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Return to the roots

IN THE LOOP OF TRADITION: Both forms are rooted in spirituality

IN THE LOOP OF TRADITION: Both forms are rooted in spirituality  

African mystic singer Solo Cissokho and the Manganiyar Ketha Khan believe that music brings the world together

Music lovers on Bengaluru were in for a musical treat of epic proportions at the Ruhaniyat music festival held recently at the Jayamahal Palace Hotel.

Ruhaniyat presented by Banyan Tree, saw a unique Indo-African production with African Mystic singer Solo Cissokho along with desert musicians from Rajasthan in a concert aptly titled ‘String Of Dunes’.

With Solo on his 13th century instrument Kora while the Manganiyar musicians played their traditional instruments including the Kamaycha, the concert saw the amalgam of African mystic songs with Sufi kalams in a sonic extravaganza.

Taking time out before the show, Solo says this is his second visit to Bengaluru. “I was here earlier by the invitation of Dr. Subramaniam which turned out to be a fantastic concert. It is great to be in Bangalore again.” Sharing thoughts on the concert, he says: “This time is a new experience again. Meeting these great musicians from Rajasthan, I feel I will learn a lot from them. Everything is about music. I am happy that when we meet on stage for the first time, we will make magic together. Music has a universal language and though we cannot understand each other’s languages, we can still connect through music. I believe even before the talking began, music was the first form of communication. We sing apart in our individual languages, but the music brings us together.”

For Solo, the coming together of African Mystic music and Rajasthani Sufi folk is the blend of two deeply rooted and very spiritual traditions.

“These are two strong traditions meeting. I play the Kora. My father was my teacher and his teacher was his father. So we learnt it from generation to generation and passing it on to our future generations. They have the same tradition too.”

Looking ahead, Solo says he wishes to carry this collaboration forward. “I would love to continue working on these kinds of projects. This is special. And we must develop what we start, take care of it and make it grow.” Elaborating further on his roots, Solo says he built his own instrument. “In my tradition, you learn to build the instrument before you learn to play it. That way, you develop a respect for it. This will continue and my son has started to learn how to build his instrument and play it soon.”

On music’s contemporary transformation, Solo says the change is very apparent. “I recently saw a Kora with keys like a guitar but the sound was far from the original. I want to keep the tradition. My children understand what I’m saying. Because they try the modern instruments and it is not the same thing. So they come back. It’s very important not to lose our connection with our roots. If you want to know where to go, don’t forget where you come from.”

To fellow musicians, Solo likes to share one message: “Don’t forget your tradition. You can build your tradition, develop it and create something new. But to get your branches, you must have your roots. It’s like a tree. You can’t go too far,” sums up the 52- year-old musician.

Contributing their thoughts on the collaboration, Ketha Khan, representing the Rajasthani musicians, says: “We try and bring something new every time since we are regulars here. A lot of people from our community are involved. In the world, there is only music that doesn’t require a language, tongue or dialect.

Only the Sur or melody is what we all grasp and work with since it comes from the heart. Anything from anywhere can be connected by music.” He agrees with Solo and says it is their tradition that has kept their art alive. “We are traditional musicians and our instruments date back to almost a thousand years. The Manganiyar community is doing well only because of our music. If something lasts in this world, it’s because of music.”

He adds: “Solo is keeping his tradition and culture alive and passing it on to his children. We are doing the same. This legacy must continue. We are artistes. We are no less than a doctor or a pilot. We work equally hard and take lifetimes to perfect our music.”

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Printable version | Jul 2, 2020 1:03:45 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/events/ruhaniyat-return-to-the-roots/article6785516.ece

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