Friday 24th May 2024
COPYRIGHT © 2024 Thamarai


Southbank Centre, 15 April – 25 April

From morning yoga to the latest music and fashion, London’s love affair with the Indian subcontinent continues as Southbank Centre launches the second fesitval of South Asian culture with a divine weekend of Sufi music, dance and poetry.

London, UK – Southbank Centre’s riverside venues and spaces will be suffused with love for the divine as devotional singers and poets gather for Muzaffar Ali’s prestigious Sufi festival Jahan e Khusrau, which provides the focus for the opening weekend of Alchemy – now in its second year. Artists confirmed for Southbank Centre’s 11-day celebration of South Asian culture include actors Meera Syal and Javed Jaffrey; the return of tabla maestro Talvin Singh; legendary Sufi singer Hans Raj Hans; writers and journalists Tahmima Anam, William Dalrymple and Amit Chaudhuri; TV presenter Anita Rani: pop icon Kailash Kher and rising-star Raghu Dixit. A hard-hitting series of talks and debates explore issues thrown up by the region’s rapid economic growth. Beyond the ticketed events, Alchemy extends an open invitation to all to come and enjoy the festival atmosphere at an exciting range of free events ranging from morning yoga to daytime events for children and outdoor street theatre to pre-concert dance demonstrations and performances.

Jude Kelly, Artistic Director of Southbank Centre, said:

“The past decade has seen one of the world’s oldest and most fecund cultures transform into an economic superpower. There is perhaps no region more emblematic of the challenges and opportunities created by rapid economic growth than the Indian subcontinent – where the tensions between old and new, rural and urban, science and religion are so visible, so tangible. Southbank Centre’s second Alchemy festival goes deeper into South Asia’s traditional and contemporary cultural landscape with 11 thrilling days of music, dance, fashion and debate.”

Southbank Centre is delighted to be hosting the prestigious Sufi festival – Jahan e Khusrau – which takes place in Delhi annually, on the opening weekend of Alchemy (15-17 April). Conceived and designed by filmmaker and painter Muzaffar Ali, Jahan e Khusrau is a festival dedicated to Hazrat Amit Khusrau, the 13th century Sufi poet saint. Audiences can experience world-class Sufi artists from across North India and Kashmir, including acclaimed devotional singer Hans Raj Hans who performs at the Royal Festival Hall on 15 April; Realm of the Heart a night of poetry, song and dance featuring actor Javed Jaffrey, accomplished Bharatanatyam dancer Malavika Sarrukai with Kathak dancer Manjari Chaturvedi (Queen Elizabeth Hall, 16 April). With Sufi-inspired fashion, visual art, talks and lectures, documentary screenings and talk with writer and Sufi expert William Dalrymple and a chance to watch master calligraphers Anis Siddiqui and Qamar Dargar at work, Festival-goers will get the opportunity to engage with many different aspects of one of the Indian sub-continent’s most fascinating and beguiling artistic legacies.

Raghu Dixit, whose unique brand of Asian folk-rock recently earned him an appearance on Later with Jools Holland, further underlines his crossover appeal with a performance in the Queen Elizabeth Hall on 15 April. Tamil Londoner Susheela Raman (Queen Elizabeth Hall, 19 April) showcases recent collaborative work with Rajasthani musicians and on 24 April famed electro musician, producer and tabla player Talvin Singh teams up with world-renowned sitar player Niladri Kumar – in a night presented in association with Darbar – for what promises to be a breathtaking performance of classical Indian music in the Front Room at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. With numerous albums and hit songs to his credit Kailesh Kher promises to rock the Royal Festival Hall on 25 April with his trademark blend of Indian folk, funk and Sufi mysticism.

SAMA sees a mix of divine music, dance and poetry on the stage of the Queen Elizabeth Hall including poetry readings by popular Indian actor Javed Jaffrey, versatile vocalists Azalea Ray and Malini Awasthi and outstanding Bharatanatyam dancer Malavika Sarrukai, with Qawwali maestro Wajahat Hussein Badayuni completing the evening. On 17 April, The One Show’s Anita Rani hosts Songbirds, a free afternoon of female British singer-songwriters in The Front Room at Queen Elizabeth Hall. Later that evening acclaimed sarod player Soumik Datta’s Circle of Sound (Purcell Room, 17 April) weaves Indian classical music with the sounds of western drums performed by percussion virtuoso Taalis. Saxophonist Arun Ghosh presents a live action silhouette film in the Purcell Room on 23 April with clarinet, double bass, cello and percussion set to German animator Lotte Reiniger’s stunning 1926 classic The Adventures of Prince Achmed – the oldest surviving animated feature film.

Through the Glass Brightly – Celebrating Shobana Jeyasingh (Queen Elizabeth Hall, 17 April) includes a specially staged event of dance with champion beat boxer Shlomo and an integrated Q&A with journalist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. On the next evening in the Purcell Room, choreographer and Kathak innovator Gauri Sharma Tripathi premieres a new alchemic collaboration with Mumbai-born British soprano Patricia Rozario. On 18 April, the celebrated Alarmel Valli performs Bharatanatyam solo dance in the Queen Elizabeth Hall in a double bill with the ‘Queen of Hindustani music’ Begum Parveen Sultana. Throughout the festival the Clore Ballroom provides opportunities to both dance and learn about a range of Indian dance styles in Free afternoon and pre-concert sessions led by leading UK exponents. On 20 April London’s Bhavan Centre – which propagates Indian art and culture in the UK – showcases Indian music and dance with Takita and on 21 April Why do South Asian Dance? features two most famous South Asian styles (Kathak and Bharatanyam) performed and explained by Sonia Sabri and Anusha Subramanyam, two of their finest exponents in the UK today.  Alchemy looks towards the future on 24 April with Choreogata, Akademi’s brand new platform for rising stars of South Asian contemporary dance on the Purcell Room stage.

Popular actress and writer Meera Syal takes part in the first-ever all South Asian female performance of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues (Purcell Room, 17 April) that celebrates the strength and talent of South Asian women. Bangladeshi author Tahmima Anam (Level 5 Function Room, 16 April) discusses the brutal War of Independence in her new novel The Good Muslim in the year that celebrates 40 years of Bangladesh’s independence. Spreading the Alchemy net further Zarghuna Kargar, former presenter of the groundbreaking Afghan Women’s Hour, reveals stories heard during her time in Afghanistan in Hidden Stories from Women of Afghanistan (Level 5 Function Room, 15 April). On 16 April four writers from Mumbai explore the mythic inner-life of India’s most populous city in Tales of Maximum City and on 18 April, BBC’s Razia Iqbal interviews author Maha Khan Philips ‘the Candace Bushnell of Karachi’ about life and society in Karachi, Pakistan (both in Level 5 Function Room). Famous story teller Vayu Naidu looks at Divine Divas, Curious Courtesans and Being Brit (Level 5 Function Room, 22 April) and Gitanjali (Clore Ballroom, 22 April) marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Nobel Laureate and Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore with a specially commissioned audio-visual concert of poetry, music and dance. The Alchemy Debates series in the Royal Festival Hall’s level 5 Function Room take the temperature of a changing continent throughout the Festival with topics devised in partnership with the British Council.

This year Alchemy offers a wider range of Free Events for Festival-goers, from morning Shadow Yoga Sessions (The Clore Ballroom, 19-20 April) to exciting Fashion Shows with music supplied by DJ Nihal (Clore Ballroom, 15 and 18 April) and dance workshops including Classical Indian Moves (23 April); Kathak (24 April); Temple & Court with Gauri Sharma Tripathi (24 April) and Bhangra Social Dance (24 April). The Alchemy Market (15-17 April and 22-24 April) in Southbank Centre Square will offer a variety of hot food, chai and Indian crafts on both weekends of the Festival. A specially commissioned photo exhibition – Leaders (Royal Festival Hall Foyers, 15-25 April) – will celebrate the 21st, 20th and 30th anniversaries of UK pioneering cultural organisations sampad, Akademi and Shobana Jeyasingh dance company. Taking place all over the site on 23 April will be Chutney in the Street!, Kuljit Bhamra’s spicy street mix of up-tempo dance and song backed by tabla, guitars and percussion – inspired by the fascinating Indo-Caribean street theatre tradition.