With so much chaos and uncertainty, sometimes the best thing we can do is sit back, relax, and enjoy some relaxing music. And if you want some of that, you’re in luck, with the return of the Esplanade’s annual A Tapestry of Sacred Music programme. From primal expressions of belief through voice, to drum beats that elevate the spirit and move us, sacred music may well be the solution we need to find peace.
Running from 25th to 27th March, the 2022 edition of A Tapestry of Sacred Music brings audiences a rich diversity of musical offerings, with focus on two fundamental manifestations of sacred music. This year, the programme focuses primarily on two instruments – the voice and the drum, and since the pandemic, will finally welcome overseas artists back to perform live, together with local practitioners.
Highlights of this year’s festival include The Voice in Korean Ritual, by jeongga and minyo (folksong) vocalist Kim Bora (Korea). The programme is a presentation of traditional Korean ritual song that brings to the forefront the vocal aspect of shamanism and royal ancestral worship. Performed outside of the context of actual ceremonies, it allows one to focus on the stark beauty of these ancient melodies, as well as the power and intention imbued in the voice. Kim Bora will also be participating in an exchange with the Siong Leng Musical Association.
Persian poetry takes centrestage in Poetry of the Persian Mystics, as you join acclaimed Iranian vocalist Sepideh Raissadat (voice and setar) together with Eskandar Abadi (violin), Sogol Mirzaei (tar) and Bahareh Moghtadaei (tombak) as they explore themes of faith sung in the original language of Persian poets, in two thrilling and deeply moving performances with her ensemble of traditional musicians. Sepideh Raissadat will also be engaging in an exchange with local musician Azrin Abdullah with Zakhrafa Takht Ensemble.
From India, Anwar Khan and the Manganiyars of Rajasthan present Of Divine Love, where they will perform unabashed celebrations of love through their presentation of Sufi and Bhakti poetry – watch as love transcends all boundaries, and makes you “dance like mad”
On the local front, look out for sacred music representing a diverse group of beliefs, traditions and rituals. The Sikh Music Academy and Sikh Centre presents Kirtans, one of the highest forms of devotional music that establish a connection with the Supreme Being. Seu Teck Sean Tong presents Heritage Arts of Teochew Temple Ceremonies and sheds light on temple culture, while Joyce Lee Tung, Glenn Camillus Wong & Red Dot Baroque present Pergolesi: Stabat Mater – The Grieving Mother, a 13th century hymn that narrates the Virgin Mary’s anguish at Christ’s crucifixion, and simultaneously speaks to the mortal soul as a mother witnessing her son’s death.
Singa Nglaras Gamelan Ensemble presents Laler Mengeng: Music of Contemplation, Sorrow and Solace, inspiring sorrow and solace through their programme, while Absolutely Thai presents Festive Isaan: Rituals of Northeast Thailand, including a series of ritual dances that pay homage to Phaya Thaen, a spirit that has the power to cause rain.
And combining the best of both worlds, Candomblé – CANTOS AOS ANCESTRAIS (Chants to the Ancestors) is an intercultural project between master drummer Dudu Tucci (Sao Paulo and Berlin) and Bloco Singapura. Referencing Candomblé, a syncretic faith borne out of the oppression of West African slaves who were brought to Brazil, this was a faith that outwardly embrace the religion of the slaves’ Catholic masters while covertly incorporating elements of their traditional African worship into their ceremonies. The African deities became associated with Catholic saints, and drum rhythms that were for invoking different African divinities were preserved in ceremonies conducted on special feast days.
Elsewhere, look out for workshops that teach you everything from the art of listening, to a West African Drum Workshop. Ultimately, what the festival aims to provide, beyond these mystical aural textures, it a reminder that beneath our diversity is a common humanity. Regardless of the differences in sounds, songs and practices, we are motivated by similar emotions, experiences, hopes and fears as humans, in the hopes that we look beyond the constant conflict and intolerance, finding peace within to transform the world without.
A Tapestry of Sacred Music runs from 25th to 27th March 2022. Programme and lineup available here