• Nov 10,2017
  • In Review
  • By Protima Chatterjee

Darbar Festival 2017 – opening night, 9 November, Sadler’s Wells – A triple bill of Indian classical music and dance by Akram Khan

Since its inception in 2006 Darbar Festival, curated by Sandeep Virdee has been bringing the best of Indian Classical music to the music lovers in London. This year saw an even bigger transformation with the addition of dance and multiple venues including Barbican Centre, Royal Albert Hall, Southbank Centre and for the first time at Sadler’s Wells.
The opening night sees a triple bill with the opening performance by Akram Khan who was followed by the music section of “Raga and Tala”
The dance section of the festival has been curated by Akram Khan who also performed in the opening night. He started off the festival with one of his customary sublime performances in a 20-minute Solo Piece  ‘X’. This is a part of his research into ‘Xenos’, which is expected to be his final solo performance next year.
The might of Akram’s performance have always been overpowering. It’s not just the clarity of his hand gestures, the speed of his spins and the bold slapping of his feet on the floor with his thundering ‘ghungroos’ that make him brand Akram Khan. He personifies a riot of energies and he is a charmer on stage leaving his audiences speechless. There’s something about of his stage presence that is inexplicable but fills the auditorium
Khan tells the story of the Titan- Prometheus, who steals fire from Zeus to share with humans.  Akram strikes a spark with a match stick and reaches up  when  a whole quadrangle of light  bulbs suspended overhead lights up. It creates an imposing image of the sacred fire being passed on.
‘X’ is followed by a traditional ‘sawal jawab’ -a musical battle where Akram and his group of five musicians explore the beauty and strength of collaboration between music and dance. The audience are left holding their breath, involved and immersed in the spirited duel.
Akram khan is chatty with the audience. Between his two sections of performance he jokes about lighting the bulbs-how the choreography would become meaningless if the match stick in the beginning didn’t light. The audience cracks with laughter. But they know that Khan has a million watts of creative energy that would always set the stage alight .
Akram Khan’s performance is followed by Raga and Tala, a journey through ebbs and flows of Carnatic classical rhythms with instrumental music (South Asian percussion instruements). The trio of Patri Satish Kumar on mridangam, Triplicane Sekar on tavil and Amrit Khanjira on khanjira takes the stage after Khan.
 The overhead light design installation is now held in a slanted backdrop to the three musicians seated on a raised dais on the middle of the stage. An impressive cosmic blanket behind them, the galaxy on its celestial journey fuelled by the music that follows. The distinct sounds of the three instruments with their solo riffs conjure three different sounds of nature. The mridangam rattles like a dancing hailstorm, the tavil sounds like boulders rolling down a mountain side and the khanjir is the calmer beat to which the universe could settle down. The piece concludes with an awe-inspiring crescendo of all three instruments playing together
The concluding act was a heart-melting flute recital by Pravin Godkhindi with tabla accompaniment by Supreet Deshpande. The ending with a ‘pahaari’ tune – the melody from the shepherd’s flute on the hills that plays while his herd grazes, was a journey into the lap of nature with rolling green hills and cascading waterfalls.
The Darbar festival opened with a sumptuous selection of Indian classical music and dance. The selection  drew from both the southern Carnatic and the northern Hindustani traditions. The evening of dance and music did what an Indian classical darbar should do- give you that ephemeral feeling of inescapable beauty . You close your eyes and go to the depths of nature or feel the cosmos moving around you-A beautifully curated evening and an enriching experience of Indian classical music and dance.
Protima Chatterjee



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