A celebration of Indian music and dance in Sirpur

The second Sirpur Dance and Music Festival manages to put on a good show even after facing organizational problems and heavy political posturing
A celebration of Indian music and dance in Sirpur

Trust the Wadali brothers to steal the show. By the time they came on as the last act of the second night of the Sirpur National Dance and Music Festival, organised by the Chattisgarh Tourism Board,&nbspthe venue was buzzing. It had already been a good evening of performances. Santosh Nair and Group&rsquos hybrid classical tableau &lsquoTrinity Dance&rsquo had just finished, and had driven the punters crazy. Local people from miles around Sirpur were cheering, as were those in the VIP and VVIP enclosures. Into this setting walked in the brothers, avuncular figures with a twinkle of mischief in their eyes. They apologised for not being &lsquoclassical&rsquo enough, and then proceeded to give a masterclass in Sufiyana, reeling off hit after hit, riffing in an inspired jugalbandi, adding a dash of spice in their signature mix of kafi, ghazal and bhajans. The crowd loved it, and the cheers went through the roof as the brothers finished their encore. This was followed by a stampede from the VVIP enclaves, as people rushed to the stage for autographs or to have their photos taken with the legends. The serene 7th-century Lakshmana temple, its ancient bricks glowing in the mood lighting, stood as a silent backdrop.

It seemed quite apt, to celebrate the country&rsquos many music and dance forms in Sirpur, the old capital of Dakshina Kosala, surrounded by the haunting ruins of tantric Buddhist viharas and Shiva temples, in the middle of beautiful Gond tribal lands. However, the execution left much to be desired. The first evening&rsquos performances were held hostage to over an hour of political speeches and the overbearing security apparatus of the state. This resulted in a massive loss of momentum, although the South Korean Ambassador&rsquos speech on the Buddhist cultural ties of India and Korea was quite touching.

The performances, though, could hardly be faulted. The many tribal dance forms, from the hypnotic Panthi Nritya to the raucous Raut Nritya and Teejan Bai&rsquos Pandavani were all great. The second evening&rsquos kathak performance by Mumbai&rsquos Rajashri Shirke group was quite captivating, telling the tale of Mandodari, Ravan&rsquos wife, as was the Manipuri performance.

Chattisgarh Tourism Board is trying hard to develop Sirpur into a major cultural destination. For this it deserves our thanks, for the simple reason that Sirpur&rsquos ruins &mdash much of it still unexcavated &mdash are fascinating and beautiful by any standard. The Dance and Music Festival, however, hit as many bum notes as it did highs, but much of this seemed to be organisational problems, not to mention the heavy political posturing. But then, an ambitious festival in its second year is bound to go through such teething troubles.

The Sirpur National Dance and Music Festival was held from 4th&ndash6th January 2014.

Related Stories

No stories found.
Outlook Traveller