Last year’s Bacardi Nh7 Weekender Pune introduced the Indian audience to the magnificent Manganiyar Seduction directed and produced by Roysten Abel. Luckily enough, The Seduction will be featuring in this year’s Bangalore edition of the Bacardi NH7 Weekender as well and promises to be as Roysten himself puts it , “An experience of unlimited, endless joy.”
The Sherp had a chat with the Indian director on his inspiration behind the production and what his journey (with them) has been like.
1. First things first, could you tell us about how The Manganiyar Seduction came about and what inspired you to start it?
In June 2006, I was travelling through Spain with a play I had directed called Jiyo which came out of work street performers (magicians, jugglers, puppeteers, impersonators, snake charmers, musicians) and one contemporary actress. The musicians travelling with the play were two Manganiyars, Mame Khan and Daewoo Khan. They would constantly, and everywhere, play music for me. I would sleep and wake up to their music. When I returned to India filled with inspiration I needed to translate this seduction of the spirit to a more physical realm. I recalled how their music sucked me in slowly in spite of the natural resistance to a new culture by titillating my spirit.
2. Why call it The Manganiyar Seduction?
It is seduction of the soul. My experience with the Manganiyars was like a mad roller coaster ride almost bordering on the burlesque inside my head, heart and body and for some strange reason the red light district kept coming back to mind. It could have been to do with the seduction or the burlesque.
3. The production features 43 musicians from the Manganiyar community; could you explain your creative process in making and directing the music?
I went to Jaisalmer and auditioned a thousand musicians from which I selected 45. The Manganiyars were not used to a system of rehearsals and I was trying to translate an experience which was not even clear to me in to a piece of theatre through them. Since I was not a music director and they were not from “theatre” all we could do was to be open and let the ephemeral take form. Being a theatre director I had arrived at the fact that the narrative was not linear but a staggered spiral. I did not want to use any jargons to communicate this with them and did not have a vocabulary for them which would help us achieve this staggered spiral instantly. So we got into the process of understanding each other and there by trusting each there and our own selves to arrive at the Manganiyar Seduction over a period of three years.
4. If you had to describe The Manganiyar Seduction in 3 words, what would they be?
Seduction of the soul.
5. The Seduction has performed at various festivals all over the world, could you say all that travelling and exposure inspires and affects the Manganiyars and their music?
No it hasn’t. They are pretty grounded people. They travel, play their music to an enthusiastic audience. They play to large audiences and sometimes the applause and responses does leave them overwhelmed but once the show is over and they are back in their rooms, it’s all forgotten.
6. Before this you were active in theatre, how and what made you make the transition to directing live music?
The Manganiyar Seduction IS theatre. Its deep-rooted in theatre.
7. As an artist, who or what has inspired you the most?
I really don’t know. The early Renaissance painters maybe. No singular one in particular. Different filmmakers have had an impact on me and my work.
8. Out of everywhere you’ve performed, which country or festival was the most memorable?
We have had many beautiful experiences, but the most gratifying one I must say was Bacardi NH7 Weekender at Pune. It was the first time we were performing to an Indian crowd of an average age group of 17 to 25, and I was very apprehensive. To my surprise, they lapped it up and given the kind of work I do, which is to create contemporary work with traditional performers, when the youth of our country connected, it was most reassuring.
9. Apart from the seduction, is there any other production you are working on?
There’s The Kitchen, my most recent production that features Mizhav (a giant copper drum from Kerala) drummers. It will tour Australia, Asia and Europe in the summer of 2014. And then there are a few new ideas whirling around in my head.
10. Could you clue us in on what you have in store for your fans this Weekender?
An experience of unlimited, endless joy.
11. Lastly, is there any artist you are looking forward to see play at the Bacardi NH7 Weekender?
Kailash Kher for sure. I’ve never seen him perform live.
1. Best festival experience?
Bacardi NH7 Weekender
2. Weirdest festival experience?
I rather not say!
3. Festivals you’d like to play at and why?
Sunburn (laughs). On a more serious note, The Burning Man. It’s a dream.
4. At what age did you attend your first music festival?
17 or 18. It was a festival in Bangalore.
5. Craziest fan you’ve encountered at a festival?
You find groupies everywhere. In Australia we had some crazy experiences.
Make sure to catch The Manganiyar Seduction by Roysten Abel on November 23rd on the Dewarists Stage at the Bacardi NH7 Weekender, Bangalore.
(Image Courtesy :Kunal Kakodkar)