A blog on gigs, music, art and London.

Monday, 8 March 2010

The Manganiyar Seduction, Barbican Theatre, 06/03/10

My final event of the day was to be my first visit to the Barbican Theatre (as opposed to the concert hall) to see The Manganiyar Seduction, a production by Royston Abel which showcased the music of Rajasthan in spectacular, choreographed style.

The stage was set up with 33 interlocking, stacked boxes which together formed an alluring square block. Inside each box was a sitting musician/singer. The piece opened with a solitary musician playing an instrument similar to a sitar. Slowly others revealed themselves from behind the curtain. As the performance progressed various blocks of musicians began playing before retiring into darkness. The conductor/dancer/choreographer (not sure what his official title was) positioned at the front of the stage seemed to exhort sound and energy from the red grid of musicians.

The music itself was a slow building piece which melded the raw, fluctuating, near-transcendental power of the vocals with the hypnotic string and wind instruments and exhilarating percussion. It all translated into a series of energising rhythms which engulfed the theatre. It culminated in all musicians playing together in a joyous finale, an ecstatic, vibrant wall of sound.

Visually it was sumptuous, with the red curtains, glowing lights and traditional Rajasthani attire of the musicians combining to spectacular effect against the surrounding pitch black darkness.

After the performance ended Royston Abel came on stage to say a few words (including a comment about the practicalities of attempting international travel with a group of 40 plus Muslim musicians, most of which have the surname Khan, and in particular the difficulties immigration control at various airports around the world (they tour USA later this year which should be fun for them).

The show held special appeal for personal reasons in that I visited Jaisalmer, the stunning desert-city in north-west India a few years back, where most of tonight’s musicians originate from. As I sat in the Barbican Theatre I was reminded of the almost-otherworldly performance of local traditional music I witnessed on that particular cool, star-lit night in the Thar desert in October 2007.

You can see a clip of The Manganiyar Seduction on YouTube here. If you ever get a chance to see them play live you really should go.

No comments: