The Black Sufis of Gujarat
If you think you've seen it all, think again: this is a rare opportunity to discover the joyful and exuberant devotional music and dance of the hidden community of Sidi African-Indians from Gujarat, India.
The Sidis of Gujarat are a tribal Sufi community of East African origin which came to India eight centuries ago and made Gujarat their home. They carried with them their exceptionally rich musical tradition and kept it alive and flourishing through the generations, unknown to the rest of the world.
A traditional occupation of African-Indian Sufis in Gujarat has been to perform sacred music and dance as wandering faqirs, singing songs to their black Sufi saint, Bava Gor. Sidi men and women perform sacred music and dance during rituals in the shrines to Bava Gor, and have lived on accepting alms for touring these devotional genres from villages to shrines for centuries. Their native African music styles, melodic and rhythmic structures, lyrics and musical instruments have mingled with local influences to form this final symbolic representation of African-Indian ness.
Sidi Goma perform in a group of twelve: four lead musicians (drummers and singers) and eight dancers. The programme presents an overview of Sidi ritual performance, from the traditional muezzin call to prayer to a staged ritual performance. It centres around a danced zikr (prayer), consisting of joyful, satirical praise dances to their Saint, who is attributed with giving them the joy they express in their dances. Intoxicating drum patterns that "speak" the zikr prayers in rhythm support the dancers who perform virtuosic feats of agility and strength, gradually reaching an ecstatic climax. While the music gradually gets more rapid and excited, the dances unfold with constantly evolving individual and small-group acts of animal imitations, climaxing in a coconut-breaking feat. The programme also features solos on the malunga, an instrument resembling the Brazilian berimbau, as well as prayer calls and seated ritual songs (baithi, dhamal and qawwali).
The exuberant energy and joy Sidi Goma brings to the stage is captivating and powerful, their unique African-Indian heritage a fascinating discovery, and every performance an exhilarating experience!
The 12-piece group of drummers, singers and dancers has been busy ever since their international debut: first UK tour in 2002, a historic 'home-coming' to East-Africa (ZIFF 2003), a stunning showcase at WOMEX 2003 and intensive touring in Europe and the USA in 2004 as well as the release of their first CD - there is still a lot to come!