TasDance and Mona Foma have found a way of engaging all generations of the Launceston Bhutanese community for Yatra.
The dance, telling the story of Bhutanese refugees fleeing into Nepal and journeying to Australia, will be communicated through the bodies of the young.
But the music comes from the old.
TasDance has brought hip-hop and electronic producer and DJ James Mangohig in from Darwin, who has recorded, sampled and spliced older community members playing their traditional instruments, and created something wholly new.
- WHAT: TasDance presents Yatra, with music from James Mangohig.
- WHEN: Friday January 18 at 5.30pm and 6.45pm, and Saturday 19 January 19 at 3pm.
- WHERE: The Annexe Theatre, Inveresk
- HOW MUCH: Included in three-day Mona Foma pass or day pass.
Mangohig said his aim was to bring a fresh and boundary-pushing feel to the soundscapes, while retaining the “heart and soul” of Bhutanese folk songs.
“I just love the sound of their instruments, even the sound of their voices are different,” he said.
“There were these guys that had mouth harps, for example. It’s just one note, but the funk, and the groove, of their mouth harps has made me add these swingin’ drums.
“They have a great instrument called a harmonium, which is a drone-y accordian-y thing, it’s really awesome.”
For Mangohig, who has Filipino roots, the most authentic way of continuing culture is actually to allow it to evolve, rather than keeping it “preserved in a jar.”
“When you look back at history, people remember the arts,” he said.
However, he said his priority was to create something that would be appreciated by the community as true to them.
“I’ve been making sure I’ve been putting the headphones on them and make sure it doesn’t make them go, ‘that’s wrong,’” he said.
“Rather than the arts crowd, I’m more thinking about the Bhutanese community listening to it and sort of smiling at it - going ‘hey, we recognise that rhythm but it’s so different.’”
“That excites me a lot more than an arts person listening to it and going, ‘well done Bhutanese people.’”
Artistic director Gabriel Comerford, who is overseeing the dance side of the project, said the process was about an exchange of ideas and culture between the Bhutanese and TasDance.
“It’s been a sharing of movement as well: of us learning their dances, and I’ve been doing contemporary dance techniques with them, and we’ve just been really slowly, taking our time, working out the content of the show,” he said.
“Everything we’ve been doing, movement-wise, has actually all originated from games, from physical play, whether that is games with swords and bows and arrows or partnering – moving with other bodies – but it’s about using the natural way that these guys move.
It’s quite amazing, I think from their cultural and traditional dances they have a lot of in-built movement, that our bodies don’t.
“We want to show that these thousand-year-old traditions have a place in contemporary arts practice.”
The show will begin in the open, before drawing the audience into the Annexe Theatre in a procession.
While you're with us, did you know that you can now sign up to receive breaking news updates and daily headlines direct to your inbox. Sign up here.