Arts Council of Wales | AN INTERNATIONAL WALES - INDIA MUSIC AND STORYTELLING COLLABORATION HEADS FOR WALES THIS JUNE
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AN INTERNATIONAL WALES - INDIA MUSIC AND STORYTELLING COLLABORATION HEADS FOR WALES THIS JUNE

TWO YEARS, FIVE ARTISTS, TWO CONTINENTS, SIX LANGUAGES, THREE FESTIVALS, UPTEEN TEMPLES AND A WEALTH OF STORIES AND SONGS 14 Jun 2018

AN INTERNATIONAL WALES - INDIA MUSIC AND STORYTELLING COLLABORATION HEADS FOR WALES THIS JUNE

These are just some of the ingredients for a creative collaboration between Wales’ Beyond the Border International Storytelling Festival and Festival of the Voice, and Rajasthan’s international folk festival, Jodhpur RIFF, that will be showcased here in Wales this weekend. Classical Hindustani and Sufi singer Smita Bellur along with Manganyiar musician: master Kamaicha player Dara Khan have travelled to Wales to weave Welsh and Indian music and stories with singer-songwriter Gwilym Morus and storyteller Angharad Wynne.

The group performed together for the first time at Jodhpur RIFF at the spectacular Merhangarh Fort in Jodhpur last autumn and will return again this year. Last weekend they premiered a new storytelling piece, Hands of Time at Beyond the Border Festival in St Donat’s Castle. They will perform the show again at Cardiff’s Festival of the voice this coming weekend, 16 and 17 June, along with a specially commissioned 360 ° immersive film by award winning Cardiff film makers 4Pi.

Speaking about the collaboration, Gwilym Morus said: "It’s been a fascinating experience to share and learn about each other’s cultures. In a way, we meet across a 400 year divide. Dara belongs to the Manganyar musician community of Rajasthan, who as far back as is known, have been supported by patrons for whom they perform. There’s a sacred bond between patron and musician or poet. This is how it was for the court bards and musicians of Wales until the Elizabethan age.

The Manganyars are taught singing and their instruments by their fathers, uncles and cousins from a very young age. Nothing is written down, everything is learned by repetition and rote. Those showing no musical aptitude become poets, learning and performing hundreds of ancient poems, or they become lineage keepers able to recite the family trees of their patrons and their extended families down the ages. It’s a different way of relating to music and poetry, but an incredibly rich tradition, and I feel privileged to work with them and with Smita, who’s classical training and knowledge of the Sufi tradition adds yet another dimension to our collaboration."

Hands of Time weaves traditional wisdom tales from both continents with the fates of two real characters: Thomas Griffith, a young man from the Garn Estate in Denbighshire who leaves Wales in 1804 to sail with the East India Company fleet, and Heera one of the concubines of Maharaja Man Singh of Marwar. Speaking about how the stories came together, Angharad Wynne said: "Gwilym and I spent some days among the Manganyiar village communities of the desert at the western borders of Rajasthan last year. There we met master storytellers who generously shared their craft and store of tales with us. I wanted to honour those storytellers in this piece and find a way of weaving some of their tales with a story rooted in Wales. Then, one day, during my research, I tripped across Thomas Gruffydd of Garn Estate, who left Wales for India as a 15 year old and was destined never to return. A day in the archives of the National Library of Wales unearthed over 50 letters from Thomas to his family that helped piece together enough of his story, while leaving some tantalizing gaps too."

This partnership between Beyond the Border International Storytelling Festival, Cardiff’s Festival of the Voice and Jodhpur RIFF was made possible by funding from Wales Arts International and British Council, Wales. Speaking about the value of such cultural collaboration, Nicola Morgan of Wales Arts International said: "These projects are a rich way of establishing cultural relationships across nations as well as developing and showcasing artists. Through this project we hope to support other artists from Wales and India to develop relationships through these respective festivals, ensuring that we keep supporting our Welsh artists to broaden their horizons as well as adding international context to our arts provision here in Wales."

Hands of Time will be performed at The Dome at The Hub, in front of Wales Millennium Centre as part of Festival of the Voice on 16 and 17th June. In addition, the musicians from this collaboration will perform a blend of Welsh and Indian music that weekend in a show entitled Sun Dial. As part of their partnership with Jodhpur RIFF, Festival of the Voice will also present a group of Langa Musicians from Rajasthan led by one of the most senior vocalists and musicians of the region Kadar Khan Langa. For full details see www.festivalofvoice.wales

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