Deep in the com­mon groove

Hands Per­cus­sion and African en­sem­ble Dafra Drum com­bine for a per­cus­sive spec­tac­u­lar at Is­tana Bu­daya.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Arts - By ROUWEN LIN star2@thes­

OLIVIER Tarpaga might be a dancer, chore­og­ra­pher and mu­si­cian, but he also paints pic­tures. Not nec­es­sar­ily the brush on can­vas kind, but def­i­nitely the stuff that half-for­got­ten mem­o­ries and dreams are made of.

When he talks about his up­com­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion with homegrown per­cus­sion group Hands Per­cus­sion in Wind Of Nomads ,a con­cert fea­tur­ing sev­eral new works on African and Asian per­cus­sion, the im­agery comes fast and fu­ri­ous.

“It is about travers­ing the desert in an old train, it is wide open spa­ces as far as the eye can see. Think about rid­ing a camel in the desert in the rain. In the desert, ev­ery­one smiles when there is rain. What does that sound like, what does it feel like?” he of­fers by way of ex­pla­na­tion when asked about the pro­duc­tion.

Wind Of Nomads plays at Is­tana Bu­daya in Kuala Lumpur, start­ing Aug 4.

At its core, Wind Of Nomads delves into hu­man and cul­tural mi­gra­tion, draw­ing on the en­ergy that em­anates from many life­times of search­ing, ex­plor­ing, find­ing one­self. It re­flects a jour­ney of dis­cov­ery, a yearn­ing to find out what lies be­yond the hori­zon.

“It is about that spirit of ad­ven­ture, one that you find not just within your­self, but in the soul of the great deserts in Africa and Asia,” muses Tarpaga.

One can al­most feel the wind in your hair when he talks this way. Your feet might be weary on this jour­ney, but a heart full of song and hope will get you far.

The award-win­ning founder and artis­tic di­rec­tor of West African drum and dance en­sem­ble Dafra Drum is cur­rently based in the United States and is a se­nior lec­turer in Dance at the Univer­sity of the Arts in Philadel­phia and a lec­turer in the De­part­ment of Dance of Prince­ton Univer­sity.

Tarpaga, born in Burk­ina Faso, plays nu­mer­ous tra­di­tional in­stru­ments and is an ex­pert of the djembe drum.

Tarpaga, to­gether with two other mem­bers of Dafra Drum, are join­ing forces with Hands Per­cus­sion in Wind Of Nomads. This is the first time th­ese two groups will be tak­ing to the stage to­gether. Marimba player Tan Su Yin will also be per­form­ing, while dancer/ chore­og­ra­pher Wong Jyh Shy­ong (JS) is also on board with the chore­og­ra­phy di­rec­tion.

Wind Of Nomads, the cul­mi­na­tion of al­most three years of col­lab­o­ra­tive work, makes use of more than a dozen in­stru­ments in its sto­ry­telling, in­clud­ing the Chi­nese shigu, Tai­wanese drum, Pek­ing drum, er hu, hang drum, and tra­di­tional in­stru­ments from half­way across the world like the kora, djembe, cal­abash, lolo, bal­a­fon and dun dun.

“A project like this needs space to breathe, and the best part was watch­ing us com­plete each other. It is just so beau­ti­ful to bring far­away styles to­gether to create a sort of hy­brid. The in­stru­ments can all stand alone in their beauty, but in Wind Of Nomads, they come to­gether so well, to com­ple­ment each other. The re­sult is beau­ti­fully com­plex, so emo­tional and pow­er­ful. It is truly spec­tac­u­lar,” says Tarpaga.

The high-oc­tane drum­ming per­for­mances that Hands Per­cus­sion is so well-known for will be an in­te­gral part of this show, but Wind Of Nomads is not afraid to ex­plore its softer side as well.

“The con­cert, fea­tur­ing 15 mu­si­cians, is made up of quiet mo­ments as much as the en­er­getic ones, a re­flec­tion of the jour­ney we all share,” says Bernard Goh, Hands Per­cus­sion co-founder and artis­tic di­rec­tor.

“We re­ally hope that the love and pas­sion that we put into Wind of Nomads will shine through and that what we do touches the au­di­ence in some way,” he adds.

Wind Of Nomads also kicks off Hands Per­cus­sion’s 20th an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tions this year.

In Septem­ber, the Hand­spro­duced DeafBeat 10th An­niver­sary Con­cert, fea­tur­ing eight hear­ing-im­paired youths, who were first coached by Goh in 2007, will be staged at DPac.

Also in Septem­ber, Hands’ 20th an­niver­sary con­cert Per­cus­sion Par­adise will be held as part of the Kuala Lumpur In­ter­na­tional Arts Fes­ti­val (Di­verseCity 2017).

“We re­main as com­mit­ted as ever in spread­ing the drum cul­ture which has be­come such a big part of all our lives for so many years,” says Goh.

For the Wind Of Nomads ad­ven­ture, Goh is most pleased with the fluid na­ture of the col­lab­o­ra­tion.

“Olivier and I might be from what seems to be very dif­fer­ent back­grounds – he’s from Burk­ina Faso and is now based in Philly and I am from Serem­ban – but when work­ing with each other, we re­alise that we have many sim­i­lar ideas and opin­ions that are able to feed off each other,” says Goh.

As the in­ter­view ends, Tarpaga, ev­i­dently, can’t speak any more highly of the process of ex­plo­ration and dis­cov­ery.

“I would like peo­ple to come and leave with the new. Let your­self fly with us, let your­self free. Join us on this jour­ney of dis­cov­ery, and I prom­ise you, you will go home richer than be­fore the con­cert,” he con­cludes.

Wind Of Nomads is on at Lam­bang Sari, Is­tana Bu­daya in KL on Aug 4-6 and Aug 11-13 (8.30pm, with ad­di­tional 3pm weekend mati­nees). Tick­ets range be­tween RM78 and RM168. Ticket pur­chase and en­quiries: hand­stick­et­, or call 012-502 6883 / 012-779 8009. FB: Hands Per­cus­sion.

The Wind Of Nomads show is the cul­mi­na­tion of al­most three years of col­lab­o­ra­tive work be­tween Hands Per­cus­sion and Dafra Drum. It makes use of more than a dozen in­stru­ments in its sto­ry­telling. — M. AZHAR ARIF/The Star

US-based Dafra Drum is a mul­ti­cul­tural group that per­forms dance and drum­ming from the Djeli/Griot tra­di­tion of West Africa. — LIL­IAN WU

‘The in­stru­ments can all stand alone in their beauty, but in Wind of Nomads, they come to­gether so well, to com­ple­ment each other,’ says Tarpaga. — BAN TENG RUEN

Hands Per­cus­sion joins forces with Dafra Drum in Wind Of Nomads, which plays at Is­tana Bu­daya in KL, start­ing Aug 4. — BAN TENG RUEN

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