Edinburgh Festival '99: Fringe - Music

MUSIC Musafir: Gypsies of Rajasthan Graffiti, Venue 90
Click to follow
The Independent Culture
It's a show guaranteed to be described as "what the Fringe is all about". Gypsy entertainers, exotically-garbed, from Rajasthan in north-west India, perform in the self-styled "dream palace" of Cafe Graffiti, a magnificently carved and vaulted former church.

With multi-coloured turbans, extravagant moustaches and a highly infectious air of enjoyment, the eight musicians making up most of the troupe mount an increasingly mesmerising set, mainly comprising the impassioned, exultant sounds of qawwali, the ancient Sufi devotional music popularised by the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Layers of keening, undulating vocals, alternating between solo verses and mighty choral refrains, repeatedly built to an intoxicating, almost frenzied intensity, spurred on by swirling harmonium tones and clattering tabla beats: it's easy to see how qawwali evolved as a way of inducing mystical ecstasy. Dancers whirled in traditional dervish style, turning their sequinned costumes into a kaleidoscope of colour. Despite its distant origins and an almost total language barrier, this was a show with no communications problems whatsoever. Definitely what the Fringe is all about.