Image: Encounters: India at South Bank. Credit: Sarita Divis.
Over the weekend, Brisbane’s fine, sunny weather added the ideal finishing touch to the culmination of the vibrant week-long Encounters: India Festival.
Just beside the Queensland Performing Arts Centre, a huge crowd milled about the cosy array of stalls that tantalised with their tasty Indian dishes while nearby, brightly coloured trinkets and clothing items vied for attention. The many tables and chairs were constantly occupied as visitors moved back and forth in an attempt to savour as much of the abundant selection of reasonably-priced Indian fare as possible.
As the afternoon wore on, the crowd began making its way to The Courier-Mail Piazza where The Australian Art Orchestra in collaboration with Guru Karaikudi Mani and the Sruthi Laya Ensemble were playing their exceptional blend of Carnatic and Western jazz.
The musical showmanship and talent on display at this event, called Two Oceans, was outstanding. Maestros of Western and traditional musical instruments wooed the applauding crowd to fever pitch with their innovative fusion of Western jazz and traditional Indian music.
The final musical feat between the horn/percussion section of The Australian Art Orchestra and the Sruthi Laya Ensemble’s flute, ghatam and mridangam, drove the admiring crowd to its feet demanding an encore. If music is meant to transcend all barriers, then Two Oceans epitomised that saying in every sense of the word.
But the night was still young and as the number of visitors swelled, lovers of Indian culture were treated to Beyond Bollywood, a spectacular concert featuring a host of local talented performers. Concert attendees were privy to the likes of classical Indian dance (Odissi), a rich fusion of Bollywood beats cum Jazz sounds in the aptly coined BollyJazz musical extravaganza and introduced to the latest dance fitness craze, BollyCise – move over Zumba!
The night proved to be full of even more surprises. About half a dozen cabs entered the performance space, barely managed to squeeze in front of the stage when out popped a colourfully dressed performer from each cab. Then the crowd went wild as the Shere e Punjab Bhangra team took to the stage with their energetic showmanship and contagious passion for dance.
Despite the cool temperature, the festival finale exuded warmth and camaraderie made all the more palpable by its enthusiastic performers. What a befitting end to Encounters: India, yet another dynamic performing arts and culture event hosted here in vibrant Brisbane.
ghatam – large, narrow-mouthed earthenware water pot used as percussion instrument in India
mridangam – a double-ended drum and ancient percussion instrument of South India
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