Last Saturday’s opening night concert of Sydney Sacred Music Festival 2015, at Riverside Theatres, Parramatta, was even more extraordinary than might have been anticipated. In the preceding week, two of the five featured musicians, Uyghur bard, Shohrat Tursun and Sudanese multi-instrumentalist Asim Gorachi were unable to return to Australia in time. Taking their places were Nicholas Ng on the Erhu/Chinese violin and Yolngu vocalist from Arnhem Land, Gambirra Illume. Gambirra is also an exponent of ceremony and could only confirm her presence 24 hours before the concert.
As a tribute to their skills and professionalism the resulting Sacred Exchange was seamless. Each of the musicians gave an individual demonstration of their instruments and explained their origins and roles in diverse religious or cultural ceremony. Australia’s Grand Master of the Japanese shakuhachi, Riley Lee; Mongolian throat singer and horse fiddle player Bukhu Ganburged; and Australia’s leading exponent of the Indian Tabla, Bobby Singh joined Gambirra and Nicholas in an atmosphere of meditation and transcendence. Humorous little insights were often given into the performers’ personal experience of their instruments. Bobby Singh drew laughter after the players combined in an improvised collaboration, when he reflected that this was a Sydney Saturday night. They could have been anywhere in the world, uplifted in harmony, while others were at the football, or drinking beer. On stage, above, are Gambirra, left, Nicholas, Bobby, Buku and Riley.
The festival continues to September 19 and includes Stories of the Sacred tomorrow night, Thursday, September 10, at Parramatta Artists Studios. Writers Walter Mason and Maryam Azam, left, will investigate the everyday revealing those sacred spaces we never usually notice. A concert at Campbelltown Arts Centre on Friday night explores Ancient Rhythms, Future Visions. It’s a collaborative performance featuring the “Godfather of Indian Electronica” DJ Coco Varma with some of Sydney’s finest South Asian performers melding sacred dance and music with Sufi poetry and electronica. At Bankstown Arts Centre on Saturday night Sacred Rituals of Sudan is a multimedia concert that features the sacred ritual and ceremonies of Sudan. The Sudanese Sufi community of Sydney comes together to showcase Sufi traditions in song, dance and video. The night will feature the Sufi Chant group Bashier and the visual art of Ghasan Saaid. Click here for festival details for the next 10 days.
At the opening of the new Barangaroo reserve on Sydney Harbour, on September 6, Wagana Aboriginal Dancers, right, performed with Janawi Dance Clan, NAISDA, Matthew Doyle, Clarence & Tim Bishop, Excelsior, Thomas Kelly, Darren Compton and Koomurri.
For several weeks they have also been developing a new work Gaurii – Crow – using an area of burnt out bushland in the Blue Mountains as their inspiration. Gaurii is part one of Have you ever found a feather and wondered whose it was? The new work in progress is intended for schools and festivals later in the year and throughout 2016. Director Jo Clancy says, “I’ve been working with Jacinta Tobin and 4 dancers Becky Chatfield, David Newton, Nadia Martich and Glory Tuohy-Daniell. Now we hope to get some feed back.”
You are invited to join them for their first public presentation on Saturday, September 19, at 5.30pm, at Kindlehill Performance Space, Lake Street, Wentworth Falls, in the Blue Mountains. Tickets are available at the door for $10 and $5. Call 0409 651 290. The dancers would love to hear your responses and ideas. Photo above by Jamie Murray. This first development is being supported by the Blue Mountains Aboriginal Culture and Resource Centre and funded by the Blue Mountains City of the Arts Trust.