Babatunji in Biophony.
Photo by Quinn B. Wharton.
A dancer presses his body into the outline of a cone of light; the halo lifts upwards, a shofar sounds its lament, and Resin begins. As the piece moves from intimate duets to the flashing, barely visible footwork of a quartet of dancers, Alonzo King explores the possibilities of the vast and diverse field of Sephardic music. In this “Diaspora within the Diaspora,” as curator and ethnomusicologist Francesco Spagnolo writes, “the music of the Sephardic Jews has come into contact with music from Europe, including Italy and the Balkans, and especially with the Arabic and Turkish musical worlds.” Rare archival field recordings are interwoven with Judeo-Spanish songs, and the stage is transformed into a shimmering and timeless landscape, as tiny hardened tears cascade downwards in streams of light.
Rasa, a deeply evocative and shimmering piece, set to an original score by tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain, which was called “an intriguing wonder” by the New York Times. Zakir Hussain’s mastery of classical Indian percussion and unique vision of world music have brought him worldwide renown, including a Grammy nomination, and his collaborations with Alonzo King renew classical forms in an entirely innovative way. Tabla music began as dancing music, in Northern Indian courts in the early 1700s, and its hypnotic intensity and complex rhythms convey the strong feeling that they are meant to move the body. Rasa is thus both a continuation of a deep tradition--the interdependence of dance and tabla music as art forms--and an expression of the contemporary global vision of both artists.