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.
tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods
tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 The political parties aren't all the same – which means 2015 will be a 'big-choice' election
- 2 President of Argentina adopts Jewish godson to 'stop him turning into a werewolf'
- 3 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
- 4 The 'Black Museum': After 150 years, public set to see exhibits from police’s grisly crime museum
- 5 Naomi Wolf reacts to Isis 'conspiracy theories' critism after she questions whether beheading videos are real
Downton Abbey Christmas special 2014, review: Love is everywhere, actually
The golden age of TV comedy is here
The Boy in the Dress, TV review: David Walliams' Boxing Day treat is a celebration of being different
Best movies on Netflix UK and US: 32 films that will end your endless scrolling
From Marvel to Star Wars: The rise of cinema’s shared universes
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Immigrants make UK racist, says Ukip councillor Trevor Shonk
Nigel Farage: Ukip leader named 'Briton of the year' by The Times
BBC director Danny Cohen: Rising UK antisemitism makes me feel more uncomfortable than ever