An evening of forgetfulness

Chitra Kalyani
6 Min Read

Music, rhythm, and balance can make you forget the pains in life, said Vyjanthi Kashi between her performances of the Kuchipudi dance at Al Azhar Park’s Geneina Theater last Monday.

The evening of Indian music and dance was organized by Mawred (Culture Resource) in cooperation with the Embassy of India. Mawred provided their venue, the Geneina Theater.

The visit of the Indian cultural troupe takes place under the aegis of the India-Egypt Cultural Exchange Program.

Both Maestro Anupriya and Kashi have won several Indian and international awards for their contribution to their respective art forms over the years.

The evening began with a musical performance of the raga Rageshwari. In classical Indian music, raga is a set of musical notes upon which the melody is founded. There are different ragas – literally “colors or “moods – for different seasons and times of day.

A raga can have the power to change seasons. Legend has it that the singer Tansen – a singer at the court of the Mughal emperor Akbar – would bring down rain with his performance of the Megh Malhar. Perhaps the magic worked in Cairo as well; as the evening progressed, the monsoon weather, hot and humid, was soon blessed by a cool breeze.

Accompanied with Harimohan Sharma on the tabla (drum), and Kanupriya on the tambura (a drone instrument in which strings are plucked), Anupriya performed the violin, beginning with a short alaap or “short phrases to create the atmosphere.

Beginning with a meditative tone, the evening carried on into three more compositions on the same raga, with progressively more beats.

The violin was the main instrument of improvisation, while the tambura set a steady base throughout. The tabla meandered between providing a foundation, and at other times accompanying the violin on its digression from the regular beat.

In every composition a regular melody was established and repeated at the very start, much like a chorus line. In the moments of interplay between the violin and tabla, the players appeared almost to converse with each other.

The artful unfolding of the composition consisted of moving away from this steady melody – from a pensive tune into sudden soars and jabs on the violin, or from steady thumps to the more elaborate strumming of the tabla – to, always, the return to the set notes again.

While the music provided a sampling of the north of India, the Kuchipudi performance by Vyjanthi Kashi was an introduction to the south.

Dancing to the music of Nataraj Murthy on the violin and Sharma on the mridungam (a long drum-like instrument), and accompanied by the vocals of Suchetan and Ramyasuraj, the dancer gave a captivating performance of one of the many classical forms of dance in India.

The dance itself was a form of storytelling, and the ghungroos – the bells worn around the ankles of the dancer – acted as an added instrument to the accompaniment.

Kuchipudi is a traditional dance from Andhra Pradesh, a state in the south of India.

Kashi’s performance began with the “Purvaranga, or “an auspicious beginning, with offerings of light, flowers, and incense. In turns, Kashi brought a candle, rose petals, and incense sticks while dancing.

“Dance is the birthright of every human being, she said as prelude to her performance of the cosmic dance of Lord Shiva. The “Sandhya Tandava celebrates the beat and rhythm that exists in all of creation, and in all elements.

Next, the dancer performed the dance of creation, where the five elements – sky, wind, fire, water and earth – combine to create the universe, starting with two deep breaths. Inserting illustrations of her dance in English, Kashi looked at the moon and the elements that she had created through her narrative performance. She gave salutations to these elements and to the audience.

Kashi told Daily News Egypt that she was “inspired by the nature at the venue of the Geneina Theater, located at Al Azhar Park. She said the performance in a more intimate venue in Alexandria a few nights earlier afforded her the opportunity of speaking to the audience.

Kashi won the applause of the audience for her performance of the Tarangam – a feature unique to the Kuchipudi dance – where the performer dances placing her feet on the raised edges of a brass plate.

In her final presentation – in which a young Lord Krishna saves a village by lifting a mountain on his little finger – Kashi paused to involve the audience.

They clapped, creating a beat to which she danced and chanted. You wondered whether the dancer had you in her thrall, or whether you had her in yours. Or perhaps, it was the beat that ruled supreme – making you forget pains, while you meditated solely on the magic of the moment.

The troupe will perform tonight at 8 pm at the Port Said Cultural Palace in Port Said to celebrate Indian Independence Day.

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