The following piece was written for an ancient history encyclopedia in Europe –
The following piece was written for an ancient history encyclopedia in Europe –
Guess the title is apt for a country that’s known more for its music than any other. Though music was indeed the reason that drew me to Mali some 30 years ago, the interest has since then stretched out to other entities such as its ethinic diversity, culture, the colours, markets and of course the people and their hospitality. In general, I don’t travel to a country more than once, but had to make an exception for Mali too among a very few other places. This time around, it was after a gap of 16 years and the living-colours and rhythms could be seen and heard below –
Mali’s ethnic diversity is among the most colourful and facinating. Following offers a glimpse into the ethnic wear of Bamanan, Bobo, Bozo, Peul, Dogon, Khassonke, Senouto, Soninke, Songhai, Toureg, Jogorame and Maure ( not in that order)
Rhythms galore –
Affable Massambou below has worked with some of the leading musicians of Mali including Ali Farka Toure and Oumou Sangare –
The horn played above in the beginning is called Penpa
The seven sister states of North-Eastern India (Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura) are rich in folk and tribal traditions for centuries. Though largely converted to Christianity by the missionaries during the colonial times, one could still find native traditions alive. The state of Assam alone accounts for some 90 tribes and over 220 ethnic groups in all states. Each group has their own attire, dialect and culture. Handicrafts of bamboo and cane, wood-carving, hand loom-weaving are common.
Bihu being Assamese, notice all the men wear ‘gamocha’ as a head-band. It’s a cotton towel woven out of white thread with intricate embroidery in red at the ends. This piece of cloth is highly revered and serves as a cultural identity in the state of Assam.
The cymbal played above in the band is called Bhortal
The following piece on the festival by yours truly was carried in a national daily – please click the link –
Video clips –
There’s nothing like watching an art form at its place of origin, where it packs every single ingredient without fail. Having watched Flamenco elsewhere and enough times on Youtube, really wanted to lap up all its flavor at its place of birth, Andalusia ! What better time to do it than the Biennial organized by the city of Seville. And Flamenco received UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage tag in 2010.
Though a month-long festival that spans many venues featuring top artists, there isn’t much fuss in town other than a few posters stuck here and there. But the halls get filled up as it draws a select audience from world over, in addition to locals. Speaking of world-audience, Japanese tops the list as this dance form has a huge following back there. At the halls, besides Spanish and English, announcements are made in Japanese too. Tickets sell out months in advance. It’s common to hear encouraging ‘Ole’ from enthusiastic aficionados from the sidelines at the shows. And a strict No,No for photography is a dampener.
As with any other evolving art form, Flamenco comes in both, traditional and modern flavors. Gypsies or the Roma people are said to be the creators of this art during their misery days in the past centuries, combining what they inherited from their roots, said to be north-western parts of India, with other musical and dance traditions existed in their midst, like Andalucian folk, Moor, Berber, Arabic and Jewish. The music and dance also evolved as a way of venting their real-life struggles and sorrows in sensuous laments, giving the art form a strong and intense character. Though the Roma community is still a marginalized ethnic group throughout Europe, Flamenco has acquired a national symbol in Spain and helps a great deal in promoting tourism.
Besides the month-long festival, there are permanent, smaller and more intimate venues in town called Tablaos, where one can experience Flamenco anytime during the year. And for those interested in taking classes, workshops to sing, dance, clap and guitar-playing can be found around the town.
Finally to say a few words on the city of Seville itself, the Arabic, Jewish, Christian and Roma confluence of the past has given this city a fascinating amalgamation in its aura. The massive and ornamented Cathedral stands tall, as if to emphasize the domineering Christian faith of the state of Spain. The state owes much to Christopher Columbus, though his expeditions were sponsored by the ruling Catholic monarchs, it was he who paved the way for bringing the riches to Spain, by way of colonization of the Americas that involved darker period of slavery, genocide, looting, destruction and Christianisation of locally rich indigenous cultures. Rightly so, there is a tomb for the man himself at the Cathedral, where his remains said to have been buried after several moves.
Dang dance is performed by Dangi tribe of Dang region of Gujarat. This dance is usually performed during Holi and other festivals, also at fairs, ceremonies and rituals connected to worship. It is quite swift, vigorous and highly rhythmic. Musical instruments used are percussive Kahaiya and Dholki besides short shehnai. Men and women stand alternately in a circular form and dance by going round and round, creating various choreographic patterns. They may have their arms around the shoulders or waists of the neighboring dancer. The movement builds gradually and reaches a fast tempo before winding to a halt. The women climb on the shoulders of men and form a human pyramid. The two and three tier formation moves clockwise and anti clockwise.
The Dangs live in the rocky, hilly forests of western central India. They are primarily located in the Dangs district of Gujarat State.
They have always lived close to nature, depending on it for survival. Animals are respected and treated as equals. For this reason, they are often called the “children of nature.” The Dangs district contains many protected forests that the Dangs are allowed to use for cultivation and residence. They live in one-room bamboo huts made with thatched roofs.
Despite their poverty, the Dangs enjoy singing and dancing. The villagers are skilled in creating objects out of stone, wood, and clay. Hindu artisans often help them with such crafts. Tattooing has also become an art among the Dangs.
The majority of the Dangs practice ethnic religions, and all of them are involved in ancestor worship (praying to deceased ancestors). Their lives revolve around rites, rituals and folk beliefs. Many are animists, believing that all objects have spirits. Trees, animals, demons, serpents, and spirits are worshiped through magical rituals. Wagh-Dev, the tiger god, is their sacred animal god and their emblem of worship.
The Dangs believe in magic, witchcraft, and sorcery, along with their many tribal gods and Hindu deities. They believe that the supernatural world contains both good and evil. Their constant fear of the spirits keeps them revolving around a circle of prayers, rituals, offerings, and sacrifices. The Bhagat (priest and medicine man) is thought to be the ultimate “good man.” He is believed to be a spiritual man who communicates with the gods. He is considered a friend, a philosopher, a guide, and a healer.
Chheihlam is generally performed over a round of rice-beer and it reflects joy and exhilaration. While a pair of dancers dance in the middle, others squat around, clap, sing to the beat of a drum. Those sit around take turn to join in the middle
Cheraw is one of the popular folk forms of Mizoram, also found in other north-eastern states of India. I recall watching a similar performance done by an ethnic group from Taiwan. It is as well found in other far-eastern countries such as Philippines.
Men sitting face to face on the ground tap long pairs of horizontal and cross bamboo staves open and close in rhythmic beats. Girls in colorful Mizo costumes of Puanchei, Kawrchei. Vakiria and Thihna, dance in and out between the beats of bamboo. This dance is now performed in almost all festive occasions. The unique style of the Cheraw is a great fascination everywhere it is performed. Gongs and drums are used to accompany the dance.
The bamboos, when clapped, produce a sound which forms the rhythm of the dance. It indicates the timing of the dance as well. The dancers step in and out to the beats of the bamboos with ease and grace. They need to keep up with the timing with high focus and concentration, as they jump in and out alternately. A misstep by a single dancer may throw the entire set off and may result in injury too.
The origin of this dance form dates back to 1 CE
Chawnglaizawn is a popular form of a community called Pawi. It is performed by a husband to mourn the death of his wife. The husband would be continuously performing this dance till he gets tired. Friends and relatives would relieve him and dance on his behalf. This signifies that they mourn with the bereaved.
Chawnglaizawn’ is also performed in festivals and to celebrate trophies brought home by successful hunters.