Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Flamenco at Siri Fort

Jose Porcel, two lovely ladies whose names I'm not acquainted with (go figure) and lets see.... two vocalists, one male, one female; a flute/harmonica player, a percussionist of some description received a standing ovation yesterday (16 Feb, 2011) for an endearing, enthralling, energetic Flamenco performance. Oh excuse me, Ballet Flamenco.

To be honest, I'm not very clear on where the Ballet came in. Perhaps Flamenco does not traditionally tell stories, and some the broad themes of the "items" (I'd so much rather they be called pieces) performed yesterday can be attributed to a Ballet influence.

I couldn't say.

What I can say though, is this. Jose Porcel is an incredible, incredible, incredible performer. He is cocky, cock sure, flamboyant, fiery and you can see he's giving you everything he's got. But I'm not a fan of the technique. I could very easily be very wrong, but the contrast between the clean, flowing lines of the female performers and the dervish like frenzy of Porcelo's act left me bewildered. It does not make sense to me that female Flamenco could be so beautiful and refined, and the male part so very undefined and composed of merely energy and footwork.

Oh, but the ladies. The synchronization was a bit off in places, which is a pity, because when they got that right, it was such a mesmerizing treat to watch. I love the arrogance and anger that underlies Flamenco. The bold lines, the graceful twirls, the lovely full skirts that these ladies breathe life into, making them rise with their pirouettes. The sleek, low bun that gives every turn of the neck greater definition and renders it clean and elegant. I could go on and on.

And good lord, the music. I have to say this- we could really learn something from the way that Porcel interacted with the musicians. For one, they were up front and centre, which, though it made focusing on the dancers a wee bit difficult, really enabled them to create a mehfil type atmosphere, and gave them equal respect.

Secondly, you could tell there was a lot of jugalbandi going on, a lot of interaction between the dancers and the musicians and that was just beautiful, because you saw an art form in a conversation with another art form.

Then there were the hoots and the exclamations from the musicians themselves. These came out of nowhere, and made the whole performance come alive and seem very accessible.

I have never witnessed a more relaxed and more audience friendly performance. The spectators were involved throughout, a bunch of emotive, gasping, clapping Indians responding to an equally emotive bunch of flamboyant Spaniards.

And the vocals. What power. I could feel tingles going up my spine and I thought, wow, this is what we share, two cultures going back centuries, with our unique and raw music that touches our souls directly. What amount of digital technology and tweaked vocals can give you that? That direct link to the emotions that are equally pure and raw?

Jose Porcel kissed Ambika Soni on each cheek, which elicited titters, giggling and gasps from the audience. Then the female vocalist stepped up and sang for about two minutes. She has this gorgeous, slightly husky, deepp deeepp deeep voice that she can hold for tens of seconds at impossible pitches.

There was clapping, there were cat calls, there was sweat flying off of the dancers, there were sharp head turns, and spotting, glares and gentle caresses, laughter and sighs, and good old Indian bureaucracy. Coming up for an encore, two of the musicians showed that they too can dance the Flamenco, and what more does an Indian audience appreciate than an unexpected shuffling of inexperienced feet, rendered with a touch of shyness and equally, a try this on for size attitude?

Lovely. Just lovely.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Desi music and Dilli's Men

I've been hearing Menwhopause and TAAQ on Delhi Radio and though I'm not sure whether Menwhopause every played at SF, TAAQ sure did (and won) and its a good feeling to be a part of an event that promotes excellent Indian music. (Woot!)

Also, Delhi's junta is full of contradictions. On the road, people have their fangs bared, their ears blocked, their eyes blinded; they're a hair's breadth from sending you spinning across the road and yet, and YET these same people are warm and largely friendly when on their own two feet.

Now, I can only talk about the men; because for some reason, it is men who cut your hair, men who help you park, men who give you directions, men who sell you food and water, but these guys are really quite chivalrous is their own way. There's the odd exception but in their own, earthy way, they try to make you laugh and help you park and treat you like a granddaughter or didi.

I know this is not what one usually hears about Delhi's men, but I have to say this; I've hard my share of oglers and gropers and exhibitionists and goggle eyed fools, but there are also courteous chaps who discretely steer clear of any shady business. Its quite charming really. And very Indian.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

This is life

A meal of cold chicken and left over pulao on a sunny gardened terrace, muddy, damp pants from sitting in the grass, a panting dog laying next to you with her paw on your thigh; tired from having begged for the chicken, licked the tiffin box, your hands and your feet and getting only some belly scratching and indistinct noises in return.

A little cotton fluff of a Maltese eyeing you, and your managing to lure him with pathetic attempts at gaining his interest. Trying to get this interest to remain steadfast even in the face of your stupidity and boring-ness, your silly grinning face, the pointless cooing, the inexplicable happiness at being around something so cute and content.

Seeing the Lab and the Maltese run around, in the sun, following their mistress and occasionally darting glances at you. Hugging the big lab around her neck and thinking of days spent with Fluffy, my 5 year birthday present and faithful companion till she was rechristened Gudia and left for my grandmother's house.

This is what I want. A sunny winter day, a good file to read and work on, and two dogs to follow me around and keep me company.