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.
ReviewThese heroes in a half shell should have been left in hibernation
Sek, k'athjilari! (That’s “yes, definitely” to non-native speakers).TV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Jack the Ripper: Scientist who claims to have identified notorious killer has 'made serious DNA error'
- 2 Banksy arrest hoax: Internet duped by fake online report claiming artist's identity has been revealed
- 3 Former East 17 frontman Brian Harvey turns up at Downing Street and 'demands to speak to Prime Minister'
- 4 Kentucky gang rape: 15-year-old boy left in critical condition after sexual attack by group at party
- 5 Paralysed man Darek Fidyka walks again after treatment by British doctors on brink of 'cure'
James Blunt finally admits the truth: 'You're Beautiful' is annoying
Downton Abbey review series 5, episode 5: Period drama falls disappointingly flat
Star Wars Episode 7 has almost finished filming
Fury, film review: Brad Pitt is intriguing as unsympathetic war hero
Batman v Superman: Side-kick Robin to be 'woman played by Jena Malone'
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
London bus driver 'kicks gay couple off for kissing'
Lord Freud: Tory welfare minister apologises after saying disabled people are 'not worth’ the minimum wage
Lord Freud hangs on as MPs of all parties 'call for his head' over disability comments