Referencing or Reproducing? Dancing about South Asia..

Dis-synched fusion

World Music” implies fusion, and fusion of course takes us into the world of improvisation and thus jazz, insofar as the latter has become a cross-border medium. (The best known example of the latter being Miles Davis’ 1960 Sketches of Spain, these days assigned the genre name of jazz-rock fusion, whatever that means).

As for “jazz” (whose non-familiarity ascertained) the latter might be defined as: sequential improvising by separate players using different instruments to elaborate or “play” with (or “play out, elaborate on”) an initial motif (riff, refrain) or unique rhythmic module. An arc is defined, taking the refrain and its pulse through a long cycle of often unpredictable modulations ending usually in a restatement of the starting “riff”. But the success of the exercise depends greatly on “improv”, which works in turn by physical transfer or impulse always communicated by subtle bodily movement as the transfer is prepared. In tight (Western) definition, “jazz” improv. does not co-enroll formal dance, though it often bookends with (mainly female) lyrics (and lyrical song).

The longest improv. sequence in Musical Pilgrimage comes at the end of the stay in Rajasthan, as Dadawa is invited to watch a sequence of street performances executed in rota by Babu Nath (father), his brother, two boys , a girl, and his wife. Obviously by prearrangement, Dada enters an improv (it seems so…) of her own, drawing the family into eager response. .. we are seeing World Music being made. Her hosts’ polite clapping at the end of her act seems to confirm the accomplishment.

Yet, if we watch (and listen) carefully we will see a perisisting non-dialogue, this as a consequence of class dis-empathy and incompatible notions of “program”.propriety.
The dis-empathy relates to execution, in dance as well as song. All the indigene performances, from the precocious girl’s dance, her father’s sing-cum-drumming (something like juggling: three different instruments are played); the nose-flute (murchangi) impromptu, the girl’s unexpected recital of a love-song she cannot understand, and (last) a karbelia (uniquely gypsy) dance spiked with flails and twists and backbends — all entertain because they are NOT choreographed, are true “improv.”

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