked with world music festivals in my first years in France. When I got hired at the Centre Nationale de Danse, it was because the department director wanted a solid production manager who was totally hands-off about the artistic programme. And what I didn’t know about, I couldn’t interfere with. In fact, the CND was the best place for me to discover dance. I got to see so much, and it also has amazing archives. When I moved to become head of programming and production at the National Museum of Immigration, we commissioned a multimedia dance installation by choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, whom I had met while at the CND. The next year, I joined Larbi as his manager; then we founded Eastman, his company, together. The producer’s job is to bring in the resources to realise the artist’s vision. Not just financial and practical resources, but also the right artistic and technical collaborators, the right support system. Apart from big ballet companies, which have their own theatres, guaranteed budgets and permanent teams, dance companies in Europe wouldn’t survive without co-producers. They usually give a defined sum of money, or resources in kind, or both. It’s more than an investment; it’s a crucial means of support. It is equally important to choose the right venues with your choreographer. You need to identify and ensure the proper setting for the work, position it well. Stay unruffled and proactive – always have Plans B, C and D, because you are constantly faced with imponderables. And often, you have to be the ‘translator’ (and sometimes buffer) between your artist and the team. Above all, you need immense conviction. You need to understand the work, warts and all, to defend it with honesty, and to develop a shared vision with your artist. That is vital, because you really have a lock-and-key relationship with the artist. There are many wonderful artists for whom I’d probably be a lousy fit. But when you are completely in synch with your artist, it’s incredibly fulfilling. To see what an idea can become, to enable something so ambitious, so beautiful and so much in resonance with your own beliefs – that’s one of the biggest highs I have known.
photo: Courtesy karthika nair
Karthika Nair is an Indian-born, Paris-based dance producer, whose longest and closest collaboration (2006–14) has been with Belgian choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui.
AUTUMN 2014 PULSE 7
MAKE IT HAPPEN
Anand Bhatt Anand Bhatt works as a producer with contemporary kathak artist Aakash Odedra.
PHoto: sandeep virdee
PHoto: SIMON RICHARDSON
8 PULSE AUTUMN 2014
didn’t plan to become a dance producer. At the age of 12, actually, I thought I would become a Michael Jackson impersonator – which is when my parents, in their wisdom, sent me to kathak class. In 2007, when I was working in the charity sector, Aakash Odedra and I were both part of a performance for Keith Vaz’s twentieth year in office. I was absolutely awful. Aakash was brilliant. I came out and said: “I will never dance again – but if I can help Aakash, that would be fine.” That’s what I did. I wasn’t really aware of what managing or producing was, even though I had already managed some large-scale community dance projects, and produced three commercial Michael Jackson tribute shows. The biggest was MJ Timeless at the Blackpool Globe Theatre: forty-six dates in six weeks. Everything looked fine on stage, but offstage was a different story. I worked with two other producers, and there was a real clash in our outlook. It was a huge learning experience. I think the crucial thing we lost was clarity of vision. A producer helps make something happen – in practical terms, of course, but also through ideas. For example, Aakash’s Murmur (2014) came about after I got in contact with science and media technology group Ars Electronica. We talked pretty open-endedly about how the intricate details of ancient Indian dance, visible in temples and courts, were lost on vast modern stages, and technology’s ability to blow things up larger than life – a kind of warped and exaggerated reality. Meanwhile, Aakash started thinking about exaggerated and warped realities, and something clicked: that was how he experienced dyslexia. That became his starting-point for the piece. You don’t serve the artist, but the artist’s work. On one hand, you are very close to the artistic practice, so the relationship with the artist is central. Your ideas and ambitions need to match. You need to articulate that vision to prospective partners such as promoters and programmers. They can be very choosy about who they want to work with and why. But you need to choose well too. On the other hand, positioning is very important. With Aakash, I looked at where we wanted to go, and I looked to the top. I felt that the best people for him were in contemporary dance, because the South Asian dance sector is significantly more financially limited. So we went to international contemporary dance fairs, and Aakash got seen. The results weren’t immediate, but it was worth it. And I learned who the people were and how they work, and I continue to talk to the best in the sector. I didn’t know anything about contemporary dance when I started, but I have found it very embracing, open to influence by other genres and able to evolve organically. That’s what makes it so exciting to work in. You always feel you’re doing something new.
know, I know – given the demands of daily life, whether it’s school, college, work or a ‘must-attend’ family function, it can be really challenging to fit in time for riyaaz. This is not I as a teacher being polite here and nodding away to excuses for not doing it; I agree it can be difficult because I remember the effort I had to make earlier on in my training to make it a part of me. I learned that, despite all the obstacles and temptations of the world, it comes down to self-discipline and determination. Below are three main questions that you may contend with every day, but with willpower and the passion for your art you can find several options to make riyaaz happen (the suggestions can be adapted to your personal circumstances):
photo: simon richardson
Kathak dancer and choreographer Sonia Sabri continues her series on riyaaz for Young Pulse
When? Interlace riyaaz within your day-to-day activities. For example, if you are an early riser you could schedule an hour of practice before school and an hour after, once you’ve freshened up and had a bite to eat. If mornings are difficult, I know of students who practise in their lunch breaks for forty-five minutes and eat packed lunch just before lessons. Your weekends may be filled up with weddings and parties as well as your regular class. But it’s likely that if mornings are best for you then you will stick to it, regardless of what the day ahead brings. An hour of practice daily is the minimum and I’m sure you’ve heard it: ‘the more the better.’ If it’s only an hour you can manage, then that’s better than nothing at all. And remember, don’t beat yourself up if you miss a session for whatever reason. If on occasion you only have ten minutes or half an hour, you can practise other elements, e.g. recitation of compositions, tala-based work, abhinaya, etc. But ‘focus’ in that spare moment is key. Where? Space can be an issue. It’s crucial to have the right flooring and enough of it to move around on, safely. And mirrors are ideal. Try your local gym, mandir, community centre or school/ college if they can lend you space in kind, and in return you could offer a short performance for their upcoming events or help out as a volunteer. The conversation about ‘in-kind’ support can be daunting but you may be surprised by the result. If you’re really stuck, then there’s the living/bedroom (or conservatory) and either plead with your parents for wooden flooring or do what my dad did: he cut out 2mx2m heavy plyboard for me to practise on and I used the reflection of the patio doors as my mirrors. When I had finished, I’d slide the plyboard behind the sofa. It was perfect for me at that time. How? As with any routine, you could fall prey to monotony or it becomes a lonely process. So it’s important that you have all the means to keep you excited and fulfilling your targets. Why not allocate one day a week where you practise with your peers from dance class or with a musician? Devise a practice plan; observe and encourage each other’s progress. This way you could also share the costs of hiring a studio. I’m sure you’ll have music provided but there are several apps that can support your riyaaz too. This is where I say “I love iPhone!” The apps available from taanpura to tihai-maker are fantastic. It’s certainly worth checking them out and asking your teacher/guru how to use them as part of your practice. I personally am not a great fan of online tutorials or DVDs, purely because technique and style vary dramatically. If you need a visual guide, then I recommend filming your teacher/guru so you can capture the exact details you need to work towards.
How to make riyaaz a part of daily life
The main point to remember is to do riyaaz each day, no matter what. I know we all say there’s never enough time for it, so surely there must be a little time for it and a little is much more than nothing. Next issue: Integrating dance in other areas of life…
AUTUMN 2014 PULSE 9
ayuri Boonham isn’t one to shy away from a high concept. Ex Nihilo and The Human Edge, premièred at the Royal Ballet’s Linbury Studio Theatre last April, marked this deeply-dedicated choreographer’s most ambitious project to date. Inspired by the creation myths in ancient Indian sacred texts, her aim in these two dovetailing dances was a poetic metaphor for nothing less than the origins of the universe and the human race. The result was, unsurprisingly, one of the biggest creative challenges she’s yet faced. “Normally choreographers are absorbed in making one piece at a time,” Mayuri says. “Creating two works simultaneously, as I did, was mad and intense but I learned so much on so many levels. It required a high level of practical efficiency. For one thing, I had to manage my time to work with different sets of dancers in different buildings!” Mayuri has for the past two years had the privilege of being a choreographic affiliate of the Royal Opera House. Prior to this culminatory double bill, she’d created two other works there. Vac II, presented as part of a series called Draftworks, was her first crack at devising a piece with Royal Ballet dancers. “Their talent and physical ability was thrilling,” she says, “enabling me to push the movement material past my expectations.” Forsaken, seen as part of the annual Deloitte Ignite events, was a collaboration with ballet dancers, opera singers and Indian musicians which, as she modestly puts it, “broke a few boundaries”. This last phrase is central to how Mayuri operates. “Each work I’ve created to date has come with its own creative challenges. Part of this has to do with challenges inherent in collaborations between different disciplines, and partly the subject matter I choose.” Her fundamental desire, however, is to constantly push herself “to encompass things recently learned, or to step into the unknown wherever possible.” For her final commission as an Opera House affiliate, Mayuri’s goal was to make a bigger piece with higher production values than she’d previously had access to. In order to get to that next creative level, she opted for a subject that would give her enough ‘juice’ to sustain a longer work. Her choice, the Rig Veda Hymn of Creation, she deems “both perfect and extremely difficult” because of the abstract philosophical questions it raises. “I was really challenged, firstly to understand it, and then to search for movement to express 10 PULSE AUTUMN 2014
PHoto: Courtesy Atmadance
“ ...a work that would transcend any specific language and gender”
its ideas.” The choreographic stretch this entailed was sizeable. “I love bharatanatyam,” Mayuri says, “but I knew I had to immerse myself in various dance vocabularies to arrive at a work that would transcend any specific language and gender. The concept simply demanded the expression of something strange and unknown.” In the septet Ex Nihilo, performed by dancers recruited from Mayuri’s own company ATMA, her underlying notion was ‘shedding the human’ via gusts of striking, odd-angled ensemble motion delivered in Guy Hoare’s shadowy lighting. The use of bodies, as the Guardian’s Judith Mackrell so eloquently observed, was of ‘both shattered remnants of ancient temple statuary and random particles of matter’. In The Human Edge, based on the story of the first goddess Sati’s self-annihilating love for Shiva, the human element returned as
embodied by the moonlighting Royal Ballet dancers Yuhui Choe and Kenta Kura. Here, to quote Mackrell, Mayuri combined ‘the grounded geometries and formalised eloquence of bharatanatyam with the airborne intimacies of a western pas de deux.’ Mayuri’s principal task as a dance-maker and director was to connect the two pieces of choreography conceptually as part of a full evening’s work, and one that would have no interval. It all boiled down to how she structured time – both within her own creative process and within the dances – and content. There was also the question of a soundtrack. For this she turned to the internationallyacclaimed American composer Bill Fontana, renowned for using sound as a sculptural medium to transform perceptions of visual and architectural space, and Midival Punditz, the joint name of the New Delhi electronica duo Gaurav
PHoto: SIMON RICHARDSON
Mayuri Boonham, Artistic Director of ATMA, talks to Donald Hutera about her passion for delving into metaphysical concepts to draw out movement material, like the origins of the universe in Ex Nihilo (Latin: ‘Out of Nothing’), her latest creation.
PHoto: Chris nash
“When I met Prakash Yadagudde...I felt I’d finally met my dance guru”
Raina and Tapan Raj. Fontana’s contribution to Ex Nihilo included recordings from inside the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland, which Mayuri knew might be hard on some audience’s ears but nevertheless held massive relevance. “The concept required something really different,” she says, “something that would suggest aeons of time that we don’t really know anything about.” The Human “Not everyone got what I Edge, by way of contrast, needed was trying and received from Midival Punditz a to do...and warmer, more melodic edge. Reviews for the double bill that’s fine” tended to be positively slanted yet mixed; something Mayuri took on the chin. “Not everyone got what I was trying to do,” she concedes, “and that’s fine. I’m planning to make some choreographic revisions to help the journey become clearer, tighter and more explicit.”
Mayuri’s parents – her father
a goldsmith/jeweller and her mother a traditional Indian housewife – emigrated from Gujarat, India to East Africa which is where she was born. The family became emigrants again, escaping Idi Amin’s regime and settling in Birmingham when Mayuri was two years old. As a very religious Hindu and an avid reader, it was her mum who introduced her to the evocative legends and myths of Indian gods as well as to the devotional slokas and verses in Sanskrit and Gujarati that remain close to her heart. “What was most captivating for me as a child was not the drama of the stories,” Mayuri recalls, “but the universal meaning behind them that she’d carefully explain to me. “I loved dancing and making dance,” she says. “I knew clearly from an early age that that’s what I wanted to do.” Early classical Bollywood dances performed by Sandhya, Padmini, Waheeda Rehman and Vyajanthimala were
“I’ve been doing this all my life...it’s a vocation”
a great inspiration, as were V. Shantarams’s films. “I would copy many of these dances and perform them at community events where, almost always, there’d be other children mimicking Michael Jackson’s Thriller or the latest Bollywood dance hit.” But it was the youngsters who’d come from out of town and present short bharatanatyam dances that most intrigued her. Mayuri only started training in bharatanatyam in her teens, largely because there were no proper classes available in Birmingham in the 1980s. At one point she was learning both kathak with Nahid Siddiqui and bharatanatyam under Chitralekha Bolar, but it was the latter discipline that most attracted her. “When I met Prakash Yadagudde at the Bhavan Centre I felt I’d finally met my dance guru,” she says, summing up her background. She still attends classes with him whenever the opportunity arises. Now, Mayuri says, it’s the love of Indian philosophy and art that drives her own creative impulses. European art has also helped her to cross-fertilise and understand her ideas, while mentors such as Jonathan Burrows, Wayne McGregor and Russell Maliphant have helped shape her professional choreographic development. But nothing, she says, would’ve been possible without the guidance and support of her husband Nigel, a sculptor. “Entering his artistic world and meeting his circle of creative friends was an education that has greatly enhanced my own thinking and creativity.” Mayuri has recently made a BBC film with Michael Palin called Remember Me, a three-part murder-mystery to be aired this autumn. She also continues to tour works like Erhebung, described as ‘a dance-sculpture-sonic art installation’, and the Royalcommissioned double bill. She offers sound advice to budding dance-makers, regardless of the genres in which they specialise. “Start small and keep working; one thing follows another inevitably. Always try to have an interesting subject that can feed into your choreography on many levels, and foster your discrimination by seeing as much dance as you can.” As for herself, she says, “I’ve been doing this all my life and can’t imagine anything else. It’s a vocation. As I grow older and more experienced, I find the creative process that leads to the work itself increasingly richer and more interesting, so I’m continually hooked.”
AUTUMN 2014 PULSE 11
IN THE FRAME— SYNCHRONISED
Beth Bracegirdle 12 PULSE AUTUMN 2014
Beth Bracegirdle & Sooraj Subramaniam
Jesse Bannister and Nina Bannister
PHOTOGRAPHs BY Maya Almeida Araujo
hese first underwater pictures of South Asian dance reveal the grace and power of kathak melded with contemporary dance and synchronised swimming. The elements are transformed in Synchronised, the creation of choreographer Balbir Singh, swimmer Heba Abdel-Gawad and composer Jesse Bannister.
AUTUMN 2014 PULSE 13
MEETING OF MUSICAL MINDS
Two of Britainâ€™s most exciting Indian classical musicians, Talvin Singh and Roopa Panesar, recently crossed paths in Bombay Talkies, a unique project that injected a contemporary score to an old classic film. In the process each artist learned something new about themselves.
Meeting of Musical Minds by Seetal Kaur Gahir
TalvinPanesar Singh and Roopa in Bombay Talkies
14 PULSE AUTUMN 2014
But where do Talvin’s own hopes lie for the future? “I feel now I’m at a really good pace. I’m just strolling in the most beautiful place and realising all my projects and how I can make them work so that I can share them with not necessarily a larger audience, but the right audience.” Now his focus is on bringing the music back home. With talks of setting up his own label, releasing archived recordings and creating YouTube videos that de-mystify complex compositions for younger generations, he’s naturally always bursting with ambitious and infectious ideas. But which ones will come to fruition? Only time will tell.
PHoto: simon Richardson PHoto: Kajal Nisha Patel
“Roopa helped me realise that stillness is always there...”
“...critical acclaim as a new way to explore the relationship between classical music and the moving image”
ith a move from the smoggy city to scenic Suffolk, a bristling beard and now an OBE, Talvin Singh seems to be becoming quite the British gentleman. But the multi-faceted percussionist, tabla maverick and Asian electronica pioneer isn’t so sure what to make of the grand award just yet. “It’s growing on me,” he says, “I haven’t completely realised what it really means.” Growing up in London, Talvin became a disciple of his guru, Acharya Pandit Laxman Singh of the Punjab gharana, during his teenage years. Since then he’s been back and forth from India, gathering a diverse range of influences in spite of a very traditional training regime. After winning the Mercury Prize for his debut album OK in 1999, Talvin felt a suffocating pressure to constantly come up with something new. “In the position I was, I got sick of the demand. Every artist loves demand but we also enjoy the freedom to do what we want to do. I’m not in this game for claustrophobia. That’s why I move around and do different things so that it makes it hard to pigeonhole me.” So he threw himself into numerous ventures, one of which was Bombay Talkies. Curated by the Alchemy Festival 2012 at the Southbank Centre, the project centred around the idea of scoring new, live music to a classic film of Indian cinema. While catching a flight to India, Talvin was listening to the soothing strains of rising sitarist Roopa Panesar in her debut album Khoj and quickly contacted her to propose the idea of collaboration. Thus marked the beginning of a musical conversation. “Roopa helped me realise that stillness is always there, and she really helped me realise my melodic sensibilities.” As an experimental and adventurous percussionist, Talvin found that Roopa was able to ground his ideas but also encouraged him to explore melodic frameworks that played off his rhythms too. In one instance, Talvin introduced a Punjabi dhammar taal or time cycle that is specific to his gharana or learning lineage and sketched a melodic composition around it. Roopa picked up the melody and materialised it so beautifully that Talvin was instantly blown away. The compositions were inspired by the stark imagery of Satyajit Ray’s Devi and its original score by Ustad Ali Akbar Khan Sahib; a film that Talvin and Roopa both chose together. After a successful tour, the project received positive critical acclaim as a new way to explore the relationship between classical music and the moving image. The duo, along with string players Meg Hamilton and Francesca Ter-Berg, are now a tight unit and no one is replaceable, just like the cast of a film. Jaswinder Singh from Asian Arts Agency based in Bristol saw the potential of Bombay Talkies at Alchemy 2012, and has gone on to tour it in the UK at various venues and festivals. Talvin hopes that Bombay Talkies becomes a conceptual basis for other composers to explore with different films too. As it happens, Soumik Datta has done just that in collaboration with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, creating a soundscore for another Satyajit Ray film, Gopi Gayan Baga Bayan.
C “Talvin gave Roopa the space to experiment and break out of her comfort zone”
“...the project came from a soundtrack that featured one of her biggest musical icons, Pandit Nikhil Banerjee”
“I want to feel that there’s always something new happening and that some sort of growth...”
rystalline tone, depth of expression, technical precision and a rich understanding make Roopa Panesar not only one of the most sought-after sitarists in the UK but a prominent role model for the next generation. From the age of 7, Roopa showed signs of promise. Whether it’s a sold-out concert hall or a bustling classroom, her dedication and devotion to music are sincerely evident in all that she does. When a phone call arrived from Talvin, Roopa wasn’t quite sure what the project would involve. But gradually, as ideas developed in musical exchanges, she soon found her freedom. “He’s got this really great intuition of where things will work. It was just seeing his freedom and how he comes out of the closed mindset that we have in Indian classical music. He’d say ‘You know it really doesn’t matter. We’re not in a classical concert so just go for it.’” Where Roopa provided the stability for Talvin to realise his ideas, Talvin gave Roopa the space to experiment and break out of her comfort zone. But Roopa still felt that the concept was within her artistic interests, especially since the inspiration for the project came from a soundtrack that featured one of her biggest musical icons, Pandit Nikhil Banerjee. “This kind of collaboration was really beautiful because we were able to keep our original sound, be true to ourselves and yet utilise other forms of music and other instruments along with the whole sound and visual aspect.” Roopa plans on continuing to collaborate and experiment with new pathways in Indian classical music, but solo performance is very much at the heart of her career plan. “I love solo playing… it comes from your own yearning and search for music and that’s still going on.” But it’s not about fame or ego, recognition or fortune. Instead, when I ask Roopa what she makes music for, she replies that it is an act of service. “I want to be a channel for something else to work through me and to give people an experience of something divine. So ultimately that’s not going to be coming from me, it’s going to be coming from somewhere else.” Among planning for a new album, touring and teaching in the community, the future looks bright for Roopa. “I want to do the best I can. I want to feel that there’s always something new happening and that some sort of growth can be seen.” With a pure heart and clear intentions, Roopa is sure to climb from strength to strength and is definitely one to watch in the years to come.
AUTUMN 2014 PULSE 15
In profile— Jaswinder singh
Did you choose the South-West region or was it chosen for you? In the early days as an organisation we were doing events within Bristol; then we started taking work to other parts of the region. The South-West is a huge area, and now the Arts Council has changed the area covered by the region it extends all the way from Cornwall up to Hampshire.
“The SouthWest is a huge area ...in some areas the population is very small... It’s challenging but equally it’s really exciting”
In terms of the difficulties of developing audiences in sparselypopulated areas in the South-West, what insights can you offer us? The area is definitely challenging. In some areas the population is very small. The key is to find the anchor people or venues within that specific area. Unlike London, where you might find 20,000 people within a two-mile radius, the situation is completely reversed in the South-West. It’s challenging but equally it’s really exciting. It gives people a chance to come out without having to go to bigger cities or out of the region. This area has some of the biggest festivals – Glastonbury and WOMAD – and we want to bring something to these audiences.
The Asian Arts Agency has been making its presence felt and not just in and around its Bristol base. It has brought exciting new music to UK audiences and had a significant enhancement in its funding by Arts Council England, under its director Jaswinder Singh. Sanjeevini Dutta talked to Jaswinder to find out more.
Jaswinder Singh Asian Arts Agency Director In Profile PHoto: Courtesy Jaswinder Singh
INTERVIEWED by SAnjeevini Dutta
16 PULSE AUTUMN 2014
Do you see the company growing more nationally?
You seem to have a strong artistic vision.
Yes, definitely. We don’t want to lose the charm that comes with being based in the region and we’re not going to let go of the focus and lose the depth there, but equally we are looking at how we can take the work we develop in the South-West area beyond. It starts with the projects and our artistic ambition. Over the last few years we’ve become more a national organisation. We’re bringing work in from overseas and touring work that has a national appeal. It’s an organic growth. We don’t want to restrict our work but take it to where the demand is and where the work should go. There was a big demand for the project with Talvin Singh and Devi (producing a contemporary score for the classic 1960 film) on a national level, for example.
Our vision is to promote the best quality of music. We work with all genres, classical to folk: we’ve worked with Zakir Hussain, bhangra, Amjad Ali Khan, Talvin Singh, Baul artists from West Bengal, Tamil artists. It’s all about finding an artist and finding where your synergy comes from as a producer in relation to that artist and taking that artist to an audience.
It happens that we are featuring Talvin Singh and Roopa Panesar in this issue, whom the Agency is promoting in their tour of Devi. Did you commission it or did you see it at Alchemy last year and decide it was a project you wanted to take on? “At the Brighton Festival this year [Talvin Singh’s Devi] drew an amazing 1,100–1,200 people”
h “It all came together when the music and visual side connected”
“What excites me is how artists are redefining what they are doing”
It was commissioned by the Southbank Centre. I was keen to work with Talvin – I like sometimes to work with the artist on their artistic journey and see what it is they want to say. It was a combination of two things: working with Talvin again and also working with Indian cinema and a live music score ensemble. At the Brighton Festival this year it drew an amazing 1,100–1,200 people. With the 100th anniversary of Indian cinema last year, there was a feeling that there was room for more. The Devi project does two things: it looks back at amazing Indian cinema, Ray’s films, but Devi is also being presented in a different context now. We need more British Asian artists based here to give their interpretation and artistic experience to projects like this which are challenging on the production level, not just simply going on and performing (though of course there is a place for that too).
What excites me is how artists are redefining what they are doing. When we were discussing with Kiran the best way of presenting her, she said a lot of her songs are about women and this was an interesting area to explore. She sings Hindi and Punjabi songs and is a sufi singer, but we didn’t want to pigeonhole her. She is obviously influenced by other singers such as the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, but she has own versions. It was rather like that with Red Baraat: there’s only one dhol player in the band but amazingly they’ve got the brass section, the hip-hop, the afro element there, the avant-garde NY style of music. I admire these artists who are challenging. They are not just about playing the Bollywood tunes. Red Baraat’s debut tour in 2012 was brilliant. We were surprised at how much the press wanted to talk to them: the BBC, Radio 3, Radio 4, the Guardian, the Independent. We felt that there really was something fresh there. We have amazing musicians in the UK too, like Talvin, Roopa, Soumik Datta, Arun Ghosh. I commissioned Arun Ghosh to do Bengali songs and poetry. People think he’s playing jazz, but he’s playing Nazrul’s poetry.
Moving on to dance: how did you feel the Dance Summit held last year in Bournemouth went? Will you be repeating it? Our aim was to enhance the distribution of dance in the South-West area and to educate the promoters. We wanted pieces to be seen in the region. We chose Bournemouth and had good regional promoters, but we also had people from Edinburgh and London. We went on to fifteen or so bookings, including screenings of Seeta Patel’s film in Edinburgh and in Bournemouth. The plan was for the artists to speak directly to the venues. There was direct discussion between Aakash Odedra and Mayfest 2014 (Bristol). This is healthy.
Are you a musician yourself? Where has your love of promotion come from? I play a folk music instrument called algoza, which is two flutes together. It’s an ancient instrument, played using circular breathing. It comes from the Punjab, though it’s also played, slightly differently, in Rajasthan. I was introduced to the instrument through listening to bhangra music. I’m not playing it these days because I’m more involved with producing and promotion. It all came together when the music and visual side connected. My formal academic education was in film: I did my master’s degree in film studies at the University of Westminster in London. I was working as a video artist many years ago, but playing the music and coming to the Agency has been a natural process. Being asked by a commissioner to do something – before you know it, it all starts: you realise this is brilliant, this is a passion. I’m very happy I’m doing what I’m doing at this moment.
You’ve brought Kiran Ahluwalia and Red Baraat to the UK. It’s exciting to see fresh influences in music.
“We want to produce the best of British Asian artists in the UK and look at how we can support Britishbased artists abroad”
What are your ambitions for the next three years? We want to produce the best of British Asian artists in the UK and look at how we can support Britishbased artists abroad. We are excited about exploring the opportunity provided by the US, India and Europe. Apart from that, we’d like to increase touring activity from one a year to more and to bring something fresh from abroad. We need to see more challenging commissioning from South Asian organisations, with hopefully some outstanding result – a project we can tour.
AUTUMN 2014 PULSE 17
INDIAN TEMPLE Figure 1. Teli-ka Mandir, Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh, mid-eighth century: an example of a Valabhi shrine | Photo: Doria Tichit
In the second of our series on Indian temple architecture, Doria Tichit looks in more detail at the different traditions that grew and flourished in northern and southern India.
by Doria Tichit
Figure 3. Ghateshvara temple, Baroli, Rajasthan, tenth century: an example of a Latina shrine | Photo: Doria Tichit
“... within the two broad categories of the northern Nagara and and southern Dravida ... idioms blossomed ... testifying to the vitality of Indian architecture”
18 PULSE AUTUMN 2014
ndian temple architecture reveals great variety and inventiveness. Two architectural traditions were formed during the sixth and seventh centuries: the northern Nagara and southern Dravida. Coming out of a common architectural stratum, they proposed different interpretations in the selection and combination of architectural components. Within these two broad categories, idioms blossomed and awareness of the different regional trends developed, testifying to the vitality of Indian architecture. In North India, by the seventh century, the three general types of monumental shrines were the Valabhi, the Phamsana and the Latina. Valabhi shrines are crowned by a barrel roof and dominated by horseshoe-arch motifs. One of the most impressive is the Teli-ka Mandir at Gwalior (Madhya Pradesh, eighth c.), reaching almost 30 metres (fig.1). Full-scale Valabhi shrines fell out of
Figure 4. Kandariya Mahadeva temple, Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh, eleventh century: an example of a Sekhari shrine | Photo: Adam Hardy
“The tenth century is a period marked by a profound architectural renewal. From the Latina sprang two composite types: the Sekhari and Bhumija”
favour by the ninth century in western and central India. Valabhi components were, however, integrated into other types of temples; for example, wall niches and cardinal projections. Phamsana shrines have a pyramidal superstructure composed of horizontal slabs piled atop each other. By the ninth century Phamsana structures were used mainly for halls and porches. In western India they evolved into the Samvarana type, the roof of which is made of bands of bell-topped pavilions like the hall of the Mahanaleshvara temple, Menal (Rajasthan, late eleventh c.) (fig.2). From the seventh to the tenth centuries, Latina temples dominated the landscape of North India and were also adopted in the Deccan. These are characterised by a curved spire, the cardinal spines of which are made of intricate horseshoe-arch motifs, and which is topped by a ribbed cushion. By the ninth century, wall projections often resembled
Figure 2. Mahanaleshvara temple, Menal, Rajasthan, late eleventh century: an example of a Samvarana hall | Photo: Doria Tichit Figure 5. Udayeshvara temple, Udayapur, Madhya Pradesh, eleventh century: an example of a Bhumija shrine | Photo: Adam Hardy
thick pilasters, as seen at the Ghateshvara temple at Baroli (Rajasthan, tenth c.) (fig.3). The components became increasingly compressed over time, as in the 21-storey Vamana temple at Khajuraho (Madhya Pradesh, eleventh c.). By the tenth century, full-scale Latina temples were less in favour except in Orissa, where a regional version of Latina temples blossomed as demonstrated by the impressive eleventh-century Lingaraja and thirteenth-century Ananta Vasudeva temple at Bhubaneshwar. The tenth century is a period marked by a profound architectural renewal. From the Latina sprang two composite types: the Sekhari and Bhumija. A Sekhari shrine is characterised by multiple Latina spires embedded in each other along the cardinal axes. Between these cardinal projections emerging from one another, components resembling pillars crowned by miniature towers proliferate. This burgeoning process generates dynamic compositions
and favours experimentation. Multi-spired temples appeared in central and western India almost at the same time and later in Orissa and in Karnataka. The site of Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh, where numerous Sekhari temples were erected by the Chandellas during the tenth and twelfth centuries such as the Lakshmana and the Vishvanatha, offers an insight into the possible permutations of the type. Complexity of design increases progressively: the adoption of a steppeddiamond plan, the addition of re-entrant projections and quarter spires led to dense compositions such as the Kandariya Mahadeva (eleventh c.) (fig.4). Bhumija shrines are characterised by vertical chains of identical expanding pillar-like components cascading downwards between cardinal spines resembling those of a Latina temple. Bhumija temples were erected on a vast territory from the eleventh to the thirteenth centuries, but particularly in western Madhya Pradesh then under the control
AUTUMN 2014 PULSE 19
Figure 7. Brihadeshvara temple, Tanjavur, Tamil Nadu, early eleventh century | Photo: Adam Hardy
“In South India two main traditions emerged in the seventh century, centred in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu”
20 PULSE AUTUMN 2014
of the Paramaras. The Udayeshvara at Udayapur (Madhya Pradesh, eleventh c.) (fig.5), one of their greatest achievements, while a predominantly Nagara structure, is composed of elements deriving from the Dravida tradition. Bhumija temples were also built in Maharashtra, where the Gondeshvara, Sinnar (twelfth c.) is the finest example, in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. In South India, a basic shrine is a one-tiered structure supporting either a domed or barrelroofed pavilion. Complex temples are formed by the integration of one structure with another, typically one becoming the superstructure of the other as clearly illustrated by the Upper Shivalaya at Badami (Karnataka, seventh c.). Lower tiers are commonly composed of square domed aedicules at the corners and rectangular barrel-roofed aedicules in the centre. From this principle, two main traditions emerged in the seventh century, centred in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. In the Tamil tradition the architectural components are embedded in the structure but clearly distinct. As typical of early temples, at the Dharmaraja Ratha, Mahabalipuram (seventh
Figure 8. Keshava temple, Somanathapur, Karnataka, midthirteenth century | Photo: Doria Tichit
“In the Tamil tradition... the number of projections increases downwards from storey to storey according to the principle of progressive multiplication”
c.) (fig.6) the number of projections increases downwards from storey to storey according to the principle of progressive multiplication. With the rise of the Chola dynasty in the ninth century, the pace of construction increased and temples were endowed with a greater number of storeys and projections. The Brihadeshvara at Tanjavur (early eleventh c.) (fig.7), with its fourteen storeys, reaches 66 metres in a vast enclosure, entered via the first monumental axial barrel-roofed gateway (gopura), a feature typical of the later southern temple complexes. The shrine’s composition is complex due to the fluctuating number and types of aedicules comprising the tiers. Symmetry and clarity governed later designs, such as those of the Brihadeshvara at Gangaikondacholapuram (mid-eleventh c.) and the Airavateshvara temple at Darasuram (mid-twelfth c.). In Karnataka, the architectural tradition is characterised by experimentation. From the tenth century the variety of aedicules increases through the combination of existing types and the use of both Nagara and Dravida designs. For instance, the Dravida structure of the Kashivishveshvara at
Figure 6. Dharmaraja Ratha, Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu, seventh century | Photo: Doria Tichit Figure 9. Free-standing hall, Vitthala temple complex, Hampi, Karnataka, sixteenth century | Photo: Doria Tichit
“In Karnataka, the architectural tradition is characterised by experimentation”
Lakkundi (late eleventh c.) is adorned with Sekhari and Bhumija forms. Moreover, the components became increasingly interpenetrating and the aedicules staggered, bringing incredible rhythm to the surface. In the eleventh century, stellate plans became popular, the epitome being the uniform stellate Doddabasappa temple, Dambal (eleventh c.). During the twelfth and fourteenth centuries under the Hoysala dynasty, stellate temples were erected on high platforms and endowed with extremely rich sculptural programmes, like the Hoysaleshvara at Halebid (twelfth c.) and the Keshava temple at Somanathapur (thirteenth c.) (fig.8). With the establishment of the Sultanates of Delhi in the thirteenth century and the Mughal Empire in the sixteenth century, Hindu architectural traditions were disrupted in North India. In South India, during the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries under the Vijayanagara Empire, vast urban and religious centres developed. In the monumental Vitthala complex at Hampi (Karnataka, sixteenth c.), the temple stands surrounded by several open halls with colossal composite piers, a formula that would become popular (fig.9). Earlier sanctuaries were also enlarged
“...the creation of temple cities such as the Minaksi-Sundareshvara complex at Madurai (seventeenth c.) … offer a vibrant vision of the Hindu pantheon”
by adding concentric enclosure walls and gopuras increasing in size centrifugally. Such designs would culminate in Tamil Nadu with the creation of temple cities such as the Minaksi-Sundareshvara complex at Madurai (seventeenth c.), whose soaring gopuras adorned with colourful stucco sculptures offer a vibrant vision of the Hindu pantheon.
Further reading: Hardy, Adam, The Temple Architecture of India (London, Wiley, 2007) Michell, George, The Hindu Temple: An Introduction to Its Meaning and Forms (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1988) Tichit, Doria, ‘Indian Temple – Abode of the Gods and Centres for Community’, Pulse 125 (Summer 2014), pp.18–20.
AUTUMN 2014 PULSE 21
REVIEWS — DANCE PERFORMANCE
Dance Performance Synchronised 9 July 2014 Balbir Singh Dance Company Beacontree Heath Leisure Centre, Dagenham Reviewed by Stacey Prickett
unlight streams through the twostorey-high windows onto the Olympic-size swimming pool. Floating shapes like oversized water lilies sit atop the calm surface. A young woman walks along the pool, as if searching for something. The eye is drawn to movement in the water and a poolside stage hosting musicians. A swimming pool, dance and live music – not the most obvious combination. In drawing together seemingly disparate elements, Synchronised offered a fabulous spectacle, adding elite synchronised swimming to the movement mix with kathak and contemporary dance. Choreographer Balbir Singh collaborated with synchronised swimmer Heba Abdel-Gawad and composer Jesse Bannister to create a unique fantastical vision. Commissioned by imove in Yorkshire for the London 2012 Olympic Games Cultural Olympiad, the show premièred with a large cast of 100 while the current production touring to local swimming pools hosts a smaller cast. Inviting us on an aural and visual journey, Singh announces: “This is not a swimming pool for the next hour … it is all about you and your imagination.” Twelve episodes explore ideas around the theme of water such as iconic rivers and their associations: ‘On the Banks of the Ganges’, ‘Adrift on the Mississippi’ and ‘Into the Nile’. Quotations in the programme set out snippets of sacred and secular wisdom, citing religious texts, the swimmer Esther Williams and authors such as Mark Twain and J.R.R. Tolkien. Sections flowed into each other, a group of dancers would manifest mysteriously in the pool, with three synchronised swimmers punctuating the vision with feats of athleticism and musicality at one end of the space. The eye is then drawn to a group of eight dancers standing in waist-high water, their unison kathak arm gestures ending with a percussive splash. Later, community dancers take the action poolside, echoing 22 PULSE AUTUMN 2014
the water-borne movements of the core dance group. Water creatures provided a natural inspiration, seen in the undulating images of a long limbless creature in ‘Enter the Serpent’, while the ‘Sea Creatures at Play’ was full of tumbles, turns and dives, evoking childhood pool games accompanied by vocal harmonies. Different aspects of Hindu mythology inspired ‘Krishna and the Serpent Kaliya’, drawing on abhinaya portrayals of the well-known narrative to create a fantastical battle. A swimmer suddenly lifts up out of the water; the resulting ripples
swimmers dance. Jazzy saxophone riffs are joined by flute, piano, guitar, cello and mridangam to transport us to new places. Haunting melodies are countered by an upbeat country hoedown; complex drumming is contrasted by a flowing piano solo. We are taken on musical as well as movement journeys, with the rhythmic interplay of dancer and musician in ‘Splash’ focusing the digi-dah and ta ki ta at the core of kathak. As the sun sets lower, golden hues are added to the changing lights of blue and red designed by Michael Mannion. ‘Returning Home’ brought the spectacle full circle. A flute linked the elements, ending with virtuosic trills and the evocation of Krishna’s instrument through gesture. Dancers moved like reeds as they followed each other out of the water. Synchronised achieves a unique cohesion, evoking memories of seaside trips, childhood games and the transformative power of water and the imagination.
a traditional devotional bhajan dedicated to Lord Krishna titled Shri Krishna Soundarya. Composed by Pandit Vishwa Prakash, the bhajan featured chapters from Lord Krishna’s life. This was a powerful opening piece. It evoked a mixture of emotions, from tenderness when recalling Krishna’s childhood mischief, to the disgust at the attempted disrobing of Princess Draupadi by the Kauravas, which necessitated the intervention of Krishna, in the famous incident
Guru Purnima Celebrations
Photo: Pritpal Ajimal
stir up a vortex. Dolphin dives create moments of suspense as the swimmers emerge in unexpected locations. One evocation of Krishna is seen on land, as Sooraj Subramaniam’s kathak footwork and turns, fluid arms and precision offer the artistry and technique of the classical form. Rich religious references are matched by popular ones. ‘Serpents of Hollywood’ recalls the athleticism of synchronised swimming with Busby Berkeleyinspired abstractions of moving bodies. Legs thrust up from the surface to spin in gravity-defying feats, merging into kaleidoscopic designs that emphasise the geometry of the body. Conceptual ideas are manifest in multiple ways as the production plays with dimensions of space. In the synchronised swimming section ‘Reflected’, mirror imagery multiplied the dynamism of attack where the accents of action in assisted back flips and leg kicks paralleled those of the music. Tradition and innovation, fluidity of water and gesture created a treasure of literal and metaphorical imagery as dancers swim and
12 July 2014 Pratap Pawar Studio Dancing Nikita Company, Berkshire Reviewed by Shivani Sharma
uru Purnima, an important event in the Hindu calendar, signifies an opportunity to pay tribute to those whom we hold in the highest regard. It is a day on which students of the arts and education seek the blessings of their ‘Guru’ or ‘Guruma’ as a catalyst for development. On 12 July, the day of Guru Purnima 2014, students at the Dancing Nikita Company celebrated this significant occasion by hosting a live evening performance with Padmashri Guru Pratap Pawar, an internationallyrenowned kathak dance artist and teacher. Pratap Pawar has dedicated over fifty-five years to this North Indian dance style. He is particularly known for his command of rhythm and has the privilege of being the first disciple of Pandit Birju Maharaj. Over the course of an hour and a half, students and spectators were taken on a journey through kathak dance. The performance started with
Photo: Courtesy the Artist
from the Mahabharata. The performance then moved to the technical section, through two taals and covering the diverse repertoire from thaat to paran and tihai to tora. Noteworthy was the use of space throughout, given the intimate set-up of the presentation with the audience just a few steps away from the artist. This allowed students in particular to vividly observe the differing characteristics of teen taal versus dhamar taal. One of the final items included an adaption of a famous piece of Urdu poetry written by Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last Mughal emperor in India. Several audience members were brought to tears through Pratap Pawar’s intense portrayal of the Mughal emperor as he yearned to be reunited, in death, with his beloved land dafn ke liye do gaz zamin bhi na mili’. Artistry was beautifully complemented by lighting, with only the performer’s upper body illuminated in an otherwise dark room. This heightened the inherent anguish that was being conveyed. It was a truly captivating performance to end a series of evening events hosted at the Dancing Nikita Company.
MUSIC PERFORMANCE/THEATRE— REVIEWS
Music Performance Kiran Ahluwalia 6 July 2014 Asian Arts Agency The Jazz Café, Camden, London Reviewed by Ken Hunt
he Bristol, UK-based Asian Arts Agency’s announcement that Kiran Ahluwalia was making her London concert debut at long last was a cause for genuine excitement. Since the Toronto-based singer released Kashish – Attraction, her 2001 recording debut of ghazal and Punjabi folk songs, she has been seen to be a talent to follow. A whole stream of traditional, modern and cosmopolitan influences has shaped her music and musical mind. But what it boils down to is that, in a complex and pretty complete sense, she is a child of the South Asian diaspora. Born to Punjabi parents in Bihar in 1965, she and her parents crossed continents. Five years in New Zealand and a return to India preceded settling in Canada in 1974. Her travels and studies provided her with an out-of-theordinary cultural wherewithal and keen original perspectives. These are reflected in her singing, song delivery and abilities to get under the skin of poetic forms such as geet and ghazal. Her song sensibilities were tempered in Toronto’s mushiara – poetry gatherings – at
Photo: Santosh Sidhu/Swing 51 Archives
which she discovered the poetry’s potential for contemporary relevance and allegory. For example, ‘Tamana’ (‘Desire’) is, she clarified, about female sexuality and shame-avoidance. The alsounreleased ‘Sanatta’ (‘Stillness’) is (how modern!) “basically […] a break-up song”. Her fondness is for one-word or snappy titles. This performance allowed fingers to uncross. She utterly vindicated hopes of delivering something in concert beyond what she has delivered in the recording studio. Truly in her element on stage, she coloured lines with waves of the arms and facial gestures. During the Punjabi folk song
‘Meri Gori Gori’ (‘My Fair One’) she swayed her arms, still lacking the wished-for yellow gold wrist bangles in the lyrics. She sashayed with post-giddha dance steps and once even hopped in one-legged fashion like a Punjabi Chuck Berry duck-walk fantasy. In terms of her type of repertoire, she is in an arc of development that arguably starts with the post-Partition Pakistani Gypsy folk singer Reshma. Reshma also sang across the centuries while bringing contemporary arrangement values, instrumentation and ideas to her material. Next came the London-based Najma Akhtar whose arrangements added jazzinflected saxophone and funk-bass elements to ghazal vehicles on Qareeb (‘Closeness’ or ‘Nearness’, 1987) and Atish (‘Fire’, 1989). A musically-omnivorous gig-goer, Najma was in the audience – as was, perhaps a portent of things to come, Gurinder Chadha of Bhaji on the Beach, Bend It Like Beckham, Bride and Prejudice and It’s a Wonderful Afterlife direction and production repute. Last in this mini-sequence of ear-openers is Kiran Ahluwalia. With a tight four-piece band behind her, Ahluwalia ran through songs that touched base with much of her now fourteen-year professional singing career. The band was marvellously in tune with her emotionally. Rez Abbasi on semi-hollow body D’Angelico (re-issue model) and Ovation electric guitars and Nikku Nayar on Sadowsky electric bass guitar provided the contemporary tonal palette and vocal reinforcements. Nitin Mitta on tabla (who shone in his solo prelude to ‘Meri Gori Gori’) and Kirin Thakrar on harmonium supplied the more desi rhythmical and melodic underpinnings. Her introductions were peppered with insights. Take the first set closer, ‘Musst Musst’ – one of the evening’s highlights. A qawwali popularised by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, it is to do with “getting intoxicated with the Divine”. Her stripped-back interpretation of ‘Musst Musst’ was closer to the sensitivity of Reshma’s version known as ‘Dum Mast Qalandar’ (a title NFAK also used). It and the slinky encore ‘Rabba Ru’ (‘To The One’) demonstrated how empathetic an ensemble she has around her. It all augured well for Kiran Ahluwalia’s return to Europe in 2015 to promote what will be her European debut album for the UKbased Arc label.
Theatre Edinburgh Fringe Festival August 2014 Reviewed by Ayndrilla Singharay True Brits 31 July – 25 August 2014 Assembly Hall (Venue 35)
laywright Vinay Patel’s debut full-length play, ably performed by Sid Sagar, is a clever and compelling monologue that paints a fresh portrait of being young and Asian in Britain today. Rahul is a young man finding his way through romance, friendship and family in post 7/7 London. He identifies clearly and singularly as British, but there are forces around him that suggest otherwise. A conversation with the father of his white British girlfriend and a ‘random’ stop and search hint at institutionalised racism, but Patel does not make this the focus of the play. Instead, through Rahul’s energy and positive attitude we see the complexity of his identity emerge. Against the jubilant backdrop of the London 2012 Olympic Games, Rahul wonders why there are only two Asians on Team GB but quickly moves to some brilliant likening of nineties indie bands to political parties. He is under pressure from his parents to date an Asian girl, but finds nothing in common with other Asians. He reflects on the fact that his family have all spent their lives by the Thames but that their ashes will undoubtedly be scattered in the Ganges. “I’m the reset button,” he declares, full of hopeful optimism. Sagar truly inhabits the different minor characters, transforming effortlessly from one
True Brits | Photo: Jane Hobson
to the other, and brings immense warmth and vulnerability to the character of Rahul. Some simple changes of clothes and clever staging help to take us on this
journey through Rahul’s memories and desires. True Brits is engaging, intelligent writing with heart that does not shy away from issues of politics, race and identity but humanises them. I will certainly be keeping an eye on Patel’s future projects. True Brits will be performing at The Bush Theatre in London on 18-19 November 2014, with further dates and venues to be announced. The Bridge 1–25 August 2014 Just Festival (Venue 127)
his multimedia piece is writer and performer Annie George’s deeply personal journey into her family history. Using a combination of spoken word, video projection, evocative black and white photographs and musical soundscapes, this one-woman show explores the lives of George’s family in Kerala and how they are interconnected with a politically and socially changing India. A sparse but arresting set of two chairs draped with a sari and a shawl initially creates a beautiful image of a traditional Keralan home. As the performance begins, a video projection of a hand carefully drawing George’s family tree appears, cleverly suggesting the idea of going back in time, searching for answers. More images appear throughout the performance: of old colonial houses, portraits of relatives and even one of Nehru addressing a crowd. Like a multi-sensory scrapbook, fragments of memory appear and disappear. George portrays herself and various members of her family using simple props to make the transitions. Using a vibrant red sari, a brown shawl and a pair of blackrimmed glasses, she takes us on the journey between the generations, from engagements and dowries to Independence. However, George’s restrained performance and lack of physicality at times made it difficult to believe in the characters and ultimately follow their stories. The Bridge would certainly benefit from a more dynamic performance. However, there are also elements of great beauty in this production, particularly the thoughtful soundscapes and imagery, which blend together seamlessly, conjuring up a fascinating chapter in both personal and political history.
AUTUMN 2014 PULSE 23
REVIEWS — EXHIBITION
Exhibition Indian Summer 1–23 August 2014 Albemarle Gallery, London Reviewed by Emma Murphy
n Indian summer consists of hazy, smoky sunshine and soaring temperatures in late autumn. A welcome addition to the year, it is a gratefully-received respite from the impending cold of winter. Many of the highly-decorative wall-based paintings, prints and collages in Indian Summer – a collaborative endeavour between Arts for India and the Albemarle Gallery – give rise to these autumnal hues and glows of hazy sunshine. It is through their use of rich natural colours and sumptuous golds that notions of the passing seasons are evoked by many of the artists in this group show. The premise of the exhibition is quite simple: the works all have some connection to India, whether the artists are from the country itself, or inspired by its people, its culture or its vast and varying landscapes.
Arts for India is a UKregistered charity that supports a scholarship scheme for students in India, where public investment in art education is lacking. The organisation sources patrons from across the world who support prospective artists in a scholarship programme. These students study at the International Institute of Fine Arts (IIFA) north-east of Delhi. Without such help, many prospective students would be unable to fund their own artistic education. Indian Summer showcases two of these students, both in their first year of study at the IIFA. Their talent, even at such an early stage of artistic development, is quite evident. Consisting of three paintings and one woodcut print, the works by these young artists are some of the smallest in the show, but prove to be highly sophisticated. The rudimentary woodcut by Meenakshi displays a ritualistic scene of a veiled woman dancing beneath a tree with what looks to be a dead chicken as an offering. Meenu Thakur’s paintings epitomise the autumnal and transitory nature of the overall show. The geometric Untitled and repeating patterns of Leaves are
especially beautiful in their sheer simple confidence. Artist Brinda Miller Chudasama began her career as a designer in the 1980s, composing patterns and designs for the textile industry in her native Mumbai. Turning her hand to collage, Miller’s awareness of the principles of design is apparent. Though perhaps somewhat overstated in their entirety, there are many smaller elements within her collages that are compelling and involved. The lower portion of Speed of Light III, for example, is intriguing. Specifically, the black and white Bridget Riley-esque circles and maze-like structure covered by bits of orange plastic, together with the intricate gold fabric to the right and a block of partially-covered cobalt blue to the left, has the potential to be a captivating image, were it somewhat less cluttered and chaotic. The artist’s assemblages of throwaway pieces of material such as cardboard, plastic packaging and fabric together with layers of paint are hovering on the edge of becoming something quite special, but just a little more finesse and elegance is needed. JayShree Kapoor’s canvases are an intensely vivid amalgamation
of paint, glitter and plastic flowers. Altogether entirely kitsch in appearance, these large-scale works do reflect the Indian Summer of the show’s title. A press release for the exhibition states that according to Hindu mythology, flowers are the pens with which Mother Earth writes. Kapoor’s recreations of the natural world highlight this religious connection in a dramatically animated, psychedelic approach. Other artists in the show include Ravi Mandlik, Anwar, Nupur Kundu, Aisha Caan, Kalpana Shah and Christina Pierce. Each of these artists works with the abstracted, painted form. Their muted palettes and nod to the organic give rise to the changing seasons denoted by an Indian Summer. This exhibition does contain some gems. The works of young Meenakshi and Meenu Thakur and elements of Brinda Miller Chudasama’s collaged assemblages are energetic and tantalising. The connotations created by the show’s title as well as the muted, abstracted palettes create an atmospheric display, reminiscent of ideas of transition and progression.
Clockwise from top left: JayShree Kapoor, Prayer Flowers I, Brinda Miller Chudasama, Speed of Light III, Meenu Thakur, Leaves, Meenakshi, Untitled, Meenu Thakur, Untitled | Photos: Albemarle Gallery
24 PULSE AUTUMN 2014
Kadam/Pulse with the Tagore Centre present
Between The Lines Re-thinking Tagore for the Twenty-First Century A day of explorations, performances and critical enquiry into Tagore’s work. Sunday 2 November 2014 / 11am – 7pm
This will be a day of explorations, performances and critical enquiry into Tagore’s work. The programme sets out to examine how the performing art forms of Rabindra Sangeet and Rabindra Nritya are furthering Tagore’s own ideas, values and aesthetics, or whether indeed they are. Between the Lines will première a Kadam/Pulse commission of a dance work to live vocal accompaniment. Amit Chaudhuri: novelist, essayist and Professor of Contemporary Literature at the University of East Anglia; also a singer in the North Indian classical tradition. Ansuman Biswas: works in a wide variety of media, but his central concern lies between all forms. As a live artist he will speak of Tagore’s multi-disciplinary approach to making art. Sohini Alam: has been building her distinctive sound with the BritishBengali band Khiyo, blending her Bengali heritage with Western instrumentation. Rishi Banerji: is a Rabindra Sangeet artist who set up Moksha in 2006 to promote Bengali music and dance. He has been
producing performances that combine music, dance and drama. Rishi will perform and be part of the music panel. Sahana Bajpaie: grew up in Santiniketan and is a singer of Tagore and Bengali folk songs and a founder member of the Bangladeshi Sufi-Baul fusion band, Bangla. Bisakha Sarker, MBE: a creative dancer and senior artist with a radical approach to re-interpreting Tagore themes. We plan to re-stage one of her dance pieces with a next-generation artist. Tanika Gupta, MBE: a playwright who has led playwriting workshops in many UK universities and has been writerin-residence at the Soho Theatre and
the National Theatre. Tanika grew up performing Tagore dance dramas. Matthew Pritchard: a musicologist with an interest in both European and Indian musical traditions, the latter dating from a year spent studying Rabindrasangeet at Visva-Bharati, Santiniketan. He has written a publication on Tagore’s music and musical aesthetics. Sharmila Chauhan: lives at the intersection of medicine and art, writing prose, poetry and plays. She was part of the Royal Court’s writing programme and her play Born Again/ Purnajanam was performed as part of Tagore’s Women at the Southwark Playhouse (Kali Theatre, January 2012).
Rich-Mix, 35-47 Bethnal Green Road, London, E1 6LA / www.richmix.org.uk £15 (£10 students/unwaged)
connecting asian dance and music communities
Murmur Inked “DISCERNING AND
EXCITES THE IMAGINATION“ DANCEGROUND
“ODEDRA’S GRIT AS A PERFORMER AND STRENGTH OF VISION AS A CREATOR ARE BOTH
EXTREMELY IMPRESSIVE.“ THE ARTSDESK
4th - Gulbenkian, Kent
www.thegulbenkian.co.uk / Tel: 01227 769075
10/11th - Curve, Leicester
www.curveonline.co.uk / Tel: 0116 242 3595
13th - Pavilion Dance South West, Bournemouth www.pdsw.org.uk / Tel: 01202 203 630
17th - Falmouth University, Cornwall
www.theperformancecentre.org / Tel: 01326 211077
23/24th - Linbury Studio Theatre, Royal Opera House, London www.roh.org.uk / Tel: 020 7304 4000
27th - Nottingham Lakeside Arts, Nottingham www.lakesidearts.org.uk / Tel: 0115 846 7777
30th - Déda, Derby
www.deda.uk.com / Tel: 01332 370 911
25th - Contact, Manchester
www.contactmcr.com / Tel: 0161 274 0600
28th - Dance City, Newcastle
www.dancecity.co.uk / Tel: 0191 261 0505
6th - DanceEast, Jerwood DanceHouse, Ipswich www.danceeast.co.uk / Tel: 01473 295230
24th - Artrix, Bromsgrove
www.artrix.co.uk / Tel: 01527 577330
Supported by Sky Academy Arts Scholarships in association with IdeasTap
Arts Council England
Published on Sep 18, 2014
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