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.
GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival
TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride
FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Cyclist who knocked down three-year-old girl says his life has been 'destroyed'
- 2 Chelsea victory parade: Chelsea mocked on Twitter as 'tens of fans' pack the streets of London
- 3 US warned by Chinese media to stop meddling or 'war will be inevitable'
- 4 Woman, 21, dies after taking contraceptive pill that 'caused fatal blood clot'
- 5 Isis burns woman alive for refusing to engage in 'extreme' sex act, UN says
Stolen Instagram photo sells for $90,000
The New York Times sparks criticism after releasing an all-white reading list
Glastonbury lineup 2015: The Women's Institute to make debut appearance at Somerset festival
Dheepan, film review: Palme d'Or prize goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Game of Thrones, The Gift, Season 5, Episode 7: Why two of the show’s most iconic characters just met
As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
Scotland may have to leave the EU even if it votes to stay in, David Cameron confirms
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people