Saturday, June 1, 2013


There is an Indian couple here in Marseille. He plays the tabla and she dances and teaches Kathak. They seem to be the 'go-to' couple for Indian culture.

The week before last, we attended a tabla and violin concert in a very informal setting; a small room, 50 odd chairs, tea before the concert, even an unscheduled performance after encouragement from the crowd.

Last night, I attended a Kathak recital titled 'Durga'. The accompanists were the tabalchee, the violinist and a guitarist on his modified guitar that sounded like a sitar. The violinist was visiting from Varanasi and the guitarist was Marc Liebeskind, who was also responsible for visualizing the concept.

The performance was good for international standards. I was wondering how the concept of Durga will be received. In between, a storyteller would get on stage and take the it forward. He spoke in French and I guess that helped the audience understand.

I liked the music composition the most. Sukhdev Mishra was so talented and nifty with his violin. There is something about three instruments that are used to play Indian classical music, reaching a crescendo, almost declaring the end of a recital, with the audience collectively at the edge of their seats, when they are suddenly shocked with a tihai. That realization that there is a finale to the finale is the best part...leaving you wanting for more!
At most of these events, we find we are the only Indians. And there are Indians in Marseille. They just aren't interested in classical music and dance. But the interest for India in this French city intrigues me. After all, it is only now coming out of obscurity, trying to get out off the shadows of Paris and trying very hard to shrug of the notoriety it is so famous for for.

So I asked around. And I got mixed responses. Some said it's a current trend to follow India. Some say it's not enough. There's a lot to learn from Indians, I am told. I have come across a variety of people who know something or the other about India. The man who sells table clothes at the temporary day market in Castellane has visited Manali! The lady we bumped into at a street festival spoke of it with such passion, defending the country for its wrongdoings! She ranted off names of goddesses and she was an Algerian.

India is a constant party, they say, a colourful chaos! When I point out some misgivings we have, they point out what's not working for them in their own country, which evidently makes me feel better. The grass is greener on the other side, it's said.

No comments: