Enrapturing fusion of music, tradition

India meets Ireland
Clarkson Studio, Dunedin,
Thursday, February 15

A full house became enraptured with the combined sounds of Indian Raga and Irish Reel presented in the Clarkson Studio of the Regent Theatre on Thursday evening.

Excellent musicianship resounded from Basant and daughter Sargam Madhur playing tabla and sitar respectively, and Jon and daughter Jenny Sanders providing vocals and playing bouzouki and guitar respectively. The Madhur family are respected exponents and practitioners of classical Indian music in Auckland. The Sanders specialise in fusing classical music traditions with that of Ireland.

Both genres rely on established patterns of improvisation. They share mesmeric qualities coupled with a rhythmic energy and complexity which invoke joy. The vocal qualities of the Gaelic wail presented by Jenny Sanders meld beautifully with the sitar scale of major and minor intervals unlike those of Christian derivation. Both emanate from a world refreshingly untouched by a European understanding of tonality.

The sitar presentation of Salley Garden made for an interesting challenge, inviting notions of "wrong notes", then became amusing before being assimilated. A lesson in listening without preconception. Samhradh "summer" is a beautiful typically plaintive depiction of the idyllic emerald season enhanced by the unique instrumental blend. The dedication to Shiva and the rendition of Universal Love calling for peace and sanity to prevail throughout our lands is ancient but as timely as John Martyn’s engaging song Don’t Want to Know.

All players are experts in their crafts and richly deserve the albeit currently threatened funding from Arts on Tour. The results of their acceptance of the creative challenges posed by fusing diverse music traditions are uniformly appealing and instructive.

The audience was encouraged to sing the refrains of the Sanskrit dedication to Shiva. Apparently Dunedin audiences rate highly at cross-cultural engagements. Such readiness to participate goes a long way to creating a perfect evening.

Review by Marian Poole