This is just the first of what I plan to be several postings about the fabulous Førde Festival in Norway. The festival has already garnered itself an excellent reputation amongst world music aficionados, but should be on the agenda of anyone who enjoys travel and adventurous music. Part of that is due to the spectacular setting, and I advise those who make the trip to plan to explore the fjords all around the area. As press, we were treated to a breathtaking journey from Bergen via rail and boat up to Førde, that I will not soon forget. The other part of the allure is the excellent and canny musical choices of the producers. Torill Falleide and Hilde Bjørkum know what will please their audience, and it's an engaging mix of both unadorned ethnic and eclectic music that is consistently entertaining.
My video is from the opening night, and it’s quite literally a dazzler. The various musicians were asked to present their most tantalizing numbers, as the first program of the festival is intended as a menu, giving the audience a sampling of what is to come.
So the Musicians of the Nile presented a tanoura dance, complete with light show. What made it so amazing was that the light show was inside the costume of the dancer! Some folks questioned the "authenticity" of this but I think that if tiny lights had been around that could be sewn into the costume of the dancer back when it was first being performed hundreds of years ago, it would have been perfectly within cultural standards!
The tanoura dance will remind you of the whirling dervish dances of Turkey and they are indeed related, as the sufi tradition is present in Egypt through the Levant and Turkey, and in some forms, even into west Africa. (There are some claims that Sufism actually originates in ancient Egypt, but the majority of sources I have read posit that it was a reaction to, and outgrowth of, Islam.) The music and the whirling is meant to induce a trance, which in turn leads to a union with the divine. The skirts of the dancer are layered, and each color on the skirt represents a different Sufi order. These days this kind of presentation is very popular for entertainment at weddings and other kinds of celebrations. For my part, I was in heaven in a different way -- I'm a fool for colored lights (you should see me at a fireworks display) and I felt like a little kid transported with delight.