Shalom Shalom, Salaam Salaam
Winter is the time when Delhiites turn off their fans and AC and turn out in droves for the season’s numerous festivals, fairs, and activities. During the first two weeks of November the city hosted the 5th annual Delhi International Art Festival which boasted an impressive slate of live performances and exhibitions from all corners of India and the world.
I took advantage of the cooler weather to get out and see a number of performances including a dynamic flamenco performance (Spain), concerts by world famous Noa (Israel), Akasha (a fusion group from Malaysia), the Sufi Gospel Project (India), Caravan 2011 (Indo-Canada), a group of Sri Lankan dancers, an exhibit by Swiss artist Nesa Gschwend, and an opera (my first) featuring Italian soloists, an Indian chorus, and a blended orchestra of Indian and Italian youth directed by an Indian conductor.
I was impressed by the caliber of the performances, the settings of each venue, and the care and intention taken by the Indian hosts to describe the power and importance of international exchange through film, voice, movement, color, and play.
The performance that touched me the most was that of Noa and her ensemble, guitarist Gil Dor et al. Ena and I ventured to the India Habitat Center for her performance and there met some of my classmates from JNU. We got to see Noa and three other groups perform in the intimate setting of the outdoor amphitheater. Besides Noa, a group of nomadic musicians from Rajasthan performed wonderfully bizarre fusion music with two boys from Canada. The Sufi Gospel Project mixed traditional Gospel hymns with mystic Sufi poetry and set it afloat over the rhythms and melody of traditional Indian instruments. After the scheduled performances a spunky group of Danish youngsters took the stage and performed a few acoustic numbers for the dwindling audience who was nonetheless wowed by the soulful and commanding vocals of the female lead. Ena and I finished the night over beers and greasy food at the American Diner, a surreal red vinyl and chrome restaurant housed inside the Habitat Center.
Noa’s family is originally from Yemen. She was born in Israel and raised in New York City until she returned to Israel alone at the age of 17. She has dedicated much of her life to the the peace process through performance and frequently collaborates with Arab and Palestinian artists. Her song Shalom Shalom is the perfect embodiment of the power of music to bring about peace between peoples, a power I spoke of in a previous post on dance party diplomacy. Her performance had us clapping and singing in our seats. Here is a video of her singing the song with well known Arab Israeli singer Mira Awad.
Noa sang a powerful encore which brought tears to my eyes. She and Gil Dor performed this song, their version of the Ave Maria, at the Vatican in 1994. They were the first Jewish artists invited to perform inside the Vatican. I believe this is a song that speaks to us all.
The Delhi International Arts Festival was a strong testament to India’s keen awareness of its director’s chair and front row seat in a globalized world. The Indians I have met are some of the most politically and culturally aware people I know. It is so exciting to be living in such a cosmopolitan city in a country that is so alive with its own vibrant culture and history and so welcoming of the teeming colors and cultures of other nations. I look forward to the continuation of this festival season and the sights, sounds, and senses it will bring!
Shalom, Salaam, Peace.