Wednesday, May 24

Kathak Click for more info

If you're scratching your head, I think you would recognise the distinct sound and dance of Kathak if you witnessed it. Tonight, I had a chance to do just that close up. Performing were Guru Pratap Pawar and his daughter Asavari Pawar, with Yusuf Mahmoud on the tabla. All were fantastic.

The performance lasted for around an hour, and consisted of solo and mixed regular Khatak with a few expressional pieces thrown in for good measure. Although the latter were really nice to watch (with Asavari's Dhanewad being unpretentious and easy to follow), the Kathak itself was very, very, good indeed.

Apart from the speed at which everything was played, what really impressed me was how in sync everything was. All three (including the tabla) were "ad-libbing" musically, and it was clear that instead of being rigidly rehearsed, their performance was in fact a flowing conversation being spoken, partly at least, on the fly. Each performer was adapting to the others, both blatantly (as seen by the "syncing" procedures at the start of each piece) and then more subtly by hand movements and facial expressions. These guys were reading each other how we would a book.

In fact, after I had become accustomed to following the fast pace I began to spot the mistakes and parts where either the tabla or feet fell out of sync. This is not a criticism, but more of a testament to how difficult the art actually is. Oh, and Guru Pratap just passed sixty by the way. Crikey. I have to also give credit to Yusuf who did some amazing things with the tabla.

My favourite part was toward the end when all three participated in Kathak Jugalbandi. This was a kind of Kathak "face off", with the Guru setting a pace and beat, and the daughter and Yusuf taking turns to replicate it. I'm not sure if there are any winners in this game, except the audience who were pretty much in awe throughout.

The whole performance was quick (in a good way), the venue was nice and uncrowded (a well kept secret, it seems), and all of it was absolutely free. If dance isn't your thing The Nehru Centre presents more than just that, and it's well worth checking out the website to see if there is anything else that floats your boat. I certainly will.