Music and Sacred Dance from the Kathmandu Valley
An evening of Nepalese music and dance
Sprague Memorial Hall
470 College Street, New Haven
The fusion of popular Tibeto-Burman elements with ancestral traditions of the Hindu world, such as those exercised on the subcontinent before the Muslim invasions, has led to the development in the Kathmandu Valley of the rich and highly original culture of the Newars, a people whose golden age dates back to the time of the Malla rulers (13th - 18th centuries). Ethnic Newars, numbering roughly one million today, speaking a language of the Tibeto-Burman family, and heavily influenced by the Indian world, form the oldest society of the Kathmandu Valley. Here, music and dance seem in many respects to superimpose metaphysical concepts upon an urban structure. Harking back to a cosmological ideal, the ancient divisions of the Newari city-states are present as numerous musical microcosms. Music and dance hold a privileged place among a multitude of ritual activities as vital tools weaving together the organization of the urban fabric, understood as an essentially ritual space.
If the musical practices here cannot, strictly speaking, be classified as professional, they nevertheless do represent parallel activities harmoniously incorporated into daily life. Numerous castes and organizations take part, according to well-defined roles, in a wide range of instrumental and vocal groups and dance ensembles. The entire spectrum of these ritual and artistic practices is gathered here under the banner of Nasahdyah, the ancient god of music, dance, and drama. This is the archetype central to the spectacle you are about to experience, combining the most representative elements from the vast repertoire of devotional chants, instrumental music, and sacred dances of Newari Tantric Buddhism.
Created in March 2001 by the French cellist and musicologist Franck Bernède, the Singhini Anusandhan Kendra (Singhini Research Centre) is a multidisciplinary company which seeks to rediscover traditional repertoires of the Himalayas through musical research and performances. Its members are active in research, teaching, making musical recordings and giving concerts. As individuals or in groups ( Maha Yantra, Vajra, Dance Mandal, Sukarma, Kala Mandapa etc.), they are the ambassadors of Nepali music and dance abroad and are regularly invited to perform at international festivals in Europe (Settembre Musica of Torino, Festival d’Ile de France, Festival of traditional music in Berlin, Festival of Asia in Basel etc.), in the United States (Princeton, UCLA, California’s Strawberry Festival, Arizona State University etc.) and in diverse festivals in Asia (Japan, Thailand, Hong Kong, India, China etc.). The New Haven performance is free and open to the public; no tickets are required.
A related sympposium entitled: “Music and Ritiual in the Himalayas” occurs on Thursday, November 4th at 4pm in Luce Hall Auditorium, 34 Hillhouse Avenue, New Haven. All are welcome.