Last night, thanks to the Alliance Française of Hyderabad (its current director, Frederic Dard has really done a remarkable job for the local cultural landscape over the past three years), we had the privilege and immense joy of attending a concert by Ivorian singer Dobet Gnahoré. It happened outside, on the lawns of the Taj Banjara hotel, and it was PACKED !
I didn’t know Dobet Gnahoré, which gives a measure of our disconnection, here, as I used to follow the African music scene pretty closely while in New York. No matter, now, I know her, we bought her CD, and I bet she will have a great career. She has a powerful, resonant voice and an incredible presence on the stage (something that her CD does not justice to, actually.) She not only sings, she plays various percussion instruments, and she dances !
There is a popular saying in French : “La musique adoucit les moeurs,” which could be translated into “music soothes the soul.” I also found this quote from William Congreve : “music hath charms to soothe the savage breast.” But music is also a fabulous tool to build bridges across cultures, and this was clearly evident, last night. The crowd counted its share of expats (Francophones, mostly, and quite a few Ivorian students, too – it was quite moving to witness their obvious joy and pride in having their country fellow and sister represent their culture so beautifully) but the majority was Indian, and they danced, and clapped, and sang – even in Wolof ! at some stage – quite happily. One little girl who might have been 5 or 6 actually jumped on the stage and danced and danced and seemed totally transported by the drum.
Dobet’s band is composed of a Togolese drummer, and two guitarists and back-up singers who come from Mauritius and France. She sang in several African languages, including Wolof and Bambara, and I found somewhere that she defines her approach as “defiantly diverse, musically and linguistically.” Definitely my kind of artist.