The Monks of Majuli UK Tour 2016

In July 2016, Sound Travels organised a UK tour for eleven performers from Assam, Northeast India.

The tour consisted of ten monastic dancers from the Island of Majuli, one professional musician from Assam, one French impresario, an Irish production assistant, a Welsh driver, three film-makers (English, Argentinian and Italian) an English producer (me) and my 2 1/2-year-old son.

The tour was funded by the Arts Council, the ICCR (Indian Council for Cultural Relations), King’s College London and LAHP. It was also made possible by support from GemArts, Utopia Festival, Akademi and a huge number of well-wishers and friends.

Here is a photo diary of the ten beautiful days we spent dancing, singing, conducting workshops and making friends in London, Hampshire, Newcastle and Gateshead.

Day 1 – 7th July 2016

Arrival at Heathrow airport

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Welcome Bhabananda Barbayan, Gobinda Kalita Bayan, Jadumoni Saikia, Niranjan Saiki, Pradip Kumar Neog (Basanta), Nitul Borah, Boloram Saikia, Dwipendra Sarma, Naren Chandra Boruah, Dina Nath Boruah, Mukunda Saikia

Day 2 – 8th July 2016

The monks encounter the Vrindavani Vastra – a holy tapestry depicting scenes from the life of Lord Krishna – on display in the British Museum

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In the evening, the monks give a spectacular performance in the Great Hall of the British Museum (photos by Vipul Sangoi).

Jadumani (centre) lights the ceremonial candles to inaugurate the performance, before a demonstration of Mati Akhara – yogic exercises to prepare the body, mind and stage for the main performance

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Vrindavani Paal – a dance performance in Oja Pali style, choreographed by Dr Bhabananda Barbayan, based on the stories and avatars depicted in the Vrindavani Tapestry on display at the British Museum from January – August 2016.

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Day 3 – 9th July 2016

Georgie Pope, doctoral candidate at King’s College, London, presents her PhD research on Sattriya dance at a conference at the British Museum, including a critique of the book Sattriya: Classical Dance of Assam (2013)

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Dr Bhabanada Barbayan speaks, as part of a panel on ‘Staging the Vrindavani Vastra’ with Arshiya Sethi (centre) and Anwesa Mahanta (left)

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Bhabananda leads a Sattriya dance workshop in the Clore Foyer of the British Museum:

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Day 4 – 10th July 2016

Performances at King’s College, University of London, as part of the Utopia Festival

‘Gayan Bayan’ in the Quad

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Oja Pali performance in the foyer (impromptu setting because of the rain!)

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Happy family! With friends visiting from France

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Day 5 – 11th July 2016

Workshops in Somerset House

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Day 6 – 12th July 2016

Bhabananda pays a visit to Blythe House to see the V&A-owned Vrindavani Vastra fragment

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There was some time for sightseeing!

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We filmed the whole tour… so watch out for the movie! Jadumani took selfies with the film crew who were usually on the other side of the camera.

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Day 7 – 13th July

Workshops and performance at the Barn at Burycourt, Hampshire

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Day 8 – 14th July

The performers meet musician and producer Sam Mills

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And we stage a performance for the cameras

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Picnic in the beautiful gardens of the Barn at Burycourt (the monks cooked their own pure vegetarian meals throughout the tour – which the rest of the crew enjoyed too!)

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More of the crew. Jadumani, Clara and Mathias Coulange

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On the road to Newcastle

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Day 9 – 15th July

Workshops in schools in Gateshead and Newcastle. Thanks to GemArts for connecting us to the schools.

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Workshop and performance in the meeting room of Newcastle Hindu Temple (followed by a tour of the temple, and amazing food laid on by the temple committee)

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Day 10 – 16th July

Performance at the Sage in Gateshead, as part of GemArts’ Masala Festival.

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The concert was preceded by a panel discussion between GemArts’ Director Vikas Kumar, Bhabananda Barbayan and Georgie Pope

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What joy, what energy, what fun!

If you would like to meet the performers – come on a Sound Travels trip to Assam 🙂

Like this one: Assam Musical Adventure

 

Feedback came in emails, texts, applause and handshakes. Here are some responses…

The energy. The history. Everything.
The fact of having a traditional event from a (not much heard of) place in Assam, India, Majuli is truly wonderful. I hope that this exposure will continue beyond the NE of England, into the wider world”
Excellent, talented, exciting, exotic. Needs more exposure.
Having been connected with the Bharatanatyam Tradition, I could see the connection with odissi, kuchipudi and folk element – wonderfully presented
Excellent, amazing. Recognised the stories being told. Lovely
Good, very good, excellent
The style of the movement and the groove and sound of the music. Wonderful to see the humility with which the monks performed their dance
A very pleasant performance indeed
Very good
Wonderful, felt a priviledge to meet the monks
What a wonderful experience. It was indeed an honour to be part of it. Well done on such a special mission.
A wonderful window into such a beautiful culture. Also nice to see the ancient roots of more popular dance forms like kathak & Bharanatyam

 

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