Tag Archives: High Altitude Cultures

Program of the International Festival of Oriental Music Tallinn, “High Altitude Cultures”, on May 11th – 15th 2011.

May 11th at 7 pm
►Fakhraddin Gafarov duo (Azerbaijan) & whirling dervish Adem Serdar Uslan (Turkey)
►Kalash epic songs with dance from the Kingdom of Chitral (Pakistan)

Sufism or tasawwuf, as it is called in Arabic, is generally understood by scholars and Sufis to be the inner, mystical, esoteric, or psycho-spiritual dimension of Islam. In spite of its many variations and voluminous expressions, the essence of Sufi practice is quite simple. It is that the Sufi surrenders to God, in love, over and over; which involves embracing with love at each moment the content of one’s consciousness (one’s perceptions, thoughts, and feelings, as well as one’s sense of self) as gifts of God or, more precisely, as manifestations of God. Tariqas (Sufi orders) may be associated with Shi’a, Sunni and other currents of Islam, or a combination of multiple traditions. Sufi thought emerged from the Middle East in the 8th cent, but adherents are now found around the world.
Sufism has produced a large body of poetry in Turkish, Persian and Urdu languages, which notably include the works of Mawlānā Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī (Celâladin Mehmet Rumi in Turkish, 1207–73 AD, a poet, lawyer, and Sufi theologian), as well as numerous traditions of devotional dance, such as Sufi whirling, and music, such as qawwali.
The Mevlevi, one of the most well-known of the Sufi orders, was founded by the followers of Rūmī in 1273 AD in Konya, present-day Turkey. They are also known as the whirling dervishes due to their famous practice of whirling – zikr (remembrance of Allah) in the form of a dance and music ceremony called the sema. The Mevlevi were a well established Sufi order in the Ottoman empire, and many of the members of the order served in various official positions of the Caliphate. The centre for the Mevlevi order was in Konya, in Turkey, where Rūmī is buried. There is also a Mevlevi monastery in Istanbul, where the sema ceremony is performed and accessible to the public.

Multi-instrumentalist (tar, saz, ud, ney, balaban, perc) Fakhraddin Gafarov was born in Azerbaijan. He began his music studies at an early age. At 12, he won two national competitions, and thereafter continued his studies at the Conservatory and at the Music Academy. At the same time he began his career as teacher, soloist and member of State Radio and TV Orchestra. Later he was appointed director of the music school and the Conservatory of Baku. Fakhraddin Gafarov is considered one of the best virtuosos of tar in his country. He tours as a soloist and with various ensembles, presenting a repertoire of classical mugham and Sufi music.
Jafar Qafarov was born and currently lives in Azerbaijan. He began his music studies in early childhood, has graduated from the Conservatory, and the Music Academy. Engaged in teaching and performing. He has won several national competitions and been awarded a number of honorary diplomas. Jafar Qafarov performs frequently with solo programs as well as together with Mugham Trio. He plays several folk instruments (tar, saz, ud, daf). Important place in his repertoire is taken by Azerbaijani mugam, folk and classical music. He has given a noteworthy contribution to the repertoire of the national musical instrument – tar. He is currently holding the position of teacher at the Conservatory.
Semazen (whirling dervish) Sedar Adem Uslan was born in 1956 in Mardin, Turkey. He graduated from Ataturk University in Erzurum. Since 1991 he is performing the ritual dance of sema as a dervish in the ancient music group of Turkish Ministry of Culture. Representing the Islamic culture of Turkey, he performed sema in 50 countries around the world. Presently he is teaching sema in Istanbul and Kahramanmaraş as well as tutoring several foreign students.

May 12th at 7 pm
►The shaman Rambo and female folk singers from Apatani tribe (Arunachal Pradesh, India)
►Smt Bindu Juneja (Odissi dance, India) & Abhay Phagre Trio (India)

Odissi is the traditional style of dance which originated in the temples of the state of Orissa in Eastern India, where it was performed by the devadasis. It is one of the oldest surviving forms of dance, with depictions of Odissi dancing dating back as far as the 1st cent BC. Like other forms of Indian classical dance, the Odissi style traces its origins back to antiquity. Dancers are found depicted in bas-relief in the hills of Udaygiri dating back to the 1st cent BC. Over the centuries 2 schools of Odissi dance developed: Mahari and Gotipua. The Mahari tradition is similar to the devadasi tradition; these are women who are attached to deities in the temple. Gotipua is a style characteristed by the use of young boys dressed up in female clothing to perform female roles which was a result of Vaishnava philosophy in Orissa in the 16th cent. Odissi dance was held in high esteem before the 17th cent. Nobility were known for their patronage of the arts, and it was not unheard of for royalty of both sexes to be accomplished dancers. However, after 17th cent, the social position of dancers began to decline. Dancing girls were considered to be little more than prostitutes, and the “Anti-Nautch” movement of the British brought Odissi dance to near extinction. Before independence, the position of Odissi dance was very bad. The tradition of dancing girls at the temple at Puri was abolished. The royal patronage of court and temple dancers had been severely eroded by the absorption of India under the crown. Today Odissi dance is once again deemed a viable and classical dance.

The themes of Odissi are almost exclusively religious in nature. They most commonly revolve around Lord Krishna. Although the worship of Krishna is found throughout India, there are local themes which are emphasised. Jayadeva’s (ଜୟଦେବ) ashtapadis (ଅଷ୍ଟପଦି) are a very common theme, especially Gita Govinda (‘Song of Govinda’). Although incorporating a range of emotions and mythologies, the eternal union of Radha and Krishna is central to the abhinaya in Odissi dance.
There are a number of characteristics of the Odissi dance. The style may be seen as a conglomeration of aesthetic and technical details. Odissi is characterized by fluidity of the upper torso (the waves of the ocean on the shores of Puri) and gracefulness in gestures and wristwork (swaying of the palms), juxtaposed with firm footwork (heartbeat of Mother Earth). All classical Indian dance forms include both pure rhythmic dances and acting or story dances. The rhythmic dances of Odissi are called batu / sthayi (foundation), pallavi (flowering), and moksha (liberation). The acting dances are called abhinaya. One of the most characteristic features of Odissi dance is tribhangi. The concept of tribhangi divides the body into three parts, head, bust, and torso. Mudras are also important. The term mudra means ‘stamp’ and is a hand position which signifies things. The use of mudras helps tell the story.

Smt Bindu Juneja is a renowned Odissi dancer from India who was drawn towards the fluidity and lyrical mysticism of Odissi. Initially trained in Bharata Natyam (பரதநாட்டியம்), in her childhood, at the Bhatkhande Sangeet Mahavidyalaya, Lucknow, Bindu Juneja was soon drawn towards the fluidity and lyrical mysticism of Odissi. She received training in the style from its eminent exponent Madhavi Mudgal at the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya, New Delhi. Bindu’s dance displays a fine classicism of expression, which stems from her rigorous training and a profound understanding of the philosophy and aesthetics of Indian Art. She was also fortunate to have best in close proximity with guru Kelucharan Mahapatra, the grand maestro of Odissi, and imbibe the deeper nuance of his art. In her pursuit of oneness with the dance form, she had emerged a sensitive and refined exponent of Odissi. She has extensive experience of performing both within and outside India. Her performance tours abroad have been to the USA, Mexico, the Slovak Republic, Sweden, Hungary, Austria, Germany, France, Holland, Spain, Brazil and the UK.

Trio: Vishal Moghe (vocal), Abhay Phagre (bānsurī-flute), Prashant Maharana (pakhawaj-drum).
The musical accompaniment of Odissi dance is essentially the same as the music of Orissa itself. There are various views on how the music of the Odissi relates to the music of greater North India. It is usually considered just another flavour of Hindustani Sangeet, however there are some who feel that Odissi should be considered a separate classical system.
In general, there are a number of musical instruments used to accompany the Odissi dance. One of the most important is the pakhawaj. This is the same pakhawaj that is used elsewhere in the North except for a few small changes. One difference is that the right head is a bit smaller than the usual North Indian pakhawaj. This necessitates a technique which in many ways is more like that of the tablā, or mridangam. Other instruments which are commonly used are bānsurī-flute, manjira-cymbals, sitār and tānpūrā.
Listen to the live recording of Abhay Phagre.

May 13th at 7 pm
►Himalayan folk songs and traditional dance (Ladakh, India)
►Buddhist monastic mask dance (Bhutan)

The group of monks and nuns from Buddhist Drukpa Kagyu school: Needup Wangdee, Tashi Wangdi, Duba Dorji, Sangay Passang, Choden, Sangay Dorji, Karma Yenten, Sonam Zangpo

May 14th at 5 pm
►Indian vocal art: Vishal Moghe Ensemble (India)
►Sufi music and whirling dervish (Damascus, Syria)

The practice of Sufi whirling, is a twirling meditation that originated among the ancient Indian mystics and Turkish Sufis, which is still practiced by the dervishes (members of Sufi ascetic religious tarika or “confraternities” known for their extreme poverty and austerity) of the Mevlevi order. The sema represents a mystical journey of man’s spiritual ascent through mind and love to “perfect”. Turning towards the truth, the follower grows through love, deserts his ego, finds the truth and arrives to the “perfect”. He then returns from this spiritual journey as a man who has reached maturity and a greater perfection, so as to love and to be of service to the whole of creation.
Following a recommended fast of several hours, Sufi whirlers begin with hands crossed onto shoulders and may return their hands to this position if they feel dizzy. They rotate on their left feet in short twists, using the right foot to drive their bodies around the left foot. The left foot is like an anchor to the ground, so that if the whirler loses his or her balance, he or she can think of their left foot, direct attention towards it and regain balance back. The whirling is done on the spot in an anti-clockwise direction, with the right arm held high, palm upwards, and the left arm held low, palm downwards. The body of the whirler is meant to be soft with eyes open, but unfocused so that images become blurred and flowing. A period of slow rotation is followed by a gradual build up of speed over the next half an hour. Then the whirling takes over. When the whirler is whirling so fast that he or she cannot remain upright, his or her body will fall by itself. The whirler does not consciously make the fall a decision or attempt to arrange the landing in advance; if his or her body is soft he should land softly – and the earth will absorb the energy. If the idea of letting oneself fall is too much for the practitioner then the whirler should allow himself to slow down very slowly. If the whirler has been whirling for an hour then the process of slowing down might take some time. Once the whirler has fallen, the second part of the meditation starts – the unwhirling. Sometime and somewhere, the whirler rolls onto his stomach immediately so that his bare navel is in contact with the earth. The practitioner feels his body blending into the earth like a small child pressed to his mother’s breasts. After the meditation whirlers try to be as quiet and inactive as possible.

May 15th at 5 pm
►Shamanistic ritual of Apatani tribe (Arunachal Pradesh, India)
►Drukpa Kagyu ritual (Bhutan)
►Himalayan folk performance (Ladakh, India)
►Kalash epic songs and dance (Chitral, Pakistan)

Drukpa Kagyu school is a branch of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism. It is considered to be one of the sarma or new schools of Tibetan Buddhism. Within the Drukpa lineage, there are further sub-schools, most notably the eastern Kham tradition and middle Drukpa school which prospered in Ladakh and surrounding areas. In Bhutan the Drukpa lineage is the dominant school and state religion.
The Drukpa lineage was founded in western Tibet by Drogon Tsangpa Gyare Yeshe Dorje (1161–1211), a disciple of Ling Repa who mastered the Tantric Buddhism practices of the mahamudra and six yogas of Naropa at an early age. As a terton, or finder of spiritual relics, he discovered the text of the Six Equal Tastes, previously hidden by Rechungpa, a student of Milarepa. While on a pilgrimage Tsangpa Gyare and his disciples witnessed a set of 9 dragons roaring out of the earth and into the skies, as flowers rained down everywhere. From this incident they named their sect Drukpa.

Lectures and workshops:
May 11th – Bhutanese culture and cooking tradition
May 11th – Odissi dance
May 12th – Chitral culture and history. Meeting with HE Prince Maqsood ul Mulk
May 12th – Ladakhi cooking tradition

May 11th–15th, Tallinn Zoo (Ehitajate Rd 150 / Paldiski Rd 145, Tallinn) – Asian musical instruments from the collection of Aleksandrs Nemirovskis
May 4th–31st, Museum of Costal Folk (Pringi village, Viimsi, 15 kms from Tallinn) – Oriental photos by Peeter Vähi

Tiina Jokinen – managing director
Inna Kivi – producer
Inari Leiman – PR (Tallinn Zoo)
Mart Kivisild – design
Tanel Klesment – sound engineer
Olavi Sööt – logistics
Kadri Kiis – accountant
Paul Himma / StageCraft Management – stage set

More information on: http://www.erpmusic.com/p_Orient2011