By Meredith Burns
The energy of India was brought to Memorial Hall Monday night during a spirited performance of The Manganiyar Seduction.
Led by director Roysten Abel, the show combined traditional music of the Manganiyars with the visuals of Amsterdam’s Red Light District to create a spectacle of 36 musicians performing with more than 7 traditional Indian instruments.
While the music alone was enough to captivate the audience, the matrix of performers stacked on top of one another in human-sized boxes framed by light bulbs and red curtains contributed to the spectacular scene.
The show began in darkness as lights framing a single khamacha player slowly grew brighter to illuminate a sitting man in a white tunic and turban playing the stringed instrument. The khamacha player didn’t serenade the audience alone for long, as lights brightened to reveal other performers – singers, sitar and tabla players –who joined in the music.
By the end of the performance the entire stage pulsated with lights and sound, entrancing the stage and moving audience members to their feet.
The Manganiyar performers are no stranger to the stage. The formerly nomadic caste of performers who played for kings in the deserts of Rajasthan is now spreading their music across the globe on a world tour. And the group is sure to be welcomed wherever they go, not only for their inspiring artistic talent, but also for their promotion of peace and diversity: the group combines Muslim and Hindu influences and performances range from songs of Sufi devotion to ballads of the Hindu poet Mirabai.
The Manganiyar’s music on Monday night bridged a gap between the Indian performers and an American audience in Chapel Hill, illustrating once again how music can unite us all.
Meredith Burns is a senior at UNC-Chapel Hill majoring in journalism and American Studies. She travelled to India last summer as a Phillips Ambassador Scholar with the UNC Summer in India program.