The Manganiyar Seduction


New York Times

About the Project

The Manganiyar seduction was first created for the Osians to open the film festival in Delhi 2006. The success of the show got the show on the road.. This project allowed roysten to collaborate with the Manganiyar musicians for the first time. The concept creates a dazzling union between the Manganiyar's music and the visual seduction of Amsterdam 's red light district. The sets are a combination of the Hawa Mahal and the Red light district of Amsterdam. It can also be compared to a magic box. 43 musicians are seated in 36 red-curtained cubicles arranged in four horizontal rows one on top of the other; and the concert begins when a single cubicle lights up and the first singer begins his song. Soon another cubicle lights up and then another thus creating a dramatic and astounding build-up of musical instruments and voice as young men, women, children and the elderly of the Manganiyar community take you into a world which is even beyond yours or their own. The Normal practise is to take and use music for theatre but here Roysten reverses the process and uses theatre to create magic in music.

“The show received a standing ovation that lasted long after the musicians, finished with their performance, closed their curtains, turned off their lights and exited the stage.”

The Wall Street Journal

About the Manganiyars

The Manganiyars are a caste of Muslim musicians who are predominantly settled in the districts of Jaisalmer, Barmer and Jodhpur, in the heart of India’s Thar Desert.They traditionally performed for kings, but over the years support for their music has shifted from kings to other wealthy patrons. Their repertoire ranges from ballads about the kings to Sufi poems written by various mystics. They also have songs for various occasions such as births, marriages and feasts. In the 1970s the late ethnomusicologist Komal Kothari discovered the Manganiyars and gave them a new life in contemporary times. Even though they are classified as folk musicians, the traditional music of the Manganiyars is classical, and it clearly indicates the roots of classical music in India. The rawness of the folk juxtaposed with the complexities of classical music is what makes their music so special.

“If it’s a seduction, it’s the earthy, enthusiastic kind rather than anything sultry or understated – although no less persuasive! Mesmerized throughout the performance, the audience unanimously rose to their feet for an extended standing ovation at the end...”

The Brag Sydney

The First Seduction

While directing a play in Spain in 2006, I was accompanied by two Manganiyar musicians who formed part of the company. They would follow me and play music in all the places I went, most of the time overlooking the decorum of that space. I would wake up and sleep to their playing over the course of a fortnight, during which time a strange psychological event took place. Having left for Germany to direct another production, I realised that I missed the music so I would call them and ask them to sing over the phone. I was totally seduced.

Returning to India filled with inspiration, I wanted to translate this seduction into a physical realm. For some reason, my experience made me think of a red light district, bordering on the burlesque inside my head, heart and body. I thought of windows in Indian palaces where women folk would view ceremonies or processions while unwittingly becoming the subjects of voyeurism themselves. For me, these windows came alive with musicians.

I went to Jaisalmer and auditioned a thousand musicians, from whom I selected 45. The Manganiyars were not accustomed to rehearsals and I was attempting to translate an experience into a piece of theatre. So, all we could do was to be open and let the ephemeral take form. We got into the process of understanding and trusting each other over a three-year period before arriving at The Manganiyar Seduction. But even after hearing it a thousand times, it still has the power to seduce me.

“The effect is like that of a gospel mass or a slow building rave: a joyous communal experience of the seductive power of Music.”

The Irish Independent


The Manganiyar seduction at festivals

Festival Place Date
Osians Cine festival Delhi 2006
Osians festival Mumbai 2007
Festival Internazionale di Villa Adriana Musica Per Roma 2007
Sommer Szene Republic Salzburg 2007
Kalkriti festival Hyderabad 2008
Theater Der welt Halle Germany 2008
Republic Salzburg 2008
Eurokaz Zagreb Croatia 2008
Impulstanz Vienna 2008
Divine Comedy Festival Krakow Poland December 2008
Mai Festpiele Wiesbaden Germany June 2009
Nuits De Fourviere Lyon France June 2009
Holland Festival Amsterdam June 2009
Ulster Bank Dublin Theatre festival Dublin September 2009
Sydney festival Sydney January 2010
Newyork Theatre Newyork January 2010
Seymour center Sydney January 2010
BITE Festival Barbican center UK March 2010
Singapore Arts Festival Esplanade Theater Singapore May 2010
Marine Bay Sands Singapore October 2010
Lincoln Center White Light Festival Rose Theater New York November 2010
Perth International Arts Festival Australia February 2011
Auckland Arts festival New Zealand March 2011
The Kennedy Center Washington DC March 2011
Womad Abudhabi April 2011
Quarteir De Ete Paris July 2011
Alstadt Therbst Kulture Festival Dusselforf September 2011
Melbourne Festival Melbourne October 2011
Hong Kong Arts Festival Hongcong November 2011
George Town Festival George Town June 2012
Womad UK July 2012
NH-7 Weekender Festival India November 2012
Royal Opera House Muscat November 2012
Attakalari Biennale Bangalore January 2013
Ruins of the renaissance Bangalore May 2013
Attakalari Biennale Bangalore January 2013
Power Center Ann Arbor MI October 2013
White Light Festival Lincoln center New York November 2013
The Memorial Hall North Carolina November 2013
Philips Center Gainsville Florida November 2013
Miami-dade County Auditorium Miami Florida November 2013
Bacardi NH 7 Weekender Bangalore India November 2013
Bacardi NH 7 Weekender Bangalore India December 2013