La Semaine du Lot (8-14 March 2012)

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Musicians from Cahors in India
Marie-Josee Tortajada

EXCHANGE "The Mata Ganga Orchestra Tour artists made a musical river flow on Assi Ghat in Varanasi": It is with those words of praise that the national Indian press welcomed the performance of "Mata Ganga Orchestra Tour", multi-cultural musical formation of 22 Indian and Cahors artists.

Marie-Christine and Jerome Chaumie, founders of the association "Partage et Culture Sarasvati" from Cahors have for a very long time been involved in cultural, social and supportive actions between India and France. Now their wish was to realise the ambitious project of sending some pupils of the Grand Cahors Conservatoire to India to meet students of the C.J. Maa Music School of Rishikesh, which the association also supports. "Partage et Culture Sarasvati" mainly works in the field of artistic intervention towards promoting exchange between human beings and relations between cultures. This project was for Jerome Chaumie, also violin teacher in the Grand Cahors Conservatoire, a living example of the kind of the actions carried out by the association.

On the Beatles' footsteps


Thus between 10 and 26 February our nine musicians and singers from Cahors went to meet the pupils of the music school ran by tabla player Shivananda Sharma in the small city of Rishikesh. Located on the foothills of the Himalaya, Rishikesh is not only a Mecca of spirituality but also a cradle of Indian music, since it was in Rishikesh that George Harisson, devotee of sitar player Ravi Shankar, composed a number of melodies for the Beatles during some of the bands' retreats in one of the city's ashram.
The nine pupils of Shivananda Sharma, as well as our artists from the Lot region also benefited from renowned violinist Sukhdev Prasad Mishra's expertise, who accompanied the group during a part of their Indian tour. Passionate and perfectionist, Sukhdev Mishra ran a number of the group's rehearsals and arose the curiosity of our young artists for the techniques of Indian violin.
The "Mata Ganga Orchestra" group thus performed a colourful program, which they presented in four venues in Rishikesh and Varanasi (Benares). From Indian ragas to international melodies, from violin, slide-guitar (a kind of Indian guitar) and tabla solos to songs in Hindi, French and English. The group sang the Beatles and even introduced Vivaldi and Beethoven. The program came forth from this unique encounter, bringing two musical styles and cultures together.

Music cement of a relationship

For the French, one of the highlights of the tour was the concert they played inside an "orphanage" supported by the association, in front of about sixty young boys. "It was a moment full of shared emotion; here childhood has another dimension." said one of the young French artists. The Mata Ganga Orchestra's last performance took place in Varanasi during the week of Shivaratri, festival in honour of the Indian god Shiva. It was then in this holy city, overcrowded for the occasion, that the Franco-Indian group performed for the last time, welcomed by a large, enthusiastic audience of connoisseurs. As a young French artist pointed out, "It's an amazing opportunity to have performed this program in this city and in this context; here there's a very special atmosphere that fills you." "The music immediately got us closer; it prompted real curiosity and desire to know the others' culture", tells another. Music was also the cement of a relationship which got stronger and stronger as the journey progressed.
It was outside the rehearsals and the performances that all these young people could get to know each other, the ones working as guides for the others, and the others replying to the others' countless questions - especially "How is it in your country?"
Indeed the French were guided by their Indian friends during various touristic visits and walks which were organised between two rehearsals: The group visited the ashram in which the Beatles used to go for retreats, the holy city Haridwar, the Sikh temple in Delhi. They saw the Taj Mahal and walked along the ghats of Varanasi... Indian and French together took picturesque and indeed very animated Indian trains, they crisscrossed cities in cycle- and auto-rickshaws, they visited temples, they bargained in bazars... They smelled and breathed another culture, immersing themselves into it.
Puja, the young Indian girl whose scolarity is funded by the association, Ram the rickshaw-driver, Ramdani the boatman on the banks of the Ganges, they met all of them who illustrated our youngsters' journey and marked them with an unforgettable impression, shedding light about the structures of Indian society.

In concert in Cahors on 11 March [NB: the concert was cancelled.]

People from the Lot region will also have the opportunity to meet the young Cahors musicians, as they will be presenting their work with Sukhdev Prasad Mishra in concert during the "Rencontres Repercutantes" festival on Sunday 11 March at Auditorium du Grand Cahors at 5pm. If Marie-Christine and Jerome Chaumie have realised their dream, the exchange doesn't stop here: Their next step will be to invite all the Indian musicians and singers as well as their teachers, Shivananda Sharma and Sukhdev Prasad Mishra in order to perform the full program in front of the Lot's audience, so that this time, the musical river shall flow along the banks of the Lot river. This is a wish shared by all the artists of the Mata Ganga Orchestra. One evening in September, the documentary directed by Toulouse videomaker Nahum Ingrand, who accompanied the group along their adventure will be broadcasted in the Cahors Conservatoire, followed by a performance of the Indian musical program.

Impressions on a country unlike others

Images, sounds, colours, encounters... This journey deeply marked the youngsters from Cahors.
Chosen extracts:
"A deep impression of spiritual density which animates Hindus' daily life, a fervour that brings people together, and... agitation, the horns... and the cows; they are everywhere... their great respect for animals, their philosophy of life".
"This trip ruled out the cliches I had about this country, especially on misery and poverty. India isn't the fatalistic portrait that we draw here. Back in France, everything suddenly seems aseptic. In India there's a positive view on everything, a more human... natural dimension."


(Translation from Hindi by Vio)

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