February 11, 2012

From China to India Through Music and Dance

I have always been very intrigued by cultures from around the globe, especially when it comes to the arts and entertainment, and most especially when it comes from the Asian continent. On Wednesday evening, the library hosted a free program called "From China to India Through Music and Dance." By the title alone, I knew that this performance was for me, so for the third time in as many weeks, I grabbed my library card and headed out.

This show opened with an Indian Dance to a song called "Chum Chum Chanana." I have always been fascinated by the music from Bollywood movies -- lively dance rhythms, wonderful musical arrangements of unique instruments such as Santoor and Shehnai, and the very distinct sound of the female voices. I was excited as the first hits of the tabla came over the PA system and the curtains parted on a pair of girls donning colorful Indian outfits and bangles. Soon, they began their dance and lit up the stage with fluid movements and beautiful gestures. Bells on their ankles made every step percussive and pronounced. This was a showcase in South Asian grace that I very much enjoyed.

Next on the bill was Judy (Shih-Hua) Yeh, a specialist in the performance of Classical Chinese instruments. Over the course of the show, she featured the Guqin, the Bamboo Flute, the bowed Erhu, and, my favorite, the harp-like Guzheng. Through her music, my mind drifted into scenes of nature and the outdoors. I could see sunrises over mountaintops and calm streams through woods. Each note she played became the soundtrack to my imaginings and it was very tranquil and transcendent. I was completely amazed.

Another musical highlight of the evening came when a boy named Tejas Tope played the Tabla accompanied by the harmonium. He performed at a level well beyond his years, his hands lightning fast, his tones crisp, his rhythms titillating. It came as no surprise to me when the audience gave him a rousing ovation.

The show continued with more songs and musical performances and finally closed with a little bit of fun. The girls reappeared from behind the curtain wearing new outfits and did an Indian dance to Michael Jackson's "Beat It." It was very playful and it made me smile. Cheers!

"Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked."
~Psalm 84:10