By Ashok Kumar
Sydney, 19 Sept: Confluence, meaning the meeting point, had in true sense became the meeting point of two cultures of Australia and India. Two nations, seven cities and one festival came alive at Sydney’s Opera House on 18 September, 2016. Though the festivities started in August and will go through till November but the festival was formally introduced to Sydney siders at a Gala event yesterday by the High Commissioner of India to Australia H.E. Mr. Navdeep Suri in the presence of NSW Minister of Multiculturalism Hon. Mr. John Ajaka, Indian Minister of Culture and Tourism Dr. Mahesh Sharma.
Needless to say that the festival was announced by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to Australia two years ago but the shape was given to it was H.E. Navdeep Suri and his team of Consulates in various cities along with Australian Department of Communications and Arts. The reception gathering was addressed by Mr. John Ajaka, Navdeep Suri, Mr B Vanlalvawna, Consul General, Sydney and Dr Mahesh Sharma.
The evening presented some of the finest elements from the rich tapestry of Indian and Australian culture. The thunderous beats of the Manipuri drums, Pung, gave the audiences a feeling of what is coming. The Pung Cholom is a highly refined classical dance form characterised by sound modulation from a soft whisper which builds up to a thunderous climax. Dancers played the Pung and danced simultaneously in complex acrobatic feats involving jumps and leaps. The rendition at the Confluence was performed by Jawaharlal Nehru Manipur Dance Academy that welcomes Holi or yaosang in Manipuri and heralds spring and prayer to the Lord.
A unique collaboration of Australian and Indian music and dance was witnessed when Pung dance was followed by Aboriginal dance form producing similar beats. Lyrics may have different languages but music is boundaryless. Playing the same beats we entered into Odissi mode. The Nrityagram Dance Ensemble, regarded as the foremost dance companies of India, presented fluid movements and lyricism of Odisha’s temple sculptures, melodies and songs from the vast cannon of Oriya music conveying love between humans and divine. This was followed by the fusion of Australian solo dance and rhythmic carnatic and Jazz vocals by Lisa Young and Gilles Chuyen contemporary dance from India. Sam Evens was on tabla, Melbourne Australia.
Another popular Indian classical dance form Kathak presented by Ruchi Sanghi Dance Company, Sydney Australia enthralled the audience and soon the other artists joined the performers to present a fusion of Aboriginal, Pung, Odissi and Kathak. They were joined by the Bharatnatyam dancers of the Madhuram Academy of Performing Arts, Sydney. The vivacious Sonam Kalra from India rendered her Sufi songs with the ensemble. Sonam has shared the stage with Sufi legend Abida Parveen and legendary musicians Sir Bob Geldof.
The much awaited performance by Raghu Dixit was slated for the second half. Trains full of Kannadigas from all over Sydney thronged the Opera House just to listen to the legendry Musician. Raghu had been to Opera House as a student in 2000, and told his friends that one day I will perform here and he did that yesterday. His renditions were mainly in Kannad but the beats and soul stirring music won the hearts of all present there. His popularity can be gauged by the continuous rhythmic clapping by the audience in one voice.
As said earlier lyrics may have a language but the music is borderless was proved right by Raghu who mesmerised one and all. Of course he did render a Hindi song (Andhera buhut hai koi ujala dikha ne wala …) much to the surprise of his fans. Raghu’s unique brand of infectious music transcends age, genre and even language. His music is strongly rooted in Indian traditions and culture and is presented with a very contemporary global sound. Yesterday, he rendered totally non-filmi songs much to the disappointment of his fans, though he said he was spotted by the renowned Bollywood musicians Vishal and Shekhar.