Arts: Rhythm of the nomad
World Music: MUSAFIR QUEEN ELIZABETH HALL LONDON
Tuesday 22 September 1998
Out of the World Music ghetto come Musafir: Gypsies of Rajasthan, a 14- strong "mystical cabaret" troupe from north-west India. After a storming WOMAD performance, a European tour, a guest spot on Transglobal Underground's Rejoice Rejoice and a critically acclaimed self-titled CD, Musafir tonight set about transforming the stuffy QEH into the equivalent of a Rajasthani village fair. Sitting cross-legged before a huge kaleidoscopic backdrop, singers in pink turbans armed variously with tabla, harmonium, kartals (castanets), dholak (double-headed drum) and pungi (a snake charmer's flute) begin building a heady atmosphere of religious devotion, love and yearning. "You've already mounted your camel / And with a charming wave of your hand you are on your way," they wail.
Musafir (literally, "nomadic people") is the brainchild of singer and tabla player Hameed Khan. Born into the professional musician's caste, Khan performed extensively at weddings and festivals before settling in Paris in the mid-Eighties and going on to collaborate with a variety of rock, classical and jazz artists. Mindful of his roots, he founded Musafir - a group of classically trained Hindus, Muslims and members of the Sapera gypsy community of Rajasthan's Thar desert - in 1995.
Cross-dressing, it seems, is standard in Thar marriage ceremonies, though a hirsute male dancer in a pink, sequinned frock is all the more curious for the fact that his head happens to be on fire. The vaunted Whirling Desert Drag Queen turns out to be a coquettish figure laden with silver jewellery and driven to dervish intensity by some furious tribal drumming. "Real" female dancers do duets with swords and interpret mythological themes. A somnolent tune on the pungi succeeds in charming the QEH audience instead.
Musafir deliver their blend of folk and burlesque with superlative musicianship and no small dash of humour. While the fire-eating, glass-walking and balancing of cartwheels on heads have all the quaint appeal of Billy Smart's Circus, their devotional songs uplift and mesmerise as players come together in a frenzy, palms lifted in supplication.
arts + entsThere were towering ideas, some scintillating performances and revelatory grooves... our writers pick out their personal highlights
elephant appealThe first 23 lots in our charity auction have now gone. But there are 22 more still up for grabs
elephant appealPrince William signs up for our charity appeal
peoplePrepare to be entranced by worms as the molecular biologist gets ready to give the Royal Institution science lectures
elephant appealSo says man jailed for cutting off dead elephant's tusks
booksWe examine the best titles for teens
voicesPeople moan that Christmas is too commercial, the spirit lost. But it is a time to over-indulge, and always has been, says DJ Taylor
scienceResearchers teach border collie to understand sentences using more than 1,000 words
booksA Christmas story in six parts
travelWill high-value tourism help the workshops of this Renaissance city?
food + drinkA trifle without custard? Surely not! Nonsense – and here’s three to finish your festive meal that prove it
Geoffrey Macnab does not like the comedian's big screen debut
Arts & Ents blogs
Heavy rain and years of 'benign neglect' may have caused Apollo Theatre roof collapse
Christmas comes early: Justin Bieber is 'retiring from music'
Justin Bieber isn't retiring from music after all
Nymphomaniac, film review: 'Despite the surreal sex scenes this is a serious drama'
The publisher who played with fire: the battle for control of Larsson's £30m legacy
Tom Daley ‘is gay because his father died’ says UK evangelist
Iain Duncan Smith leaves Commons food banks debate early
David Cameron takes his biggest gamble yet as he gets tough on Europe over immigration
Kiss and yell: Italian protester charged with sexual assault after kissing riot police officer
Top PR exec Justine Sacco under fire for sending racist tweet before flying to Africa
Anachronistic and iniquitous, grammar schools are a blot on the British education system
- 1 Top PR exec Justine Sacco under fire for sending racist tweet before flying to Africa
- 2 French pub fined €9,000 after customers returned empties to bar - because it's 'undeclared labour'
- 3 Sun will 'flip upside down' within weeks, says Nasa
- 4 The publisher who played with fire: the battle for control of Larsson's £30m legacy
- 5 Police seize possessions of rough sleepers in crackdown on homelessness
- < Previous
- Next >