Nationality: India

Emptiness by Akka Mahadevi

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Click the four-arrows icon on the bottom right to watch this full-screen: a musical, modern-dance interpretation of a suite of poems by Akka Mahadevi, A.K.A. Mahadeviyakka, the great Saivite bhakti poet. These are Jane Hirshfield’s translations from the 12th-century Kannada. For more on Mahadevi, see Kristen McHenry’s Obscure Poets column on Mahadevi at Read Write Poem.

There’s full nudity in the last few minutes, so this may not be entirely work-safe, depending on where you work. Mahadevi, like many of her male counterparts in Indian ascetic practice, dispensed with clothes.

The description on Viddler gives the full credits:

Live performance, March 3, 2007, in New York City’s Dance New Amsterdam. Amy Pivar Dances presents Songs For Solo Dance and Voice. “Emptiness,” music by Paula M. Kimper, translation of Mahadeviyakka (India, 12thc.) by Jane Hirshfield. Amy Pivar – dancer/choreographer, Elaine Valby and Gilda Lyons – vocals, Paula M. Kimper – guitar. Video by Vanessa Scanlan.

Thirteen Mahadevi poems in English translation are available on the Poet Seers site.

Tomorrow: More Akka Mahadevi vachanas, as interpreted by a contemporary Indian filmmaker.

Counting the Moons by Ksetrayya

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“A North and South Indian classical dancer collaborate to evoke love, loss, and the slippery relationships between self, friend, and lover, in this contemporary abhinaya (emotional expression) piece loosely inspired by a poem by the 17th century Telegu poet, Ksetrayya,” says the blurb on the Vimeo page. Since I’ve featured a number of other dance pieces here, I thought I’d add this one to the mix. The poem quote goes by rather quickly in the video, so here it is again:

I wore myself out watching the road.
Counting the moons, I grieved,
Holding back a love I could not hold.

Telugu is a Dravidian language spoken by 95 million people in the state of Andhra Pradesh and adjacent areas of south India. Kshetrayya, a prolific composer and poet, is credited with the composition of some 4000 devotional (bhakti) poems to Krishna.

He perfected the padam format that is still being used today. His padams are sung in dance (Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi) and music recitals. A unique feature of his padams is the practice of singing the anupallavi first then the pallavi (second verse followed by first verse). Most of the padams are of the theme of longing for the coming of the lord Krishna.

Once Upon a Time by Vishwajyoti Ghosh

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Poem by Vishwajyoti Ghosh, narrated by Ramesh Venkatraman

Animation by Nilratan Mazumdar

According to the credits at the end this is one of 60 one-minute films commissioned by motiroti, “a London based international arts organisation.” A link on its 60×60 secs page leads to another site that describes the project in somewhat more detail:

60×60 Secs is the first project of the 360° programme, and comprises of 60 one-minute films from 60 artists, 20 each from Britain, India and Pakistan.

Commissioned via open call both established and emerging artists, working in a variety of mediums and spanning a wide age range, present their unique views on ‘home’. Looking beyond media, political and religious definitions, 60×60 Secs unravels complex identities and stories, and redefines cultures that are evolving in an age of globalisation.

The site includes pages for all sixty films, including this one, containing low-, medium- and high-quality Quicktime versions, a brief description, and more detailed credits. Evidently the poet was also responsible for the drawings used in the animation, and directed it as well.