Lok Virsa: Sonia Sabri Company

I entered the Royal Festival Hall Ball Room at exactly 6:03pm, before I even get a chance to worry about my 3 mins lateness am immediately swept away into another world where we communicate with art. There were two truly talented men sat across the floor on the stage legs crossed whilst they played on flutes to a large audience including myself and am not going to lie initially I though this isn’t my usual cup of tea but by the time they began performing the second pecie it became ckear that this type of music is simply sublime and timeless because from the momènt it begins you feel like your on a journey. You could walk in at anytime and feel the vibe. When the dancers came into the peice it seemed almost cinematic like part of a master peice coming together. Around the end we even had a chance to get up and dance in a line. It was such a good show I forgot to even take photographs or anything it made me forget all the work aspects and just enjoy the experience which for me is rare.

Alika Jeffs, Alchemist

Infused with good vibes

To see Southbank Centre transformed into a wonderful, colourful little bit of asia during Alchemy was absolutely amazing. I was walking through the Taste Of India food market skipping and singing (literrally) at one point from being infused with the happiness and pure good vibes that was in the air. One thing that stood out for me was the Luton Truck Art when I first saw it I was in awe and joked with my mates “if we had buses like that with Tfl London would be a much happier place”. The feeling was never forced or felt like a tourist resort repeated but each encounter I had was genuine interest and allowed me to bond with the people, for example when I was at Young Indian Design Entrepreneurs exhibition I was speaking to one unique gentleman who showed me the way to the JIYO Residency & Charity Shop DJ. By the end of that saturday my mind was bursting with creative energy :)

Alika Jeffs, Alchemist

Humble The Poet – A Visual Response by Sam Mahfouz

Hip Hop Never Stops © Sam Mahfouz

Hip Hop Never Stops © Sam Mahfouz

I must say that I went to see Humble The Poet not really knowing what to expect, as I’ve never listened to or watched any of his material before. After leaving his show I was extremely surprised that I hadn’t heard of him prior to the event, as he delivered such talent, confidence and a brilliant performance. Coming from Toronto, Canada his material is all relevant to our current affairs around the globe. He also adds his own personal views on certain topics which I never found biased or arrogant in any way.

It’s great to see that he has such a passion and understanding for hip hop and he encourages anybody and everybody to take part in the “universal sport” to keep its roots of real story telling alive, whether through MC-ing, DJ-ing, B-boying or Graffiti. I’d recommend anyone of any ethnicity or age group to listen to what he has to say and respect his powerful poetry.

The London Jungle Book

Illustration by Myrto Williams

www.myrto-williams.com

This is a visual response to the interactive performance called ‘The London Jungle Book’ which was performed in the Clore Ballroom on Saturday the 14th of April. I especially liked the imaginative props and descriptions used throughout the performance. One to which I had a particularly strong visual reaction was the desciption of the Tube being like a worm snuggling its way through the earth.

South Asian Soundscapes

Every environment has a distinct sonic landscape, a set of characteristic noises that are unique to that location. It might be the squeak and crunch of a foot on rubbery sand, the rattle and scrape of a ski on a freshly groomed ski slope, or the crisp crack of a branch resonating across an otherwise silent forest – each sound has the ability to transport the hearer to a moment beyond the present, helping to evoke a sense of place.

This is especially true of South Asia, somewhere frequently defined by the assault it performs on every human sense. The first thing most people notice when stepping onto this sub-continent is the hot touch of humidity on their skin, and then the collage of unfamiliar objects and alien situations that flood their vision. Next, an exotic mix of smells raids their nostrils, infused with the tang of spices and the musty sweat of determination, all of which is brought vibrantly to life when the first taste of South Asian cuisine is introduced to their lips.

And then sound washes across the scene like a wave tumbling onto a beach, irrepressibly encroaching from every direction. It is inescapable and totally pervasive, unrelenting in intensity and exhausting as a result. Yet it is one of South Asia’s greatest characteristics, something that no visitor can forget, nor would they ever wish to forego. To those people, the following soundscapes will be familiar, each part of the sub-continent’s complex tapestry of noise.

Traffic Jam (Flickr credit: meg and rahul)

Traffic Jam

A tired engine groans beneath a heavy burden, echoed moments later by another vehicle carrying far more than it was ever designed to bear. Metal scrapes against metal; bumpers rattle across the tarmac. Each pothole induces a muffled thump, accompanied by the aching creak of rusty suspension. A horn bellows, not out of aggression but of acknowledgment. A different horn responds, and then another. And another. Soon, a symphony of horns join together in an unending crescendo.

The traffic moves no faster.

A Banquet

Laughter. High and rhythmic, resounding and sincere, broken only by mouthfuls of curry-soaked chapatti bread. A radio in the corner crackles into life, spitting forth sirens and sitars in a distorted fuzz, elevating the atmosphere to a heightened conviviality. A cascade of chai gurgles while poured, beside pots that bubble and stoves that hiss. Conversation narrows to a single speaker, who holds the stares of all around with an unfamiliar story spoken in familiar tones. Tension builds. Breathes are held. A punch line is delivered.

The group collapse into laugher once more.

Street Hawkers (Flickr credit: mckaysavage)

Street Hawking

Conversation babbles like a stream, a murmured backdrop to an unremarkable day. Men discuss the latest cricket score, making their arguments with heavily exaggerated gestures. A tourist walks past: a customer, an opportunity. Voices rise to sell their wares, renewing final deals and undercutting the competition. Languages merge and arguments flare, an impassioned exchange of offers and counter-offers, of needs and means. A smile indicates it’s all a sport, but in this match both participants are winners.

A deal is struck.

Call to Prayer

The palpable stillness of a silent morning is shattered by a sudden lone wail, cracking against the quietness like a glass smashing against a floor. It twists and turns, rises and falls, never settling for more than a few seconds. It pierces the air and invades every home, luring listeners to its core. Within it can be heard a mélange of emotions: desperation and faith; solemnity and belief; dedication and suffering.

The call to prayer is never ignored.

Images by meg and rahul and mckaysavage

Dance, Dance, Dance

On Wednesday evening I had the pleasure of seeing Divya Kasturi and Shane Shambu perform a Mixed Double Bill at Southbank Centre. Both of them was presenting their own choreography in The Clore Ballroom, a space, which I have come to perceive as one of the most liberating and pleasurable places to both be in and perform in.

In this double bill Shane and Divya gave the audience an insight into the diversity that is present in South Asian dance and within that, it was also very clear that these two dancers both had their own individual interests and approaches to the movement that they had created stemming from different backgrounds and training.

Shane Shambu performed first that evening in a piece that combined visual theatre with striking physicality and artistic dexterity, all of which was deeply rooted in his Bharatanatyam training. The strong narrative drew on strong emotions that were conveyed to the audience with an intensity and clarity, thus, making it compelling to watch. Divya Kasturi’s work was one of articulated beauty, sincerity and a level of technical skill that any dancer would be in awe of. Divya’s background has seen her train in Kathak and Bharatanatyam. In addition to this she is also an accomplished singer, which her work that evening was also able to highlight.

I was completely drawn into the performances; the enticing beauty of the articulation in the hands in the mudras, the defined and eclectic use of different rhythms and how the dancers inhabited the movement in every sense, including through facial expression.

Another style in South Asian dance, which I have touched upon in a previous blog  when I interviewed Katie Ryan, was Odissi, so I thought I would just finish off this blog by sharing a little about what Katie has shared with me about it.

Odissi is a classical dance style that originates from Orissa in Eastern India. Prior to being performed as stage art, Odissi was danced in a religious context as a form of worship.

The Odissi that we see performed today takes influences from contextual sculpture and text. Odissi can be in a ‘pure dance’ form (Nritta) and ‘expressional’ (Nritya/Abhinaya) most commonly to convey a narrative.

It is characterised by two stances –

1. Tribhanga (which literally means, ‘three parts break’, so there are 3 bends in the body; at the neck, waist and knee, hence the body is oppositely curved at waist and neck which gives it a gentle “S” shape )

2. Chauka (where there is equal weight distribution, with a wide stance in the legs and outstretched arms to create 4 right angles in the body).

Then, this is layered with the intricate hand gestures, neck movements and articulations; as well as movements with the eyes and of course, the astounding rhythmical footwork.

The relationship that South Asian dance, has with the musical accompaniment I find to be jaw-dropping and beautifully hypnotic. The body becomes the artistic instrument to highlight and accent the layers of rhythm, creating complementing accents that connect the two art forms within the one performance.

Whilst learning about Odissi I discovered that a classical programme of Odissi repertoire would conclude with ‘Moksha’. Moksha is described as a pure dance piece that increases in speed. The aim is for it to be performed with a meditative feeling, where the dancer is aiming “to reach salvation through their dancing”. This demonstrates perfectly the relationship between movement and music. As a dancer myself, I find it truly fascinating and it must be absolutely wonderful when you manage to achieve that level of ‘connection’ between your body and the accompaniment.

I am desperate to try it! Who wants to come dancing?

Urban Vani Podcast

Hannah Ratcliffe interviews Shlomo and Gauri Sharma Tripathi about their collaboration Urban Vani. Whilst Artists in Residence at Southbank Centre, Gauri and Shlomo found synergy between their art forms – Kathak and Beat Box – and worked together to create something new with a company of young people. Last friday they impressed audiences at Alchemy with new performance of Urban Vani. Listen to the company rehearsing and interviews with Shlomo, Gauri and some of the peformers.