I attended the recently concluded Sirpur National Dance and Music Festival 2015 in Chhattisgarh. Now that I am back, if I could have it my way, I would like to attend the next year’s festival too. You can read about it all in this post or you may go and check out my short videos on Vine and listen to the music. If you would take my advice, that would be the better course, but then free feel to ignore it, that way you will read my post!
Sipur is about 80 KM away from the capital town of Raipur, where we were staying. The festival is held against the ancient Laxman Temple of Sipur. It was a three day event held from 16 to 18 January 2015. Each day presented scintillating music, I was surprised because I never expected that I would enjoy it so much. I found myself tapping my feet, clapping to the tune, or more likely out of tune, things I hardly ever do because I am tone deaf! And yet at Sipur even this tone deaf person was enchanted!
Day 1 Sirpur Festival 2015
The best event of Day 1 was the performance ‘Taal Chhattisgarh.’ Actually it is useless to try to capture that divine music that Pete Lockette produced with 60 tribal musicians in words. It has to be experienced. Chhattisgarh has an extremely rich tribal culture which the MD Chhattisgarh Tourism, Mr. Sanotsh K Misra, was quick to highlight in his media briefing.
The sequence was followed by Kathak by Yasmin Singh and Group. The last performance of the day was by Shounak Abhisheki & Asha Khandilkar’s devotional songs. The program used to end around 10 at night and by that time it would get cold. On day one Anuradha Shankarn and I were in a deep conversation about music and everything else. It was difficult to believe even for us that we met for the first time in real life! We two had the cab to overself on our drive back to Raipur!
Day 2 Sirpur Festival 2015
On day 2 of the festival I was completely swayed by Rahul Sharma and his group and the music they created. Also amazing was Leonardo Eto on drums from Japan. Day two also saw the crowd puller Anuradha Paudwal performing with her group.
By day two I realized that if I wanted better pictures I need elevation and I started climbing on the platform where the TV cameras were hosted. No one asked me to get lost and that became my preferred position to watch the program.
Day 3- Sirpur Festival 2015
By the last day I didn’t want the festival to end! And I am saying this about a cultural festival, when I hardly consider myself cultured! I enjoyed two superlative performances on this day, one by Ustad Shujaat Khan and his group. I enjoyed Vidwan Vikku Vinayakram on Ghatam. I never thought a Ghatam could sound this amazing.
Then of course the finale was superlative with Pt. Birju Maharaj and his group. I could only marvel at Pandit ji’s energy and devotion to his craft. It was such a cold night and yet he performed with such a zeal.
If you are a music lover, you would truly enjoy the festival. I can vouch for it. If a stiff person like me can go foot tapping, clapping and swaying, anyone would, I can take a bet on it.
If you wish to know more about the festival you can go to the official page of Sirpur Festival.
PS. I was invited by Chhattisgarh Tourism Board to attend the event.
In spite of saying again and again that I am not a dance person I end up posting more and more dance videos! I guess it is fair to conclude that I do enjoy watching dances. On my trip to Bandhavgarh with Pugdundee Safaris I saw folk dances from MP. This was at their Kings Lodge at Bandhavgarh. They had arranged for the evening drinks outside along with the dances by the local.
When I am on my solo trips on invitation it is a struggle for the lodge to keep me company. They cannot leave me alone and then the manager can spend only so much time with me. I am actually fine by myself. But I can’t say this as well. So after spending a lot of time with me Varun left me in the company of a young naturalist. I asked him about the people doing the show. He said they were from the local village. The resort had an arrangement with them but they struggled when it came to time management. He said they were farmers and would come for such shows only after their day at the field was over. For them farming comes first, it was their livelihood.
Dances from MP
Of late, all the dance performances I have witnessed have been at a cultural show for tourists or at a resort. I would love to see some of these dances in their natural settings but I can’t see that happening anytime soon. In the meanwhile I wonder if the resorts are the new patrons of arts and traditional dances? Is there a downside to it? Is there an upside to it? What do you think?
PS. At night time my cell phone was useless for making the camera. I only had my 50 mm on my SLR so I took this video with that. On reflection my kit lens works better for videos. So next time I am going to carry it around as well.
I spent just one night and two days in Cambodia but what an everlasting impact it left. As part of the ASEAN Media Trip we were hosted for dinner by the Cambodian Ministry of Tourism at Royal Angkor Resort. Along with the dinner, they also hosted a scintillating dance show for us. The scene was like this- we were being served dinner and the dance shows were going on simultaneously. It effectively meant that at the start of every new sequence, we would dump dinner and crouch around the stage to click pictures and make videos. Then we would go back to dinner only to run back to another dance! And what fun it was to watch the dances from Siem Reap, Cambodia.
Sita and Her Friend, Ramayana at Siem Reap, Cambodia
I was quite surprised to see Ramayana being enacted at Siem Reap. I think their version was a little different than what I am used to in India. But it was beautifully done with glittering costumes and great acting and dancing. The accompanying music was wonderful, though I could not understand everything that went on.
The Golden Deer, Ramayana in Siem Reap, Cambodia
For example, it was easy to relate the golden deer to the Indian version of Ramayana. There was a hermit too in the sequence but beyond it the similarities ended. There were no men, so not sure what happened to the part that is played by Ram and Lakshman.
Ravan Comes on Stage, Siem Reap, Cambodia
The Ramayana was played out in two acts. Ravan made an appearance in both the acts. At the end of the show he came on the stage without the mask and it was great to see the kind face that the person really had!
Another Still from the Ramayana, Siem Reap, Cambodia
The act ended with a confrontation between Ravan and Sita. It is surprising to see how far and wide some of our old scriptures have reached. My friends say there is another version of Ramayana at Bali too. Hope I can see that too some day.
A Colorful Local Dance, Siem Reap, Cambodia
In between the two acts of Ramayana they presented a peacock themed local dance which resembled a little with our Bollywood dances. It was fast paced and fun to watch.
The Young Dancers with an Attitude
The body language of couples seemed quite like the Indian scenario where the boy was interested in the girl but she was not paying much attention to him. The costumes and the peacock feathers added to the drama.
The Beautiful Ladies Performing the Apsara Dance, Siem Reap, Cambodia
The final act was the beautiful Apsara dance. In Thailand and Cambodia many souvenirs have the Apsara theme. But it was only after watching the dance I really got interested in them. The dances are advertised all over Siem Reap.
The Apsara Dance, Siem Reap, Cambodia
With so much clicking of photos you could imagine what would have happened to my dinner. The three of us from India were vegetarians and that anyway presented a challenge for the restaurants we went to. They can cope with vegetarians but certainly is not their way of life!
Beautiful Flowers in Her Hair, Apsara Dance, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Apart from the Orchids Frangipani is another beautiful flower of the tropics. Loved the way they were used in the hair of the lead dancer for the Apsara Dance. I have red and cream ones in my backyard too but I was blown away by the sheer size of the flowers this girl carried in her hair.
The Entire Cast After the Show, Siem Reap, Cambodia
After the show the entire cast came on stage to take a bow. They also offered us a photo session with them. It was such a beautiful evening. In spite of not being much into dances and culture I realize that I like one when I manage to chance upon one.
I have to say I am not much of a culture person. But boy I am glad I went to Greenix Village (which is right across my hotel, Fort House) in Fort Kochi for a cultural evening. It was beautiful beyond all my expectations. The shows are priced at various levels. If you wish to watch only Kathakali it costs around 250 rupees( in 2013) but I bought the ticket for the entire show with camera fee. It cost me 500 rupees. I am glad I decided to watch the entire show. It was a mesmerizing evening.
Makeup of a Kathakali Dancer, Kochi, Kerala
The evening started with the makeup of a Kathakali dancer. This is open to the ticket holders. It started at 5.00 pm. Part of the make up the artist did himself and part was done by another person. At this point we could move around and click pictures to our heart’s content. Just one small word of caution, if you go on the stage to click the artist in his mirror, do remember to remove your footwear. You go on stage barefoot.
Mohiniyattam at Greenix Village, Kochi, Kerala
Initially we were seated seated around a stage that was covered but it was not an auditorium. But then the rains started and the venue was shifted to the auditorium. I was quite worried that the light would not be enough but it was fine in the end. I did not use flash with my 50 mm lens.
The first show was Mohiniyattam. I will be upfront and say that I know very little of these ancient dances. And yet I enjoyed the performance. Before each performance they ran a short commentary about the dance. For Mohiniyattam they said it was a lot about mudras, and eye expressions. And the dancer could indeed speak with her eyes and face without ever uttering a word.
A Kathakali Performance at Greenix Village, Kochi, Kerala
Both the dancers in this performance were male, the one dressed as female as well. The episode was from Mahabharata. Before the main performance the person dressed as female demonstrated the various moods of Kathakali and he was so good, so damn good that I forgot to click pictures and watched the performance. And that is some feat! He would depict the various emotions like anger, happiness, love etc to perfection. To the frequent public applause he would always bow with folded hands which was so endearing. The main performance was also enchanting, the accompanying music creating a pulsating atmosphere.
If you have bought the tickets only for Kathakali you leave the auditorium after Kathakali. Kathakali performance was followed by a display of Kalari also know as Kalaripayattu which is the ancient martial art of Kerala.
Theyyam Dancer, Kochi, Kerala
The final performance was of Theyyam. It was done by one by just person but energy he brought to the hall! In fact it was so vigorous that I thought that my daughter might get scared. In the final stages, when the dancer moved the audience, the smaller kids indeed were scared! Theyyam has a religious significance. If you would ask a local they would say the authentic dance is from a particular region. But I would say see it at Greenix if this is your only chance to watch it.
Photo Opportunity, Greenix Village, Kerala
Finally they invite the audience to the stage if they wish to get their photos clicked. So, there I was along with the small girl who was scared during the performance.
The dances that I got to watch were so beautiful. I would say go and watch them even though they are meant for tourists. I was completely blown away by the cultural performance at Greenix at Fort Kochi. Amazing and that when I am not much into being cultured!