Manganiyars Play at the Arts Centre
“The Manganiyar Seduction” is on at Arts Centre Melbourne this month. The vision of theatrical director Roysten Abel, the founder of the Indian Shakespeare Company, the performance sees 40 musicians from three generations of Manganiyars, perform in an illuminated 36-window ‘jewel box’. The box is inspired by Amsterdam’s red-light district and the Hawa Mahal Palace in Jaipur. The musicians are seated in a four-storey bank of 36 redcurtained pods, each one framed by light bulbs and occupied by a single performer who is illuminated whenever his voice or playing joins the extended piece of music being performed. The Manganiyars are a caste of Muslim musicians who are predominantly settled in the districts of Jaisalmer, Barmer and Jodhpur, in the heart of the Thar Desert. Their repertoire includes ballads about Kings and also Sufi poems written by various mystics.