Last night, Culture Editor Tony Gong attended Dimensions’ South Asian food/dance/music showcase benefit concert: The Guria Benefit. Despite language barriers and unfamiliar food, Tony rocked out, and even developed a newfound appreciation for vegetarian food.
First of all, the decorations at this thing were off the hook. Our hackneyed and usually depressing Roone Arledge, with red tablecloths and drapes adorning most surfaces, suddenly became bright, vibrant, and energetic. The glass centerpieces on our tables (see picture!) balanced candles precariously in water in ways that defied all current understandings of physics. Even the paper plates had flowers on them. Flowers.
But would the performances and food measure up to these high standards?
Sweet, I got you to click Read More. While hungry students all around began to bemoan the fact that we had to sit through several performances before we would reach “9:20 pm: Intermission / Dinner will be served” on our nifty timelines for the night, the performances turned out to be worth the wait. By the time the third performance finished, no one was complaining.
The performances headed off with Nemanja Rebic and Bill Buchen, on guitar and tabla, respectively. Now, I respect anyone who sits on the ground to play an instrument, because that’s just not comfortable. But by the 5-minute mark of their song, when Bill started to really jam on tabla, the tempo went way up, and Nemanja began complementing his smooth, Indian classical guitar licks with crazy-sexy purrs that visibly aroused several people – male and female – sitting around me, I knew these guys were legendary.
Next, Shanna (no last name provided) performed a Kathak dance to a classical Indian song. Her dance gracefully crafted subtle hand movements with dramatic spins and footwork, while the hundreds of tiny bells wrapped around ankles shook beautifully and accurately emphasized the beat. Baller.
Kiran Ahliwalia, with guitarist Rez Abassi next performed a series of South Asian ghazals consolidated her own genre of Portuguese fado, described in our programs: “If yearning had a musical form it would be ghazals, the Indian and Pakistani sung poetry about unrequited love. If longing was a genre, it would be fado, the melancholic Portuguese song form also based in poetry.” When I first read that, I thought perhaps they weren’t giving enough credit to Radiohead. But Kiran’s first song “Acks” – a soft crescendo of a lonely voice, performed with the perfect degree of despair as Kiran reached out to someone only she could see behind closed eyes – justified the program for me. I couldn’t understand a word of her Porteguese, but, then again, Radiohead lyrics don’t make much sense either.
Finally, it was time for dinner. The scale of the event yielded an equally large selection, consisting of (spelling corrections welcome): pakoras (chickpea flour, coriander, onions, tastiness), nan (bread), mattar paneer (chickpeas, cheese), jaman (sticky and starchy dessert) among other dishes. It wasn’t until I was almost finished with the meal that I came to a shocking realization: my dinner didn’t contain an ounce of meat in it! Now, I love protein and all the unnecessary amounts of fat and sodium that meat provides, so I was already planning my post-Guria HamDel trip in my head. But a buddy I was eating with, a South Asian food connoisseur, informed me comfortingly: “Chickpeas are like straight protein.” Good enough for me. Quietly slipping my seven-star Gold Card back into my wallet, I finished the rest of my meal happily.
Akshara and Sonali Skandan’s dance company Jiva Dance finished off the performance for the night as we sat with much fuller stomachs, mostly due to the chickpeas. Akshara, a percussive musical group rooted in South Indian classical tradition, laid down some of the sickest beats I’ve ever heard, all behind a gentle string instruments. 4 minutes in, two performers the right of the stage began a haunting,
syndicated syncopated spoken word pattern that I couldn’t shake for hours. Finally, Jive Dance performed a dynamic final act of intensity, elegant footwork, and joy, ending the night with a message to get out there and enjoy life.
Photos by Michelle Pena.