Saturday, December 1, 2012

Tuesday, 27 November: Mumbai with Sampurna!

Here's what it looks like from our side!
Through various misfortunes and profortunes, Sampurna Chattarji was able to join me this day in her home turf, Mumbai, as we visited N.L. Dalmia School, Singapore International School, and St. John’s.  Once again, we’re being sent to some of the swankiest schools around, and so we slung some extra-swanky hanky-spanky round the marshmallowed halls.

Nonsense faces always... Sampurna and me with our hosts at Dalmia.

It was great to do these shows with Sampurna—who is zany and zippy and zinky and zlippy—and because we were together, we were able to do some different material, like “Nonsense Gonesense,” by Sukumar Ray, a kind of drama of nonsensical interruptions.  When we stormed off the stage in nonsense rage, we might even have frightened a few of the wee ones.  Sampurna, being a beauteous Bong, read her poem “What the Bong Tree Grows,” and she did a great job with “There Goes Gran,” one of the many pieces she translated.

Loonar howlings and loonier howlings
 At Singapore International, they asked if I wanted any musical instruments for the performance, and I thought it might be fun to play a little tabla—of course, using them to make some points about nonsense.  Tabla compositions, for those who don’t know, are transmitted orally, by a kind of drum language that only has meaning in terms of correlation to ways of hitting the drums.  These syllables, called “bols,” when strung together make compositions, and so “sense” in that functional way, but these compositions (chanted with great skill and delight) are also a kind of song, a joyful gibberishy meta-music.  This is why when you see tabla players reciting their bols, they are often smiling. Dha tire kite dhe ge na dha ge ti na ke na.  But when I tried to get a set of tablas at Singapore International, there was trouble.  We went down into the music department, which was extensive, and woke up the poor fellow who was obviously not expecting us.  Several Western drum sets sat out, but he said they had no tablas—and only a “broken dhol.”  Here I am in the music department of a huge and wealthy Indian school—with no traditional Indian instruments.  How sad!  Here is where we bemoan globalization, but I’d rather bemoan gobi-ization, the proliferation of cauliflower (or gobi) dishes in India.  Come on, cauliflower?  Really?

Sampurna and I were then whisked away on our mini-tour through the crazy Mumbai traffic to St. John’s school.  As you can see below, much nonsense was made...

Thanks to all the schools for being lovely hosts, for all the wee sandwiches with the crusts cut off, for the endless cups of tea, and for providing the kind of tireless, progressive education--where nonsense has value--to thousands and thousands of bright children!  A most munificent and mungfishful day.

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