Challenging Western traditions of musical performance, musician Vidya Dengle, who is trained in Hindustani classical tradition, was accompanied by Manpreet Bedi on percussion during a concert in Kresge Recital Hall this past Friday.
Dengle was visiting Knox as part of her third time touring America. Before the concert was to begin, Professor of Music Sarah Day O’Connell said Dengle asked that the lights in Kresge were not turned down because “dimmed concert halls are a Western tradition” and “she prefers to see you.”
Dengle and Bidi sat on the floor of an elevated stage and both took great measure for the sound of their instruments just right before playing. Beginning with sustained notes, Dengle held her violin vertically so the top touched her the bottom of her blue-purple sari. With the first song called “Jog,” the changing rhythms gave way to an emerging beat that began as sparse and transformed into a fuller melody.
Since audience members were asked to move closer to the stage because it was a “very interactive performance,” they could better see Dengle when she tapped her foot under her sari or when Bidi scrapped his palm on a drum head and hear when they looked and talked to each other.
“It felt kind of casual even … they talked to each other to get the sound they wanted,” senior Kati Stunkard said.
Before the last piece, Dengle revealed to the audience what she was saying to Bedi.
“I’m asking him what should it be. What do you feel like?” she said.
Sophomore Josh Calef, who plays in two jazz combos, said he was impressed by the amount of improvisation going on.”
Noticing the subtle communication between the performers as the tempo of the sounds would alter, he said, “They were so in tune with each other while playing that they were able to communicate almost imperceptibly.”
Throughout the performance, Dengle and Bidi were very expressive with their music. While Western performers tend to hold few or little expressions on their face, Dengle and Bedi were expressive in instrument and body. Smiling during the second song, which featured a jovial melody at a fast tempo, Dengle’s hands raced down the neck of her violin.
The audience interacted with the music by shaking their head side to side, moving their hands to the rhythm or tapped their feet as they were captivated by music played in long, unbroken arches.
After ending, Dengle and Bedi stood up to a spirited applause from a mostly Western audience.