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Himalaya

Day 12: Chitral

Michael Palin - HimalayaOnce the music begins I can't take my eyes off him. Like the venerable leader of a jazz band, he's at the very heart of the action, sometimes plucking skilfully at a sitar, sometimes singing, but always urging others on, holding out long thin arms and flicking his bony wrists in time to the beat of sitars, tambourines and a pink jerrycan that does for percussion.

The pattern is the same each time. The music starts slowly, then one of the audience gets up and begins to move with delicate shuffles of the feet and upraised arms, gradually becoming more animated. As the tempo of the music accelerates, so does the speed and intensity of the movement, until both merge into a stomping, exultant crescendo, which leaves everyone exhausted, ecstatic and applauding wildly.

There is a sense of real joy as the music and dancing goes on. The songs and the style of playing are improvisations on music that has been part of this isolated culture for centuries. Once small groups like these forget, it may disappear altogether.

Which explains the intensity of Siraj's pleasure as he listens, his description of the songs and the music as being 'locked in the mountains', and the infectious magical warmth that banishes my worst memories of things folklorique.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 12: Chitral
  • Country/sea: Pakistan
  • Place: Chitral
  • Book page no: 32

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