Wednesday, May 13, 2009

If only Jon Stewart were here.

One of my favorite pastimes while traveling is taking in a good cultural performance significant to the country I am in. My reactions to these varied cultural performances, well, vary. While I walk in with an open mind there are times when the performance just does not jive with my personal taste. Sometimes I doze off, sometimes I let out a quiet chuckle and at other times I’ve gone so far as to sneak out a bit early. That being said, no show to date rivals that of the highly anticipated Dagar Brothers at Delhi’s Summer Music Festival.
The Dagar Brothers musical group consists of three very talented, gifted musicians and one dedicated vocalist and by dedicated I mean takes himself way too seriously. The performance itself can only be described as “voice throwing” or the crafting of one’s voice to sound like a musical instrument. I know what you’re thinking, “Hey, that sounds pretty neat.” And you’d be right - in theory it does.
Dana and I arrived at the performance space about 45 minutes early to snag ourselves a great seat. At 6:30pm, as promised, the illustrious Dagar Brothers came on stage to warm up and tune their instruments.  Two brothers were on the electric sitar, another was on the drums and the eldest, the lead "vocalist", was situated center stage in a cross legged position. After adjusting his legs for about 30 minutes, he greeted us with a welcoming, “Well, lets see how it goes today, right? Maybe it comes out, maybe it doesn’t. I’m not really in the mood. Let’s see if the mood gets better, these things don’t always work.”

I was shocked.  His tone was so indifferent! What kind of "get us psyched" attitude is that? Talk about setting expectations low. He certainly knew how to kill the mood. Part of me was appalled and another part intuitively prepared to experience what could be a funny performance.  

And by funny I mean freaking hilarious. The performance kicked off with the electric guitars hitting a consistent note while the lead vocalist started throwing. As if the "voice throwing" itself was not funny enough, the vocalist's gestures, facial expressions and body movements were enough to throw Dana and I both into internal fits of laughter. His eyebrows furrowed, hands and arms moved with reprimanding force and at times lightened up to what could only be described as the gesture of an innocent question. If one could hit mute and watch the video of the performance several times on one's computer one would be very tempted to fill in the blanks with dialogue.  

What made matters worse is that most of the audience was quite taken by this performance, as was Avnish, the owner of the guesthouse who brought us to the show. Avnish was to my right and Dana was to my left. I felt caught between the little Angel/Devil on my shoulders. Every time I glanced at Avnish, who was watching and embracing and appreciating the show I tried to calm down and see the beauty in this art form. Just when my internal hysteria would temporarily quell, a small squeak of laughter would escape Dana to my left and I followed suit.  Eventually it all came out, 10th grade style.  We both keeled over, laughter and tears escaping from our eyes. I acted like I had to sneeze. I pretended I needed to cough. The jig was up.  We were caught.

I took out my video camera. Maybe this would distract me. I needed footage of this. I couldn't help but think that some comedic genius needs to witness this show. Jon Stewart. Tina Fey. The comedy G-ds must know! 

Thankfully we grabbed some great footage of both the performance and our reactions to the performance.  We will have to wait until we return to the states to share the video since the Turkish gov blocks YouTube. More on that later!