Photo by Ravi G Nair
PERFORMANCE | World Sacred Spirit Festival, Nagaur
February 14, 2017
Ahhichatragarh Fort
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PARVATHY BAUL AND MEHDI NASSOULI : Mystical Dance and Poetry to the Stars
The meeting of two mystical traditions of Baul and Gnawa
India – Morocco

Tell me, oh crazy one,
What are you searching for on the pathways of the world?
Look in your room and you will find a gem there. (…)
The same cosmic game is being played in the human body,

Like the moon hides behind clouds.
To know oneself, that is what to pray for.
One who knows the Invisible, says Lalon,
Knows where to go.”

Fakir Lalon Shah

The poet, PARVATHY BAUL, swirls her arm in space toward the sky, caught in the spiral of the wind of a free spirit. She casts her presence of near medicinal qualities while reciting an evasive mystical poetry. Such is she a charmer emerged from another world. The young MEHDI NASSOULI affirms his gnawa heritage of great musical inspiration, a legacy that he so perfectly knows how to thrive in.

The Bauls (from vatul in Sanskrit, litterally “mad”, drunk on divine aspiration) are the last great nomad mystics of the world; between heaven and earth, between poetic ecstasy and physical reality, they dance. They are not far from the Gnawas and their universe whose roots go down further into the ancestral African trance… Meeting at the highest point.

Parvathy came to Nagaur before and she enlightened the majesty of the fort with her presence floating between sky and heaven. So did also the young Mehdi Nassoulli member of the Gnawa brotherthood tradition which also came came to Nagaur for ritual dance and singing in the Gnawa spirit.

For this 10-year birthday they will be performing together a real inspired celebration.

Parvathy Baul performs a vast repertoire of sung poems, accompanied by two small instruments: the single string ektara and the duggi drum. Although she follows the vocal style of her guru Sanathan Das Baul, she always impresses in it a flavour and an energy that are unique to her, acquired through many other Baul masters. As to her way of dancing, very particular given the slowness of her movements, she harks back to the legendary master Nithay Khepa.

The Baul (from the Sanskrit batul, literally taken “mad”, drunk on divine inspiration) are the last great mystic nomads of the world, between the heaven and earth, between poetic ecstasy and carnal reality, they whirl, the arm lifted high, in a spirit that calls to mind the free wind of the mind.

Whether inspired by Buddhism, by Hinduism or by Islam, is of no matter, «that which is dazed or swept away by the wind» sings the divine under every form. Beyond convention, dogma, and ritual, the Baul, anarchist of the sacred, sings everywhere: at home, on the road, in the boat helping him to cross the river, in the train, as well as in Nagaur Fort !

In another mystical tradition filled also with an universal conscience, the Gnawa from Morrocco also dance and sings between earth and sky.

The Gnawa are the descendants of West African slaves who were brought northward (Guinea, Mali ) but they claim their spiritual descent from Bilal al-Habashi, the Ethiopian who served as the Prophet Muhammad’s first muezzin, a person who calls the Muslim faithful to prayer.

The Gnawa originally used their music and dance to heal the wounds of slavery. Today their rituals are held to cure and protect from mental illness, scorpion bites, and malicious spirits. In Moroccan belief spirits cannot be exorcised. They believe, rather, that the spirits inhabit the possessed. Until the possessed submits to the possessor, the spirit will cause many problems in the possessed lifetime, thus it is very important to have ritual ceremonies in order to appease the spirits. Many Gnawa devotees, who are called “Muhibs”, which translates to “lover of trance”, must continue to surrender to the spirits and appease them.