In conjunction with the exhibition Cave Temples of Dunhuang: Buddhist Art on China’s Silk Road, musicians from the Silk Road Ensemble are in residence at the Getty to create pop-up musical performances inspired by the art and replica caves on view.

In this video filmed inside replica Cave 285, Sandeep Das discusses the links between Hindu deities and music and demonstrates traditional beats for the tabla (Indian hand drums), showing how his instrument can speak “as if it has a tongue.”

Look for more videos coming soon featuring other artists from the Ensemble, playing music inspired by the caves.

More to Explore

Ko Umezaki Performs the Shakuhachi in Cave 285 companion video

Cave Temples of Dunhuang: Buddhist Art on China’s Silk Road exhibition information

Silk Road Ensemble Interprets Dunhuang through Spontaneous Live Music Iris article

Silk Road Ensemble musician and instrument profiles

Art, History, and Conservation of the Cave Temples of Dunhuang video

Virtual Tour of Cave 285, Mogao Grottoes

Transcript

SANDEEP DAS:  The first thing that attracted my eyes once I walked into this cave was this image of Ganesha sitting with his father Shiva, and the image on the other side of Vishnu. According to Hindu religion or the Hindu myth, each god or goddess, it doesn’t matter, you know, if he or she is a god or goddess of war, they all have a musical instrument which they played.

Ganesha played the father of this drum, which is called pakhawaj, and it immediately brought to my mind a composition that I learned as a child, which is god knows hundreds of years old, passed on by my guru to me, which actually talks about how, why Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh are keeping beats and singing dhrupad, which is the most ancient form of singing.

[Sandeep recites lyrics]

The amazing fact of that composition is that everything that I’ve said can be played exactly by my drum as if it has a tongue. And each word has a meaning.  So if I say…

[Sandeep recites rhythmic lyrics followed tabla beats]

Ganesha actually plays the pakhawaj and is spreading the message of meditation and praying towards God, how you can attain salvation through that. But if you don’t do that, how you can be left behind in limbo either on earth nor attain salvation.

[Sandeep plays the tabla]

SANDEEP DAS:  The first thing that attracted my eyes once I walked into this cave was this image of Ganesha sitting with his father Shiva, and the image on the other side of Vishnu. According to Hindu religion or the Hindu myth, each god or goddess, it doesn’t matter, you know, if he or she is...

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