Set to ignite our inner passions, the Temple of Fine Arts’ latest presentation Anthar Agni is a music and dance tribute to the sacred fire (Agni in Sanskrit) showcasing fire as a positive energy of the cosmos and its significance from a universal perspective.
Helming the show is percussionist extraordinaire and 2011 ‘Young Artiste of the Year’ award winner of the National Arts Council of Singapore, Nawaz Mirajkar who says: “I’ve always been intrigued by the element of fire. Fire is worshipped as Surya Bhagavan (the Sun God) by Hindu farming nomads in ancient times; it’s the god of flames to the wandering gypsies and the illuminating flames of love in Sufi philosophy.”
Adding, he says: “I wanted to celebrate the beauty of this sacred element that symbolises sanctity, purity and transformation through music and dance.” Anthar Agni will premiere in the country at the Shantanand Festival of Arts 2017 at the Temple of Fine Arts in Brickfields, and subsequently at the 8th George Town Festival in Penang.
ROOTS IN MUSIC
India-born Nawaz, 41, joined the Temple of Fine Arts (TFA) in Singapore in 1996, and presented his first major production, Taal Express, a decade later. It’s obvious that music runs in his blood. Hailing from a proud lineage of musicians, he began playing the tabla under the tutelage of his father, Ustad Mohammad Hanif Khan Mirajkar from the tender age of seven. “My grandfather, Ustad Mehboob Khan Mirajkar, and my father were distinguished names in the world of tabla and huge influences in my musical journey. I was lucky to be born into a family of musicians as this made my choice to follow my passion an easy one,” he confides.
He points out that in Asian countries like India, Singapore and Malaysia, arts is not seen as a career choice and is strongly discouraged by many parents. “I think parents are afraid for the future financial security of their children. They feel that arts should only be a hobby. I can understand their fear as it isn’t an easy life for an artiste. At the end of the day though, whatever the hurdles are, a person’s passion will overcome all obstacles,” he surmises.
As a tribute to the fire that fuels his own passion, and the sacred fire in all its forms, Nawaz and his TFA team has come up with six pieces of music highlighting the beauty of fire’s significance from a universal perspective.
While billed as a classical Indian music performance, Anthar Agni has two Chinese classical musicians (on the erhu and yang zing), five Indian musicians on the sarangi, slide guitar, bansuri, table and vocals including a Sufi singer, as well as a choir. And that’s only part of the 51 artistes involved!
The show’s repertoire includes a kathak-flamenco duet called Feet on Fire. “I’ve worked with Antonio Vargas who’s a senior and experienced Spanish dancer and choreographer for many years,” says Nawaz, adding that Vargas strongly believes that Spanish dance originated from kathak thanks to the gypsy tribes who travelled from Rajasthan to Spain.
“We’ve collaborated in the past on quite a few projects and have discussed on showing the similarities as well as the distinct flavours of these two dance styles on the same platform. Out of that birthed the idea of Feet on Fire,” he reveals, smiling.
According to the Encyclopaedia Brittanica, the roots of flamenco seem to lie in the Roma migration from Rajasthan and Punjab (in northwest India) to Spain between the 9th and 14th centuries. While the nomadic bards and storytellers (or kathaas) centred their storytelling, dance and music around their bonfires, Nawaz explains that “… the physical postures of the dancers of kathak and flamenco are likened to the long vertical structure of a flame, including the pirouettes and vertical alignment as well as the elements of flamboyance, claps and footwork.”
Also in the repertoire is Dancing Dragon, Rising Phoenix, which Nawaz says resonates with humanity’s aspirations. “It’s a contemporary composition with Chinese elements that celebrates the dragon as a symbol of auspiciousness and the phoenix which, after a long life, dies in a fire of its own making only to rise again from its ashes.”
Other pieces are a classical composition that glorifies the fire, Raag Deepak (Melody of Fire), composed by Miya Tansen, and Flame of the Mystics, a devotional Sufi-style singing surrounded by dancing flames connoted by contemporary dancers. The show ends with Anthar Jyoti (One Light) which will showcase the many meanings of Agni.
He expresses his hope that people will enjoy the multicultural flavours and ethnic beauty of the music and dance tribute in Anthar Agni. “I’ll be extremely happy if people leave feeling a sense of unity with everyone around them, regardless of religion and ethnicity,” concludes Nawaz, smiling.
When: Aug 26-27, 2017, 8pm
Where: Shantanand Auditorium, Temple of Fine Arts Kuala Lumpur
Call: +60 3-2274 3709 for ticket details.
When: Aug 30-31, 2017, 8.30pm
Where: Dewan Sri Pinang, Lebuh Light, Penang
Tickets: from RM25, RM65, RM85, RM125. Visit http://georgetownfestival.com/