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A jewel box of music

Friday, December 21, 2018

The Manganiyar Seduction, a theatrical music performance by 43 Rajasthani musicians, was a delight for the folk music lover, says Shilpa Dinesh

The Manganiyar Seduction, which performed at Phoenix Marketcity, Kurla, last weekend, is a concept that creates a dazzling union between the Manganiyar’s music and the visual seduction of Amsterdam’s red light district. The sets are a combination of the Hawa Mahal and the Red light district of Amsterdam. This visually stunning and mesmerising theatrical performance is a collaboration of Roysten Abel with the Manganiyar musicians. The musicians from this  community once traditionally performed for the kings of Rajasthan in India. They live in the deserts of Rajasthan and are a Muslim community who also worship Hindu deities.

The concert was performed in a unique manner—like a magic box where 43 musicians were seated in 36 red-curtained cubicles arranged in four horizontal rows one on top of the other. The concert began with a single cubicle lighting up and the first singer beginning his song. Soon another cubicle lit up and then another, thus creating a dramatic and astounding build-up of musical instruments and voices, as young men, children and the elderly of the Manganiyar community took you into a world which is even beyond yours or their own.

Their repertoire ranged from ballads about the kings to Sufi songs written by various mystics. Even though they are classified as folk musicians their traditional music is classical and it clearly indicates the roots of classical music in India.

The songs, soft and simple, started with one or two artistes. As the tune progressed, more and more vocalists and instruments were added. The songs built to an intense crescendo, delivering a wall of sound. The rawness of the folk and the complexity of classical music made their music special.

The normal practice is to take and use music for theatre but here Roysten reversed the process and used theatre to create magic in music. They use of instruments like the kamancha and the sarangi, bowed lutes, the dholak, dhol and kartal, drums and clappers, the algoza, an evocative double flute giving a dramatic effect to the whole performance, transported you to the deserts of Rajasthan.

As the concert progressed, the audience joined in for a jugalbandi along with the clappers, making it a fun experience. When the performance came to an end, it left the audience spell bound, wanting more.

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