Given the current political and social tensions between India and Australia, it's particularly fortunate that one of the deservedly sold-out performances for this year's Sydney Festival is 'The Manganiyar Seduction'.
We'd managed to get tickets for last night's performance. Forty-three male Indian musicians and singers are placed in serried ranks of performance 'boxes' - a wall four boxes high by about twelve boxes wide. Each space is curtained in velour of a particularly Rajasthani red. The curtain is pulled aside and the box lit as each musician joins the performance. It's loud, lively, expressive, rhythmic and joyful...a great performance.
I'd previously heard, seen, and been captivated by Manganiyar music when I visited Rajasthan as a tourist several years ago.
Last night's performance had me searching out my photographs of the trip and wistfully contemplating the possibilities of another visit.
The Manganiyars are Muslims from north-west India - mainly from the deserts of Rajasthan. Traditionally, they are entertainers and musicians, surviving for centuries on the patronage of wealthy Hindu merchants. In more recent times they've supplied music for weddings, parties, anything and have now gained world renown for their performances. Though Muslims, their patrons were and are usually Hindus, and over time their music has taken on the stories of Hindu as well as other cultural traditions. I don't want to make too much of it, but even moments of such joyful cultural accommodation are welcome.