Wednesday April 24, 2024

Japanese poetic form, floral art Ikebana and Indian classical music under one roof

By Bilal Ahmed
June 04, 2023

The visual art form of the Japanese floral arrangement Ikebana and the auditory art form of the Indian classical music were presented in a unifying experience at the National Academy of Performing Arts (Napa) on Saturday evening where it held an event titled ‘Waka Raag’ in collaboration with the Pakistan Japan Cultural Association (PJCA).

The event showcased musical renditions of Waka, a form of Japanese poetry, translated into Urdu in various raag of the Indian classical music. It was not only that as an Ikebana expert was also present on the stage making floral arrangements according to the Waka being sung then and there.Seeing Asifa Ataka, who was introduced as the ‘only highly qualified Ikebana instructor’ in Pakistan, making beautiful floral patterns under a time constraint, was a pleasure to watch.

A total of nine Waka were sung during the event in as many raags with the Ikebana expert making as many small floral arrangements.

Before the musical and Ikebana performances began, a brief introduction was given to Waka by Shahzad Niaz, a lawyer by profession who learnt the Japanese language through the Japanese consulate and translated the selected Waka into Urdu that were sung during the event. Niaz said Waka, which was also known as Tanka, meant a five-line poem with 31 syllables arranged in the 5-7-5-7-7 form. He said Waka constituted a significant part of the Japanese literary tradition and the ancient form of poetry was still alive today where it had also been borrowed by other languages.

He said Waka highlighted the deep connection of the Japanese culture with the nature. He explained that the traditional subjects of Waka were diverse including feelings for love, appreciation for weather, and nostalgic thoughts.

The translator said those who composed Waka included both regal personalities as well as ordinary people. He said the poetic form gained much popularity and prestige during the Heian period (794-1185) in the Japanese history. He said all the Waka selected for the event had been taken from Manyo-shu (literal meaning: collection of 10,000 leaves) which is considered the oldest anthology of Japanese poetry compiled some time after 759 AD. The anthology had been compiled by various literary personalities and it was in 20 volumes, he added.

The nine Waka were set to various raags by music author SM Shahid, who also serves as a consultant for classical music at Napa. He also played the harmonium and provided vocal support to three Napa students — Sarfraz Samual, Parmesh Waghela and Jahangir Amiri, and a girl child, Eden Samual, who sang those Waka. The instrumentalists included Gul Muhammad on the sarangi, Yousuf Bashir on the table and Rahat on the bansuri (Indian flute). The interlude pieces of sarangi added to the delight of the audience throughout the performance.

The raags included were Rageshri, Kedara, Jaunpuri, Pahadi, Bhopali, Chandrakauns, Bhairavi, Bihag and Jaijaiwanti. Some of them such as Bihag and Chandrakauns were beautifully sung by inexperienced singers. Each performance was around five to 10 minutes in which one or two of the singers took part. The audience especially admired the child who showed no shyness on the stage.

The Ikebana expert tried to match the lyrics of the poetry being sung in her arrangements. For instance, the Waka composed in Jaunpuri dealt with the theme of the ephemerality of the world. The corresponding floral pattern had more wood and less flowers to depict the theme of death and decay.

Earlier, Japanese Consulate General Odagiri Toshio appreciated the services of the PJCA in bringing the cultures of Pakistan and Japan together. He also remembered the first president of the PJCA, late playwright Fatima Suraiya Bajia, who spearheaded the idea of presenting Waka to the Pakistani audience in raags.

PJCA President Sadia Rashid and Napa CEO Junaid Zuberi also spoke at the event that was moderated by the PJCA’s Sameera Jawed.