The idea to write this piece came last week when there was a “meaning of independence” contest within our institute to celebrate independence day of India. All colleagues were requested to send a short write up on “meaning of independence” to them on and “what would they do to promote that” within 100 words. The restriction on the number of words muddled up my thoughts which were not getting restricted in that word limit. Realised, how difficult it is to shorten and put forward thoughts in single sentences. After lot of struggle, what I penned down on mind is something like this -
“Independence achieved through sovereignty and democracy is the inculcating motivation to identify sensitivities of human beings across nations through the lense of humanity. As Indians we would try to celebrate this spirit by bridging relations across various nationalities the essence of which have emerged from sovereign, democratic nationalism spirit of our country.
So being an Indian I would identify and relate with sensitivities, emotional freedom of human beings through music, sports, art and culture. To maintain this value of independence, would sing Sufi songs with Mouluds *, Bauls**, Dervishes*** at the same time. This spirituality of getting emersed in the greater humanitarian citizenship emerges only from the legacy of India's rich democratic spirit.
Footnotes - *the Sufi musicians of Islamic belts of Ethiopia, **West Bengal in India, ***in Pakistan, North Africa, Middle East”
After completion of the write up and sending to our colleagues Sreeja Nair and Kunal Nagpal, realized even after series of attempts to restrict the write up it has still come down only to 108 words. Then thought why not to extend this a little bit more. But for that extension needed some content. Surprisingly, the content came after two days which was a Saturday.
Saturday evening I was invited on an African – Latino music, dance performance session in Addis Ababa in a place called “Alize” in Bole Road where different bands perform. It was a students graduation ceremony. The performance started with dancers putting forward group, solo acts of Salsa (a kind of Latin American dance that has the influence of Jazz), Merengue (a kind of ball room dance which is said to be typically of Caribbean origin where there is a frequent dragging of feet), Rumba (a kind of Cuban ball room dance with an emphasis on movements of hip), Cha Cha (a type of ball dance that goes with fast rythm), Zouk (a type of dance of disco steps with a Caribbean origin that goes with fast rhythm ).
It was a kind of treat to see all African people, some Indians, some Europeans performing these forms of dance being led by my choreographer friend – Bhailu. While observing all of them dancing, I realized that I was seeing a laterally inverted image of the thought that had sent for the Independence Day write up to Sreeja, Kunal the other day. What I thought in terms of singing with people of Sufi cult was reflected even in the dance form which was coming live in front of my eyes.
I realized, that how Africa after a big bang explosion of culture, art, rhythm, sound, music has given rise to all these dance forms that spread all across the world. So even though the dance forms as mentioned in this write up are being said to be belonging to different parts of the world, there is an African confluence that has happened in all of these forms. It is a different feeling to read about this and at the same time experience the cultural confluence and big bang explosion in front of the eyes. I became a part of that cultural confluence and explosion when one of the African friend requested me to dance with them.
Bhailu only knew that I can dance a little bit of basic “solo and couple” salsa steps. So joined them in the basic “solo 6 Matra” (if I put it analogically in terms of Hindustani Classical Rhythm Language) salsa form of dance. What I wanted to do by singing with Sufi musicians was partially being realized through being a part of our cultural big bang explosion. The culture, art, humanities were getting expanded through dance forms and large number of people joining us. The sense of independence was coming before 15th August as it was an evening of 14th August.
As an Indian, was feeling proud to be a part of this exercise as the sense of getting mixed with the practice of cultural confluences is something that lies in its fullest form in India’s sovereign democracy.
The entire session was a kind of a roller coaster ride for me travelling from the origin, birth of a culture to its terminal points where it has spread. But this journey did not end there.
The next day, Sunday which was 15th August (independence day of India) got an invitation from my friend Cheik (who is a leading agronomist by profession and has travelled extensively in Africa, Latin America) to attend a jazz concert where his percussionist friend was playing in one of the jazz bands. Cheik is a good soccer player and has represented the National Soccer Team of Mauratania and has an enriching collection of Colombian, Cuban Salsa and Jazz. Both Cheik and I attended the Jazz concert and all throughout the concert with different jazz rhythm, progression structures, Cheik was explaining which part of the performance has a largely Sahelian origin and West African influence. He also explained how in the Colombian jazz – salsa combined playing the trumpet and saxophone starts playing a dominant role which doesnot exist in case of Cuban one.
The journey which started with the writing of a “Independence Day” write up was ending through all forms of practical sessions on music, culture. Yes, this 15th August (2010), understood how free, independent culture, art is and how it will always stay independent and create confluence patterns in its own way as human civilization will progress.