Music, dance and VR at Darbar Festival

Published: 4 August 2019
Reporter: Vera Liber

The Darbar Festival will bring improvised Indian classical music and choreographed dance to the Barbican Centre and Sadler’s Wells this autumn, featuring artists in the traditions of Hindustani from North India, Carnatic from South India, Dhrupad and percussion and the dance forms Bharatanatyam, Odissi and Kathak.

The music this year focuses on the concept of jugalbandi ("entwined twins"), which evolved through the darbars, the courts of the Maharajas where celebrations of Indian arts were held.

The headline music event at the Barbican brings together Pandit Budhaditya Mukherjee (sitar) with Pandit Shivkumar and Rahul Sharma (santoor). UK premières include sarod masters and brothers Abhishek and Praashekh Borkar, sarangi-playing cousins Sabir and Momin Khan from Rajasthan and leading light of Carnatic song, Sudha Ragunathan.

Sandeep Virdee OBE, Artistic Director of Darbar, said, “at Darbar Festival, we present the tip of the iceberg of the Indian classical music art form. Even if audiences went to India, they wouldn’t experience what they get at Darbar Festival right here in London. They would need to travel to various parts of India to hear all the different genres that exist.

"The Festival each year focuses on presenting the finest Indian classical music and dance to London’s audiences and for those that also travel nationwide and internationally. We do this by ensuring that the curation brings together great maestros and established artists, alongside emerging talent. Our aspiration is to have equality of representation and a regular feature at Darbar Festival is our Women In Music event which will focus on the achievements and the challenges that women face as Indian Classical musicians.”

The Festival’s Indian classical dance programme at Sadler’s Wells is curated by Sadler’s Wells Associate Artist Akram Khan with Associate Curator Mavin Khoo. Khoo has developed a new work with the Temple of Fine Arts Inner Space Dance from Kuala Lumpur especially for this year’s Festival. Other performances include Vistar performed by an Odissi ensemble directed by Madhavi Mudgal, Swapnasundari’s piece Padams and the Javalis and Stories of Thumris by Kathak dancer Nahid Siddiqui. There will also be two free foyer events as part of the dance programme, Chakardar Tabla Ensemble’s Power of Rhythm and Raga Room’s Veena, Violin & Venu.

Khoo said, “this year, we are focusing on ensemble work which really allows for us to break the myth that Indian classical dance sits within a singular framework. We have this very interesting programme for 2019 with a counterpoint between youth, maturity, composition, choreographic composition and creative improvisation. It’s also unusual to find an all-male dance ensemble accompanied on stage with an all-female music collective and it’s a very beautiful relationship. Audiences will see the musician in the dancers and likewise, the dance in the musicians.”

This year’s festival will include a launch of the 360 Video Festival of Music featuring specially commissioned ten-minute pieces shot in India filmed using the latest 8K cameras and audio captured using ambisonic sound. These sixty performances can be viewed using a VR headset with headphones or a smartphone after the launch on Christmas day and in the Barbican and Sadler’s Wells foyers during the live Festival.