THE intimate space of Istana Budaya’s Lambang Sari in Kuala Lumpur brought audiences closer to the electrifying beats of the recent Wind Of Nomads concert, a first collaboration between Burkina Faso’s renowned Dafra Drum troupe and our very own Hands Percussion.
Divided into two, hour-long segments of non-stop drumming combined with other artistic elements, it was the culmination of a three-year project between the groups and the brainchild of their respective artistic directors Bernard Goh and Olivier Tarpaga.
Inspired by the many journeys of humans across two of the world’s greatest deserts (Africa’s Sahara and China’s Gobi), Wind Of Nomads celebrates humankind’s innate sense of adventure, discovery and innovation.
The first segment represents land journeys and saw Hands’ 10 drummers, Jimmy Ch’ng, Ng Siu Yee, Jack Wan, Leong Kah Miu, Tai Chun Wai, Tee Wee Lin, Tee Leong Hoe, Karen Hii, Yeap Eng Zheong and Phang Jian Hao, performing with Dafra’s Flatie Dembele and Wilfried Souly.
Beating drums of various sizes with sticks and hands, the musicians sported white facial markings akin to the nomadic African and Mongolian tribespeople.
Everyone was at ease onstage with one another and performed with a clockwork precision that was simply mesmerising.
Music director and choreographer Tarpaga then delivered poetry in French concerning human movement across continents.
Later, Dembele enraptured the audience with effortless plucking of the kora, a 21-string West African harp which slightly resembles an Indian sitar.
According to Tarpaga, Dembele is the lead drummer for the National Orchestra of Burkina Faso and has composed music for established choreographers in Europe and Africa.
The second segment reflected travel by sea. Two Hands members performed movements that were a cross between ballet and classical Indian dance styles, amidst running water and wave sound effects.
The rest of the troupe, with Souly and Dembele, backed them with varied sounds of portable drums and floor gongs.
Tarpaga returned with more poetry, accompanied by brilliant marimba music courtesy of local guest musician Yon Nian Shee, a masters in music percussion performance graduate from the US Boston Conservatory.
She also did an instrumental duet with Dembele and Souly, who drummed along to her marimba piece. Souly then presented some martial arts-inspired hand and footwork (he is a renowned Burkina Faso choreographer, martial artist and professor of World Arts and Culture at the University of California in Los Angeles).
The show ended with an ensemble performance featuring the West African calabash — huge wooden bowls that are also utilised as food receptacles in major cultural festivals.
Placed on wooden mats, the calabash resembled wooden replicas of igloos, and when struck by sticks, gave out firecracker-like sounds, especially when the musicians drummed at full speed.
Wind Of Nomads was definitely another milestone for Hands which proudly showcased the outfit’s Malaysia Boleh spirit that was inspiring as well as entertaining.