Special to The Record
Passionate music, exhilarating dancing, colourful clothing, and eye-catching acrobatics.
It all adds up to the Spirit of India, a production by the Bollywood Masala Orchestra and Dancers that promises to be one of the most energizing shows ever performed at the Sid Williams Theatre.
Coming to the Comox Valley from a European tour, the 16-performer ensemble appears Sept. 26 at the Sid, part of the Blue Circle Series.
Founder and artistic director Rahis Bharti provided details during a phone interview from Germany.
Born in Jaipur, Bharti estimates he has shared the culture of the northwest Indian province of Rajasthan in 1,000 concerts in 85 countries in the past 14 years.
That includes his earlier groups the Dhoad Gypsies from Rajasthan and the Jaipur Maharaja Brass Band.
“Always I was seeking to create something new for India, for Rajasthan, for northern India,” he said about creating the Bollywood Masala Orchestra and Dancers four years ago.
“What I have done, I brought Indian dancers and traditional musicians from Rajasthan together. It’s something new mixing live music and the dance.”
A tabla (Indian drum) player, Bharti said he taught his musicians to create something new while still honouring Indian traditions.
“We always keep our traditions alive. We are the guardians of our traditions,” stated Bharti, born into the seventh generation of an Indian musical family that has performed for maharajas.
Travelling allows them to share that culture around the world, most recently about 40 shows in Europe.
“We were in Georgia, we were in Germany, in France, in Italy, then we are really excited to come to North America.”
The troupe is performing in Canada and the U.S. from September through November.
Shepherding such a large group on an international tour of two continents over seven months is no small challenge, he admitted.
For instance, acquiring travel visas from multiple countries for everyone on the tour is a big job by itself, he commented.
All the effort is worth it, he added.
“The symbol of Masala Bollywood Orchestra is bringing our tradition and bringing happiness to the people, and bringing the colour of India to the people.”
Performing sold-out concerts for 14 years making audiences happy encourages him to overcome the challenges of international travel.
While his troupe can bend about many things while away from their homeland, there is one subject where compromise is not an option.
“We never make compromises with food. If we are going to other countries, we always put in our technical rider (in performance contracts) that we need Indian food.”
In case they play in smaller communities without access to Indian food ingredients, orchestra members bring their own Indian chili peppers, he said.
The Bollywood Masala Orchestra and Dancers perform Sept. 26 at the Sid Williams Theatre in Courtenay. For details and tickets, visit sidwilliamstheatere.com, phone 250-338-2430 or visit the Sid box office at 442 Cliffe Ave. in Courtenay.
Mark Allan is a freelance writer and a former editor of the Comox Valley Record.