Lighting the fire within — Antharagni

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Anthar Agni

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/

SET to ignite our inner passion, Anthar Agni showcases fire as a positive energy of the cosmos and its significance from a universal perspective.

Helming the show is percussionist Nawaz Mirajkar who says: “I have always been intrigued by the element of fire. Fire (agni in Sanskrit) is worshipped as Surya Bhagavan (the Sun God) by Hindu farming nomads in ancient times, the god of flames to the wandering gypsies and the illuminating flames of love in Sufi philosophy.

Nawaz

Nawaz

“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 Malaysia at the Shantanand Festival of Arts 2017 at TFA Brickfields, and then at the 8th George Town Festival in Penang.

The India-born Nawaz, 41, joined the Temple of Fine Arts in Singapore in 1996, and presented his first major production, Taal Express, a decade later.

Music runs in Nawaz’s blood, a 2011 “Young Artiste of the Year” award winner of the National Arts Council of Singapore.

“My grandfather, Ustad Mehboob Khan Mirajkar, and father Ustad Hanif Khan Mirajkar 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.

“In Asian countries like India, Singapore and Malaysia, the arts is not seen as a career choice, in fact it 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, but, at the end of the day though, whatever the hurdles are, a person’s passion will overcome all obstacles.”

 

As a tribute to the fire that burns his own passion, and the sacred fire in all its forms, Nawaz and his TFA team came up with six  pieces of music that highlight 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 specifically a Sufi singer, as well as a choir. And that’s just some of the 51 artistes involved.

The Anthar Agni repertoire includes a kathak-flamenco duet called “Feet on Fire”.

“I have worked with Antonio Vargas, who is a senior and experienced Spanish dancer and choreographer for many years,” says Nawaz.

“He strongly believes that Spanish dance originated from kathak as the gypsy tribes travelled from Rajasthan to Spain.

“We have collaborated in the past on quite a few projects and had spoken about this idea of showing the similarities as well as the distinct flavours of these two dance styles on the same platform. Out of that was born the idea of ‘Feet on Fire’.”

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 points out:

“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 is a contemporary composition with Chinese elements that celebrate 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”, devotional Sufi-style singing is surrounded by dancing flames connoted by contemporary dancers.

The show ends with “Anthar Jyoti” (One Light) which will showcase the many meanings of Agni.

Nawaz says he hopes people will enjoy the multicultural flavours and ethnic beauty of the music and dance in Anthar Agni.

“I would be extremely happy if people leave with a feeling of unity with everyone around them, regardless of religion and ethnicity.”

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Subhadra Devan

A journalist who has been writing about culture, arts and heritage since the 1980s. She is herself gobsmacked to have started the Sunday arts pages for English newspapers in Malaysia, in the new millennium. The passion for these genres rages on.

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