Australia’s four month Oz Fest in India kicked off on Tuesday night with an opening concert that dazzled and moved those lucky enough to be there. The biggest Australian cultural festival ever staged in India has been painstakingly designed over the last two years and celebrates the meeting of Australia and India with a series of events and concerts featuring leading artists from both countries with the aim of connecting two unique, contemporary cultures grounded in ancient tradition. Three mesmerising performances marked the night beginning with didgeridoo virtuoso Mark Atkins playing that most atavistic of instruments to spine tingling effect, – you feel as much as you hear. Aboriginal Australian singer Gurrumul Yunupingu came next followed by Indian sitarist Anoushka Shankar with other distinguished Indian musicians. In fact to be fair there was a fourth bravura performance, that of the prosaically named AGB Events, producers of Sydney’s Vivid Light Festival. Their 3D projections onto Purana Qila’s Sher Mandal Observatory brought it to life in a gorgeous, subtle and moving way perfectly complimenting each performer and providing an Indian touchstone even when imaginations were transported deep into Australian dreamtime. Which brings me back to Gurrumul Yunupingu accompanied beautifully by his band. His voice was quite simply a revelation, I’ve never heard anything quite like before it and I say without shame that it brought a lump to my throat while shooting the performance, it didn’t feel like a concert it felt like therapy. Without understanding a word (except for the one song that he sang in English which did not work so well) I was deeply moved. I think Sting put it best, no mean warbler himself he once described Gurrumul’s voice as that ‘of a higher being‘, I know what he means, deadly.
A few days later I travelled to Bhubaneswar in Orissa for a the second Oz Fest concert. There was another gorgeous backdrop, this time in the form of the beautiful Rajarani Temple in the city. Mark Atkins and Gurrumul and his band preformed once more and this time were joined on the bill by traditional Odishan folk artists.
Method: all natural light, Nikon D3s and D700