Positioned beside the lake in the Jnane Sbil Gardens, as part of a festival themed on Water and the Sacred, a concert entitled "Beloved Ganges" seemed very appropriateHowever, the premiere presented this afternoon was much more complex than simply an homage to the great Asian river or the related Hindu goddess, Ganga. As well as an element of classical Indian music, pieces inspired by 14th-16th century European music and texts were also presented, creating a kind of transcontinental medieval mashup
Samuel Cattiau (countertenor) and Quentin Dujardin (guitar) collaborate together as the Resonance Project, recreating and reinventing early musical scores and texts from the 12th-17th century. Cattiau has an unusually high and precise vocal range which, alongside Dujardin's guitar creates a sound which one might not necessarily expect from this era of music. So far, so inventive.
Once the Resonance Project was established, Cattiau came to know of Indian sacred texts contemporaneous with those he was working on in the European tradition. In particular, the Dhrupad genre, which is one of the oldest forms of Hindustani classical music and is mentioned in ancient and medieval Sanskrit texts. Dhrupad is the name for both the verse style of the poetry and the way in which it is sung, and it is frequently accompanied by the rudra veena, a stringed instrument said to have been created by the god Shiva.
This is where Pelva Naik came in. Having trained under several pre-eminent practitioners of both Dhrupad vocals and the rudra veena, she has played, practiced and taught throughout India and also abroad. On stage, she was accompanied by Sanjay Agle on the tambour pakhawaj drum.
The Fes Festival offers a real opportunity for artists who would not necessarily normally collaborate to come together and create something new and exciting. The combining of musical styles from East and West had real potential. And the result was not unpleasant - how could listening to musicians at the peak of their careers in such a lovely sunny setting be anything but pleasurable? However, although Cattiau, Dujardin and Naik all took time to explain their motivations, the component pieces and their history in both French and English, their experiment seemed rather too music-geeky. Cattiau sang in Spanish, English or Latin and Naik responded in Hindi and although it was all beautiful, I would have preferred to have spent my afternoon listening to one or the other; the resulting sum was not greater than the parts.
Review and photographs: Lynn Houmdi