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India Art Festival includes Ras Leela

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Holy Days


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</td> </tr> </tbody></table> Dipanita Nath



Posted: Jan 28, 2009 at 0035 hrs ISTIndia’s first sacred arts festival is set to prove that religion is a great unifier What Do Raas Leela performers have in common with a Sufi group from Syria? “The same that native Americans have in common with Africans. Their sacred dances are held in a circle,” says Preminder Singh of The Attic, a Delhi-based arts organisation.

Even as religion acquires a divisive characteristic across the world, India’s first International Festival of Sacred Arts, being organised by The Attic in February, is set to showcase music, dances and art of religions from across the world. “Sacred art often begins where religion ends, so that the final effect is spiritual upliftment rather than a fanatic zeal,” adds Singh.

On most days, the festival will superimpose an Indian art form with an international one. While Indian faith will be represented by Baul singers from Bengal, Raas Leela dancers from Manipur, Bharatanatyam dancer Rama Vaidyanathan, Hindustani classical performers like Madhup Mudgal and a group of Buddhist nuns from Ladakh, the international contingent comprises, among others, throat singers from Tuva in Central Asia and a gospel singer from the US, “who wants to use her India visit to also explore the traditions of the Hare Krishna movement”.

From the heart of Burkina Faso in Africa, come 10 Djembe drummers who bring with them “sounds from the 13th Century Mandingue Empire,” says Olivier Tarpaga, artistic director of the Dafra Drum Ensemble. These drummers represent the griot tradition — a means of transmitting messages peacefully. “The name Djembe translates into gathering people in peace. Our drums are still used for celebration and healing.”

Singh, however, is keen on the Al-Kindi Ensemble, a Sufi trance group from Aleppo in Syria, and a folk choir called Cosmic Voices from Bulgaria. “The former is unlike the Sufi performers from India in their kind of music as well as the plethora of mid-eastern instruments,” he explains. Cosmic Voices fits in the Delhi sojourn between visits to festivals across Europe. Admitting that they are delighted to be in India, Kiril Zdravkov of the group says they want to take the sound of the Balkans far and wide. “The 18 female singers in the choir are chosen carefully from across Bulgaria,” says Zdravkov. The group’s visit is significant in the light of Bulgaria’s chequered religious history — from orthodox Christianity to Islam to communism in the 20th century.

The main performances will be preceded by chanting from Buddhist, Christian, Jeweish and Hindu traditions, as well the drawing of a sand mandala by Tibetan monks. While the festival will be a powerful symbol of unity, the ultimate example of assimilation would be the Yogadance theater contemporary dance piece by Soraya Franco of Asanarte. She will be accompanied by a troupe comprising performers from the Dominican Republic, Croatia, Costa Rica, Honduras and India. “Yoga knows no religion and our piece uses yoga moves with classical Indian dances to create a holistic experience,” says Franco.

The festival will be held from February 14-25 at various venues across the city. Contact: 23746050

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