Indian culture has always linked music and the divine. From its inception ages of ‘shastriya sangeet’ to the modern reincarnation of ‘Sufi’ music, music has been the road to honest communion with the divine. It could be a one-to-one conversation or a collective invocation. There are myriad forms to this divine connection. ‘With “The Manganiyar Seduction”, comes another facet of spirituality: communion with God achieved in a manner embracing the sensual and the ecstatic.’ This concept fuses, in a wondrous setting the poetry of Rumi and Hafez, the qawalli tradition from the mosques and the music of Morocco’s Sufi brotherhoods.
“The Manganiyars are a hereditary class of Sufi Muslim musicians from the Thar Desert of Rajasthan that borders India and Pakistan. For centuries they have made a living performing for the royal palaces and wealthy patrons of that area, earning great renown for their consummate musicianship and vocals, skilful songwriting and their legendarily intense performances at ceremonies, weddings, parties and celebrations.” Today, a group of 38 Manganiyars perform their music all over the world, put together by the Indian producer and director Roysten Abel. The group performs in a geometric grid onstage, with a cubicle for each musician. The cubicle lights up as each musician in it plays and darkens again when he stops.
That way, the conductor/percussionist who performs facing the set conducts not only the music, but also the visuals.
This act has been viewed by many over the past few years and reviewed in various ways. The New York Times sees it as a packaging of otherness into exotica, taking the set to be inspired from the brothel. Worldmusic UK sees the compartments as mirrors of a theatrical dressing room from which the individual aspects of the divine light are reflected.
Interpretations might differ. But what all agree on is the amazing musical experience this act is.
This comment on a YouTube video by puts this fact to better light:
“See the full performance if you can, the crescendo and final reveal of the full host of musicians is a moment that will rattle around in my head forever. I didn’t understand what was being said, or why it was being said but it made perfect sense in that moment, a revelation of sound that broke all boundaries and elevated my consciousness to a truly amazing place. This is true faith and will humble you if you let it.” (Daniel Lewis Carter)
‘The Manganiyar Seduction’ performs live on 19th March at the IndieMarch festival, Bengaluru.
Here is a video shot of their performance: