Friday, June 16, 2006

The curling smoke of the ever-present cigarettes

When I was first introduced to the music and dance of Amra Kojon in 2003, I immediately recognized that I was in the presence of a breath-taking ancient tradition. The music was transcendent: the bittersweet wails of a landscape and people that -- even without knowledge of the language -- gush beauty, sorrowful images and wisdom. One can only imagine a serene pond, a grieving mother, or a bride's ecstatic joy of hope and goodwill when one hears the poetic melodies played so soulfully by these performers.

With their carefully choreographed steps, iconic gestures and ever-present sweet smiles, the dancers are equally inspiring. The audience is left to feel as though they are receiving the grace of goddesses small and large, breathing life and vigor into their mythologies, evoking childhood playfulness, the strength of maturity, and the tantalizing allure of a young woman.

Three years later, after being treated so kindly by the Bengali community of Boston, I was honored to photograph their most recent performance. Every song, every meditative lyric was performed with the concentration of mystics consumed by the deep beauty of...everything: life, death, sickness, prosperity, the everyday, truth. The ancient instruments, mastered by Taposh Talukder and a host of other musicians -- including [one woman] who commanded a massive sitar like a deft equestrienne -- laid the foundation for the expression of life's constancy and vicissitudes.

When I was a college student, a philosophy professor first introduced me to curry and notions of the eternal behind the curling smoke of his ever-present cigarettes. Amra Kojon has done the same for me, helping me to further understand the dimension of beauty that lies beneath the ethereal vehicles of song, dance and milieu.

- Glenn Kulbako,
on behalf of Amra Kojon

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