A troupe from Mauritius to revive a folk dance that originated in Konkan

Updated: Dec 07, 2016, 15:34 IST | Krutika Behrawala

Back in the nineteenth century, over 3.5 million Indians were shipped off to various colonies of the European powers as labour on sugarcane fields. These included a few workmen from the Konkan region, who migrated to Mauritius, the island in the southeast coast of Africa, famous for its pearly white beaches and turquoise sea

Samartha Sena in a Jhakri performance in Mauritius
Samartha Sena in a Jhakri performance in Mauritius

Back in the nineteenth century, over 3.5 million Indians were shipped off to various colonies of the European powers as labour on sugarcane fields. These included a few workmen from the Konkan region, who migrated to Mauritius, the island in the southeast coast of Africa, famous for its pearly white beaches and turquoise sea. In an attempt to keep their tradition alive, they would perform Jhakri, a folk dance originating in the coastal belt of Maharashtra.

Seven women and 11 male members of the Vacoas-based group will present a Jhakri performance tonight
Seven women and 11 male members of the Vacoas-based group will present a Jhakri performance tonight

Unfortunately, while Jhakri has almost become extinct here, it thrives within the Marathi community on the island that’s passed it on via generations.

The dance is traditionally performed during the Ganesh festival
The dance is traditionally performed during the Ganesh festival

One such group is Samartha Sena, the youth wing of Shri Marathi Dharmic Sabha, a Marathi temple located in Vacoas. “The group was created in 2008 to bring together youngsters in the neighbourhood to preserve Marathi cultural heritage our forefathers brought to Mauritius,” says group member, Dinkar Sonoo. Currently on a multi-city tour, the troupe makes its debut in Mumbai tonight with a performance at NCPA, presented by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR).

What is Jhakri?
Traditionally performed during Ganpati, the group dance involves both, men and women singing live and performing in a circle. “We dance around a dholak player and artists who play instruments like jhal (hand cymbals) and chimta (tongs),” informs Sonoo. The performance features seven women and 11 men, aged between 17 and 58, decked in traditional garbs of kashtis (nine-yard saris) and kurtas, respectively.

Choreographed by group member, Ooma Deojee, the dancers will perform an original composition, Deva Tujha, penned by local artistes Pritibye Raggoo, Jesica Raggoo and Ritabye Balloo. Along with Jhakri, the dancers will also perform Maharashtrian folk dances like Lavani and Koli.

Sway to Sega
The troupe will also perform a medley that’s a fusion of Bhojpuri lyrics and Sega beats. “Indian immigrants have brought their own styles of music and dance. Mauritius-based Bhojpuri music has always been popular with people of Indian descent but it is now gaining mainstream appeal,” he adds. Meanwhile, Sega is a dance that originated from the ritual music of Madagascar and the mainland of Africa, usually sung in Creole (the mother tongue of Mauritians).

On: Tonight, 7 pm
At: Tata Theatre, NCPA, Nariman Point
Call: 24955107

Note: Entry on first-come-first-served basis. Passes available at ICCR office in Worli.

A walk through Mohammed Ali Road's Khau Galli

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