By Prakash Waghmare
Nine artists from tribal regions of India are currently touring the U.S. for five months as part of a dazzling stage presentation, titled – ‘Ekal Sur, Ekal Taal’ for “Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation”. It is a musical splendor of rural culture depicting epic folklore, devotional songs, and regional dances reflecting national unity. For the first time in its history, ‘Ekal’ has brought the best talent from Ekal-school alumni for fund-raising entertainment, in a series of concert, all across U.S. The main objective of this bold step is to connect with the people here to highlight the need for education in tribal India.
They are all travelling by bus accompanied by Ekal’s ‘Global Coordinator’, Ramesh Shah who was recently felicitated by the President of India for his community work. The trip is partially supported by the Cultural Ministry of India.
“Ekal Sur Ekal Taal” concert is on the East Coast in June (2017). They have already completed almost 50 shows out of 58 and they all have been runaway smash-hit, with audiences crazily mobbing the Artistes. In essence, this musical extravaganza highlights our traditional backwoods treasured artistry.
All the artists of this year’s troupe are from very small villages of India’s tribal belt. The artists, include Dileshwar Yadav, Sumitra Kakodia, Sandip Yadav, Gitmala Boraik, Tilak Chandra, Neena Pandey, Johan Singh Markam, Radheshyam Yadav, Sampa Shill and they are being cared, stage-managed by N.P. Amoli. They all hail from remote areas of Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Sikkim, and Assam and come from economically disadvantage background where basic sustenance is a challenge.
Although it is hard to tell from the artistic versatility of these artistes that they are not of professional cadre, it is, surprisingly, true. For this tour, they were trained, groomed and molded by the best professionals in ‘stage performance’, for 18 months in New Delhi. They not only endured rigorous coaching, but also, exhibited incredible potential of so many young dreamers of rural India. The artists also received fast-track training in ‘make-up’ and ‘costume’ designing to make them totally independent at event-preparedness while on this U.S. tour. Each one of them has unique personal story to tell which exhibit nothing but their resolve, resilience and courage to face the adversity to succeed in life. Let’s peek into senior artists Sampa Shill’s life.
Sampa Shill’s maternal and paternal grandparents were refugees from East Pakistan (modern day Bangladesh) who walked all the way to Assam with other villagers like them. A kind benefactor gave the family enough land to build a makeshift home and plant some crops. Sampa Shill is the fourth of five children. She was only 16 years old and in the 10th grade when her father died of cancer. The family struggled hard to make ends meet. Desperate to survive, Sampa’s brother left for a labor job in the neighboring state of Mizoram, leaving behind three women (mother and younger sisters) to ward off for themselves.
Sampa remembers long hungry passages of life when she had to survive on only one meager meal a day, which sometimes she had to pass-on to her younger brother who was always hungry. Sampa has been involved in ‘Ekal Abhiyan’ (an umbrella Organization of ‘Ekal’) for almost a dozen years. To make the long story short, she is a prime example of empowerment that Ekal has brought to women folks in villages. She is oversees many of the schools in Silchar, Assam region and guides the unfortunates to be successful by picking up skills at ‘Ekal Centers’. She says that Ekal has expanded her horizons so much so that even if she eventually gets married, she would continue to be a part of the Ekal family and groom others.
“Ekal Sur Ekal Taal” tour finishes on the East Coast with stops in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. This team has mesmerized audiences all over the country. What is equally notable is that no ethnic grass-root troupe has promoted the rustic Indian culture in U.S. so beautifully, the way this talented assemble has done. Avani Mehta from Chicago said, “Ekal Sur Ekal Taal is better than any Bollywood program, I have seen. Not only the artists have great voices, but also, there is intimate authenticity to this show which is unmatched”. For the tour and ticket information kindly refer to <www.ekal.org>