Friday, March 19, 2010
Waiting once again for Sidi Goma! By Sajitha Madathil
Waiting for Sidi Goma!!
The ten-day Second International Afro-Asian theatre ITFoK-09 from 20th December to 29th December at Thrissur, had opened its wings with the unique African-Indian heritage of Sidi Goma performance, which brought about a fascinatingly exuberant energy and joy; indeed, a captivating, powerful and exhilarating experience for the land of Pooram!!
The main theme of the festival was African plays. The groups that came from South Africa and Kenya had performed five plays. Those theatre groups had included in them artists from different social set-ups and communities, and was a real reflection of African society. It was interesting to see the reaction of the audience, reflecting what Africans meant for them…black, huge, curly-haired…perceptions had turned upside down when they saw real Indians matching their concept about real Africans!
Black Sidis of Gujarat are a tribal Sufi community of East African origin. They came to India eight centuries ago. In Gujarat they had settled down at Bharuch village. They had been leading their silent, invisible life for centuries because factors such as they were black, from Africa, and Muslim, had kept them at lower socio-economic and educational levels. But, their life started changing from 1985 when the power of their ritual, folk performance was experienced by the society. They claimed their visibility in Indian society from their roots...from their songs, percussion and dance... the flames of which were kept with them for the last 800 years.. They had carried with them their exceptionally rich musical tradition and kept it alive and flourishing through the generations, unknown to the rest of the world.
Sidi men and women perform sacred music and dance during rituals in the shrines to Bava Gor...Most of them are musically inclined, who recognise music as a tool for becoming closer to God. Over the time, the Sidis' native African music styles, melodic and rhythmic structures, lyrics and musical instruments mingled with local influences in Gujarat to form this unique and symbolic representation of African-Indianness. These singing and dancing sessions were very community-based till they got a chance to perform at Delhi. Thankfully some of the cultural authorities identified the magic of Sidi Goma and through Western Cultural Centre, Udaipur, had redesigned the performance for the modern stage! And a new costume has been designed for exhibition of this newly identified performance!
Sidi Goma perform in a group of twelve: four lead musicians (drummers/singers) and eight dancers. Mukarbhan, Mushindo, Thaz, Thamama and Mayi mizha are the instruments used for performance. These all are identified as African instruments but they have now lost the continuity of their tradition in East Africa where they came from!
The program presented an overview of Sidi ritual performance, consisting of joyful, satirical praise dances to their Saint. Intoxicating drum patterns in rhythm support the dancers who perform with feats of liveliness and strength, gradually reaching an ecstatic climax. While the music gradually gets more rapid and excited, the dances unfold with constantly evolving individual and small-group acts of animal-gesture imitations and certain types of circle dances. Most exciting was the second part of their performance the climax of which came, with the performers breaking coconut on their heads while dancing!
Sabeer Siddi thinks that Sidi Goma performance changed their life. "In India people think of us as Africans, although we are Indians.’ These identity issues are always there. They sing their songs in Arabic, Swahili, Hindi and Gujarati...sometimes they mix all languages together. Sabeer is proud about his dance, yes!!It was really an exciting experience. The entire audience in the Regional Theatre of Thrissur was throbbing with the big drum mugarban, dancing to the powerful rhythm, howling while performers were breaking coconuts..Yes.. Sabeer, we all are waiting. Waiting once again for Sidi Goma!