Photo credits – Neoh Chee Jin
Director Roysten Abel turned his fascination with Rajasthan’s Manganiyar community into an audio-visual feast for the senses.
While on the lookout for folk musicians in a Delhi slum for one of his tours, Roysten Abel came across the Manganiyars, a formerly nomadic tribe living in the Rajasthan desert. Practicing a hybrid faith of Islam and Hinduism, a pair Manganiyars followed him everywhere he went for the next two weeks, “seducing” him with their songs. Abel was so intrigued by that experience that he created The Manganiyar Seduction, a light and sound spectacle that brings audiences through that same seduction journey he went through.
How a troupe of Rajasthani musicians ended up performing in Penang is another story worth telling. George Town Festival’s director, Joe Sidek, recounts it as an aligning of stars. “How can it be that a festival director contacts the artist through Facebook? But, that is what I did,” he says of his first time reaching out to Roysten Abel. Abel, who usually never checks his notifications, just so happened to see it that day and, as fate would have it, responded to Sidek.
And so The Manganiyar Seduction found itself performing to crowds in Dewan Sri Pinang, bringing their Sufi Islam and Hindu mystic songs to a festival in Malaysia. Rows of musicians sat in stacked boxes. As they played, their individual boxes lit up accordingly and as more musicians from the ensemble joined it, more boxes lit up, bringing the whole show to a bright, raucous climax that was as spiritual as it was gripping.
Roysten Abel has continued his work with the Manganiyar community and recently directed a theatre experience where young Manganiyar children protest against the prevailing education system. The high energy performance will be one of the highlight shows in George Town Festival 2017, satiating an appetite that has no doubt grown since Penang got its first taste of potent Manganiyar spirit.
The Manganiyar Seduction performed during George Town Festival 2012. The Manganiyar Classroom will run during George Town Festival 2017, one of the major ASEAN arts festivals in Malaysia, organised by Joe Sidek Productions Sdn Bhd.