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Cultural diplomacy and Euro-Asian encounter

Published on 22 November 2013
Updated on 05 April 2024

This evening, 21st November, 2013, Europe met Asia on the lush and verdant lawns of the Spanish Ambassador’s residence in New Delhi. Two of the greatest performers of Flamenco guitar music, with a singer and accompanist and a powerfully expressive female Flamenco dancer performed before a select audience of about 200, the Indian capital’s glitterati. They were joined on the stage by a group of seven Langa musicians and singers from the land of Marwar in Rajasthan.

That juxtaposition would have been fine enough, but the musical encounter had a deeper purpose. It is well established that the Roma of Europe are descendants of people that migrated from Rajasthan and Punjab some ten centuries back. They carried with them their culture, music and language, and they have shaped the Flamenco tradition in Spain. Is it thus not natural that this music of the two lands should meet and interact?

This is precisely what is being attempted in a program that was launched today, sponsored by the Spanish Embassy and a clutch of corporate sponsors – which is the style of today’s diplomatic gala receptions, together with the heritage trust of the former Maharaja of Jodhpur, Gaj Singh Ji, who is the custodian of the vast family heritage of Jodhpur, including the incomparable Meharangarh Fort, which is arguably India’s finest fort with a 700 year history, located on a lofty rock escarpment, directly above the magnificent old town of Jodhpur. Meharangarh plays host to a great festival of traditional music, from Rajasthan and increasingly from all over the world, attracting among others the likes of Mick Jagger and Sting.

Now, over the coming years, Spain and Merhangarh Trust are to work jointly on unraveling the musical links and the fusion that is possible through such renewed encounter.

This evening we saw what is possible. At the end of their separate performances, the Flamenco and Langa musicians performed together, in unscripted fashion. Remember, they cannot communicate by language, since neither side knows English to make a bridge between Spanish and Rajasthani. But music is its own language and they seemed to communicate effortlessly, weaving their fusion magic, in extraordinary fashion. And at the very end the three women, the Flamenco dancer and the two Kalabela dancers performed together, again in free-flowing idiom, enjoying themselves and infecting their audience.

It is thus that Europe and Asia weave their magic, reaffirming their heritage, revitalizing a shared tradition.


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