'A Hundred Charmers' had everyone asking for more.
Driving down to Taramati Baradari on a winter evening might not be the most desirable thing. But Roysten Abel's 'A Hundred Charmers', here to perform for the Krishnakriti Festival, proved it wrong. The neatly parked cars up to a few kilometres from the main gate on either side was enough proof.
Audience trickled in much before the scheduled time to grab the best seats. “How does it matter, we are here to listen not see,” grumbled a young girl. But the father was adamant; he had to sit closer to the stage in the open-air amphitheatre at Taramati Baradari. Just when it was time for the performance to begin, the lights on the amphitheatre were dimmed. This is when the caps, sweaters, shawls and jackets in the crowd came out.
Five charmers sat dressed in light saffron robes and pagdis intact, on the stage. As they began to play, their music engulfed the silence. If at times the melody reminded of Man dole, mera tan dole from Nagin (1954) at times it sounded like strains of shehnai at a wedding. The beginning was in the form of a relay where one charmer was joined by the second, then the third and so on.
As the crowd sat and let the silence of the venue be taken over by the sound of the beens, it felt as if the music was coming from amongst the audience. And indeed it was, the rest of the 95 charmers materialised from within the crowd playing simultaneously.
‘A Hundred Charmers' is Roysten's tribute to the community of snake charmers. The idea to make 100 charmers play in unison came when a friend approached him to do something to save the community. “It was difficult task as no beens wereplayed together said the sarpanch from the community to Roysten.” But Roysten who loves to narrate stories through music was adamant. They tried, experimented and successfully were able to take the charmers for an International performance.
On Sunday, the 100 charmers were joined by a couple of dhumba and khanjari musicians. The first piece which was presented was the sadabahar. Which is something the charmers play most of the times. The beauty of the piece was the neatness with which it began and ended. The charmers were in their best form, dancing and swaying to their own music. This was followed by naag lahara, which the saperas play to coax the snake out of its pit. “I heard this place is very active. So, in case if anyone in the crowd feel anything warm against their feet, please do not panic. We have hundred men here to take care of them,” said Roysten.
Next was Saajanji a piece mostly played at weddings, followed by the title track from Nagina which was composed by Ustaad Bishmillah Khan.
To make the evening a memorable one, Roytsen instead of announcing the next performance said, “I will let you guess this one.” As the charmers began, whistles and claps could he heard from every section in the audience. Kajra re from the charmers beens made everyone's Sunday a day to remember.