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Sidi Goma: Black Sufis of Gujarat


Brunei Gallery Lecture Theatre, SOAS London WC1; 15 October 2007

Opening the diverse series of SOAS Music Department's concerts in their attractive Brunei Theatre (click on the link above for full details through to April) twelve African-Indian Sidis from Gujarat gave a full house audience at SOAS an intriguing and invigorating evening. The Sidis, devotees to an African saint and symbolic ancestor, are descendants of Africans who travelled across the Indian Ocean to India over the last 1000 years.

It began with a beautiful muezzin call to prayer and seated ritual songs, proceeding with gradual increase of intensity to two climaxes of wild dancing accompanied by rhythmically interesting and increasingly thunderous drumming, the second half (after but a short pause for costume change) face-painted and in costumes adorned with peacock feathers.-

Their boundless energy was captivating and roused the audience to vociferous enthusiasm; at the end those for whom there was room joined the performers to dance together. There were microphones on stage, but they were managed discreetly.

Billed as a lecture-demonstration, there was a brief introduction to orient us about this tribal Sufi community and its culture, but it would have been perhaps more helpful for an ethno-musical department to have provided some information about the instruments and texts being sung in a hand-out (or spoken, if costs preclude printed programmes)?

Surfing the Web, I have been able to enlighten myself about the interesting malunga, the tall single-stringed instrument pictured above - an instrument resembling the Brazilian berimbau - virtuosic solos upon which closed the first half and opened the second.

Together with a few other first-timers, we arrived very early as advised. However, it transpired that this was unnecessary as there were only a couple of dozen of us waiting when the doors opened. We were, only then, issued on entry with numbered tickets; to our surprise, by about a quarter hour after the start, the hall had filled up nearly completely. The atmosphere was relaxed, with younger people of all nationalities (I was by far the oldest there) coming and going throughout the entertainment.

Peter Grahame Woolf

FREE ADMISSION TO ALL CONCERTS - NO BOOKING REQUIRED Venue capacity is limited and we operate a first come first served system.
Recommended for a different musical experience; a Ngoni wizard (West African lute) 5 November, and Korean Kayagum and Dance 19 November.