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Kathak and Sufiyah: Perfectly matched

The choreography and dance arrangements of Kathak dancer Mangala Bhatt to Sufi music by Adil Hussaini Khan, Qawwal Sufi singer of the Gwalior Gharana, was not a challenge to the senses. This new art form of Sufi music and Kathak dance, was a natural configuration, a perfect meld of the aural and the visual by two immensely talented performing artistes.

Mangala Bhatt at Chowmahalla PalacePhoto: Anna Rao
The dancer, Mangala Bhatt was a picture of assured confidence, from her elegant angarkha, to her graceful movements. She used the stage well to enact stories in dance to the Sufi poetry sung by Adil Hussain. Mangala Bhatt created a perception of floating in a serene space and time, using all the elements and movements of Kathak. She used the stage and backdrop of the Chowmahalla Palace very well; the pillared hall and chandeliers providing an exclusive and stylish setting. Mangala’s hand gestures, her footwork, her expression, her rhythms created with the ghungroos were refined. Though it is part of the grammar of Kathak, the multiple spins, were stylish and pleasing to the eye, and therefore suited to this confluence of Kathak and Sufiyah music, as in Sufi whirling (whirling dervishes). There was not a moment in the dance that was incongruent, Sufi music and Kathak appeared to be the perfect couple, made for each other. This will be a lasting innovation.

The singer, Adil Husseini was a revelation, his voice - warm, resonant and mellifluous, his intonation and articulation crisp. He conveyed emotion with great melodic skill. Adil Hussein is an extraordinarily gifted musician, climbing up and down the scale with ease; at home and in control, both in the lower register and in the upper register. A master of rhythm, he was an able partner to Mangala Bhatt in this conjunction of Kathak and Sufiyah music. Accompanying Adil Hussein and Mangala Bhatta in the traditional style of Sufi music, were talented artistes on tabla, dholak, harmonium and backing vocals.

Sufi music which originates from Sufism, is a collection of poems which have been composed by some of Islam’s greatest saints. Sufi music is "peace-loving, pluralistic and tolerant", and in recent times, is catching on in appeal to young and old alike.

The music selected by Mangala and Adil was evocatively depicted in both dance and song; enough for the memories of the music and the dance linger on after the performance was over. All the artistes are from Hyderabad, but their talent is international deserving of a much bigger audience.