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indian ocean bandeh

A concert at Bhopal’s Bharat Bhavan is a stark contrast to a cacophanic mungfest of slacker rock bands in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley.

Where nubile bimbettes, swagger barely legal in miniskirts and trip over their flesh in high heels, I find in Bhopal whole families along with grandma await the performance of Indian Ocean Bande.

Instead of defending alcohol fuelled perceived slights of honour over some girl “grindin on my ex boyfriend”, the only annoyance is the shuffling of chairs stood and blocking others view. Two large screens offer a modern looking youth, a better view in the grassed lawn and courtyard below.

They are a trendy crowd with cultured hair and beards. Girls are dressed both modern or traditionally in kirti.

The concert starts on Indian time – nearly an hour after the time we were told to arrive. Posters advertise events here, but online advertising of Bhopal’s many masterful performances is poor. Bhopal city boasts the open air Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya (IGRMS), a laid back 200 acre open air tribal anthology, then next door is the artistic Tribal Museum, and  the State Museum  and a zoo all overlooking Bhopal’s 38 hectare Upper Lake. An hour east, Emperor Ashoka rested Buddha’s remains in Sanchi, and south Bhimbetka displays some of mans oldest cave art.

With so little promotion online we arrived expecting a tribal dance concert! Instead were in for an Indo-rock fusion of jazz-spiced rhythms full of shlokas, sufism, environmentalism, revolution and mythology.

We didn’t mind. My Swiss companion, a volunteer at a local organic farm, and I were to be newly initiated in this wonderful music.

When I retuned home, my business partners, Indian Ocean aficionados, were jealous of our luck. If only they had known.

Bharat_Bhawan Bhopal

Inaugurated by Indira Gandhi in 1982, the Bharat Bhavans two domes, cascade around terraced gardens that carve the contours of the landscape without traditional symbols of Indian art. An  open-air amphitheatre , or Bahirang, a studio theatre Abhirang, an auditorium, or Antarang, a museum tribal and folk art, libraries of Indian poetry offer ample spaces for discussion, research, fine art workshops, music both classical and folk along with an artist in residence.

I had first visited the complex in 2012, enjoying flute and Sitar recitals and then the Independence Day concert on August 15.

There is so much art and craft to see in Bhopal and as I wait I check out the spacious gallery designed by Charles Correa. It seems almost a little too big, but then I decide to return again when I am not rushing to enjoy a concert.

Sauntering to another display I allow my mind to settle. It is as if and soon the room began to breathe. I am  stunned by a wonderful gallery of Tribal art.

If only they had allowed me to use my camera. Oh well, next time.

Now back to the music!

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