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Global Music, Connecting Cultures Stories from the Rajasthani Road... from world music ensemble LIBANA

East ~ West ~ Zest!

USA | Saturday, 26 March 2011 | Views [2047] | Comments [3]

SEWA cooperative women tree farmers in Ganesh Pur, Gujarat singing us a goodbye song! (photo: Cheryl Weber)

SEWA cooperative women tree farmers in Ganesh Pur, Gujarat singing us a goodbye song! (photo: Cheryl Weber)

Dear Friends far flung and near,

Recently Libana performed at Wellesley College as part of the Art and Soul series. Hosting such artistic luminaries as poet Mary Oliver and Tibetan flutist Nawang Kechong, we were honored to be a small part of this mosaic of artistic and articulate visionaries. The performance space was low lit yet the radiance of our audience seated in intimate proximity to the stage illuminated our hearts and spirit. Attempting to interweave tidbits of story, a fleeting glimpse into our profound sojourn to India, proved to be a constant tangle of time management and concisement of word. Each sentence uttered had behind it a flood of remembered color, nuance, fragrance, rhythm, song, sunlight, generosity, warmth, welcome, depth and story. There was far too much tale to spin than an alleged concert could possibly allow - after all, the point is the music! Each time I spoke I felt as if I were offering the meagerest of morsels - though most likely the audience did not imbibe it this way- as I simultaneously relived the splendor of India and edited out what there was absolutely no time to elaborate upon. True, we are in Pisces time but really, it was like swimming in a fantastically glimmering sea and having to select only the smallest of offerings for those gathered.

I had no idea that only 13 days home my experience would remain so wildly undistilled (and conversely, would I even want it to be?) and that every Piscean seam in me would want to sit down, draw people closer, roll out a tapestry of stars, build a fire and gather around to embellish stories at their fullest to all who had the heart and curiosity to listen.

On January 8th, the new year just begun, LIbana performed a we're-going-to-India-and-here's-some-new-repertoire-we-want-to-try-out-on-you concert at the ever embracing Friends Meeting House in Cambridge. It was a convivial evening of long time fans, well wishers and bon voyage celebrants. Libana's show at Wellesley College, a full 2 months later, represents the other side of the journey with all that has transpired in between.

In between?? 

In between Libana sang, drummed and danced our way through India. By unplanned candlelight we performed at the venerable Ravi Shankar Center in Delhi. The moment I rang the sturdy Nepali yak bell summoning the commencement of the concert all electricity flickered to a stop as if signaled by it's deep tonality and resonance. Staff members scurried to obtain candles. The 6 of us sang on. You don't need to see to sing. "I arise facing east, I am asking toward the light" full out into the dark. Candles hurriedly lit and precariously tilting on various surfaces, the electricity returned. Candles too hastily snuffed, out it went again. It became clear why earlier, on the receptionist's desk, we had seen and pondered a large box of candles and a pyramid of match boxes. Light, dark, whatever, it was a sacred stream of moments to share the floorboards that have hosted Ravi Shankar, George Harrison and who knows who all else. 

Libana played at the American Embassy School where we taught for the first week, sharing the stage with dancing and drumming 4th graders and singing Middle and High schoolers. After a rollicking rendition of the west African dance Kakilambe, met by thunderous applause, 85 ten year olds, having learned what they'd just performed over the course of our residency week, lept off the stage, eyes aglow and one was heard to shout " We nailed it!" A fireworks of pride and artistry. 

Saturday of that week found us with an overflow all Indian audience at the American Cultural Center. Rapt, nodding and appreciative they burst into whoops of glee when Linda and Allison emerged in full mirrored sparkling garba garb procured in a swivet of shopping the day before. This well received concert garnered Libana the most unique review ever, and we continue to tease Allison, written up as "looking sexy yet graceful", that these raves about her may be as close to a marriage proposal as one could ever read! 

Journeying south to Ahmedabad we sang in the sunlit third floor of an artisan's collective, under a corrugated metal pavilion roof for 2,000 students at the Gandhi inspired C.N.Vidyalaya school, on the rough hewn outdoor stage at Barefoot College in rural Tilonia joined by Jordanians, Kenyans and Punjabis - a veritable music of the global spheres spontaneous festival! We sang for street kids at a safe haven tucked away in a maze of alleys and cut throughs in the bowels of Delhi. They thanked us with a Hindi rendition of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. 

Traversing high into the steep Himalayan foothills we sang on yet another planked stage, this time at The Children's Village, a school for Tibetan children living in exile, founded by the sister of the Dalai Lama. Currently on a 2 month vacation, the 150 children there when we visited have no family or home to return to. For even the youngest students, the school is their family and home. Well loved and cared for by the dedicated faculty and staff, they spend the chilly days playing soccer, riding bikes and awaiting the joyful springtime return of their 850 classmates.

A new song of ours, Peace Mandala, begins with a lone line of Om Mane Padme Hum. Tears filled my eyes as I locked into the gaze of a stripe sweatered 7 year old boy chanting chanting chanting the whole way through with me.

This is real I thought, my voice catching. His schooling is this. Om Mane Padme Hum. The very foundation of his education way up here in these mountains, 8,000 miles above sea level, is this. Om Mane Padme Hum.......He is 7. Our words in beautiful synchrony.

Dressed in dazzling green saris ("This is our uniform. We are tree growers" one woman announced proudly) the Landless Women's Collective of Ganesh Pur met us with a red paint dot to the brow, a pressing of rice into the red and a song of welcome. Lunch was served beneath the trees on comfortable sofas with large striped pillows. These women have negotiated the stewardship of neglected, arid acreage owned by the village and have turned it into a lush paradise of vegetables, fruits and medicinal herbs. Underneath this well tended canopy of trees we sang Now I Walk In Beauty and in turn they graced our reluctant departure with a lively heart widening Hindi farewell song, our hands fluttering good bye until we could no longer catch sight of each other. 

We sang in tenements, schools, under the open night sky, beneath trees and sunlight, where ever the spirit moved us. We were sung to as well, an exchange of hospitality, mutual admiration, culture, curiosity, warmth, celebration and some sort of mysterious unbridled love which passes between people when they approach each other with open hearts, deep eyes and a wild intuition to move toward each other. 

And now we are.....home? Separated from Mother India and her pandemonious liveliness. Yet, not. 

On stage at Wellesley, I was taken by surprise by the encompassing embrace, the loving hold she has on me. Mother India, her guiding spirits, loving hearts, challenges and hard work, vision and commitment. I am broken wide open by all I have seen. The stories continue. This nomadic blog will remain.

There are our stories and the stories told to us. So pull up a tree stump, come close to the fire.

We have tales to tell, worlds to listen, the thread, the story lives on.

In peace, grace and the spirit of this spinning planet ~


Marytha Paffrath




DEAR marytha and lovely libana women;i am eating up all your blogs always eager for the next--and now, rereading the former..they are filling my imagination with color and delight and wonder---how your spirits must have expanded to encompass such glorious experience--and to have filled so many hearts with your continuing river of song!!!! arms around--adrianne

  adrianne paffrath Mar 27, 2011 12:37 PM


So beautifully written, Marytha! It must be terribly difficult to capture in words what you and your Libana sisters experienced in India, but your lovely descriptions conjured up such strong images for me. Thank you for sharing. Your writing helped bring me close to a land I have never experienced in person.

  Sharon Webb Mar 31, 2011 6:34 AM


Finally find the time to read the blog entries. I'm totally blown away, and also vividly reminded of my month touring India in 1976 with my college chorus. What an amazing experience you have all had. Thanks for sharing it.

  Judy Kaye Apr 7, 2011 8:44 AM

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