Year of Culture: India’s diversity rocks London audience

The Independence Gala 2017 showcased a version of India by encapsulating various religious, folk and cultural traditions, and fusing them with western music and leading dance forms of Britain.
Israeli musician Shye Ben Tzur with members of the Indian band Rajasthan Express at the Independence Gala 2017 show at Southbank Centre in London on October 4, 2017.(HT Photo)
Israeli musician Shye Ben Tzur with members of the Indian band Rajasthan Express at the Independence Gala 2017 show at Southbank Centre in London on October 4, 2017.(HT Photo)
Published on Oct 05, 2017 11:05 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, London | By, London

Sufi music, opera singing and Indian folk dances merged seamlessly with British hip-hop and tap dance as more 150 artistes put on a vibrant performance at one of the last events of the UK-India Year of Culture 2017.

Billed as the Independence Gala 2017, the show at Southbank Centre on Wednesday showcased a version of India that is better known abroad, encapsulating various religious, folk and cultural traditions, and fusing them with western music and leading dance forms in Britain.

Prominent Goan-origin soprano Patricia Rozario, better known in the West for her opera performances, donned a sari as she opened the evening with classical singer Deepa Nair Rasiya, while Sufi qawwali numbers at the conclusion brought the large audience to its feet.

Goan-origin soprano Patricia Rozario with classical singer Deepa Nair Rasiya at at the Independence Gala 2017 show at Southbank Centre in London on October 4, 2017. (HT Photo)
Goan-origin soprano Patricia Rozario with classical singer Deepa Nair Rasiya at at the Independence Gala 2017 show at Southbank Centre in London on October 4, 2017. (HT Photo)

Srinivas Gotru, director of the Nehru Centre, told Hindustan Times: “This was an artistic collaboration involving over 150 musicians and dancers from India and the UK. I think it captured the vibrancy, richness and diversity of our cultural dialogue with the UK very well. 

“It has been in the making for over a year. It was meant to be the highlight event of the India-UK year of culture and it was just that”.

A dance performance at the Independence Gala 2017 show at Southbank Centre in London on October 4, 2017. (HT Photo)
A dance performance at the Independence Gala 2017 show at Southbank Centre in London on October 4, 2017. (HT Photo)

Attended by leading members of the Indian community and British representatives, the event included Bharat Natyam, Kuchipudi, Mohiniyattam, Chhau and Gotipua performances by artistes from India and Britain in back-to-back sequences. 

They were interspersed seamlessly by British artistes performing hip-hop, tap dancing, choir singing and Latin and ballroom dancing. The artistes included noted a percussionist specialising in Indian rhythms, Bernhard Schimpelsberger, and choreographer Gilles Chuyen.

A dance performance at the Independence Gala 2017 show at Southbank Centre in London on October 4, 2017. (HT Photo)
A dance performance at the Independence Gala 2017 show at Southbank Centre in London on October 4, 2017. (HT Photo)

A major segment was the performance by Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood and Israeli composer and musician Shye Ben Tzur, who collaborated with Indian band Rajasthan Express, enthralling the audience with numbers from their critically acclaimed album Junun.

Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood at the Independence Gala 2017 show at Southbank Centre in London on October 4, 2017. (HT Photo)
Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood at the Independence Gala 2017 show at Southbank Centre in London on October 4, 2017. (HT Photo)

British groups at the event included the Avant Garde Dance Company (hip-hop/contemporary), Old Kent Road (tap dance), Step Change Studios (Latin and ballroom dancing), London Contemporary Voices (choir) and Phillio Granell & the Phaedra Ensemble.

The UK-India Year of Culture in 2017 was announced jointly by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and then premier David Cameron during Modi’s November 2015 visit here to mark UK-India cultural ties and the 70th anniversary of India’s independence.

A dance performance at the Independence Gala 2017 show at Southbank Centre in London on October 4, 2017. (HT Photo)
A dance performance at the Independence Gala 2017 show at Southbank Centre in London on October 4, 2017. (HT Photo)

The Independence Gala was presented by the Indian high commission in collaboration with India’s culture ministry and Indian Council for Cultural Relations, and curated by Indian festival producer Teamwork Arts with support from Diageo and BP. 

The performance by Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood, Israeli composer Shye Ben Tzur and Indian band Rajasthan Express at the Independence Gala 2017 show at Southbank Centre in London on October 4, 2017. (HT Photo)
The performance by Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood, Israeli composer Shye Ben Tzur and Indian band Rajasthan Express at the Independence Gala 2017 show at Southbank Centre in London on October 4, 2017. (HT Photo)

The final performance of the Year of Culture will see the Bharat Symphony being performed by noted violinist L Subramaniam and the London Symphony Orchestra at Barbican Concert Hall on November 28.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Prasun Sonwalkar was Editor (UK & Europe), Hindustan Times. During more than three decades, he held senior positions on the Desk, besides reporting from India’s north-east and other states, including a decade covering politics from New Delhi. He has been reporting from UK and Europe since 1999.

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