Interview with Sidi Goma, African Indian Sidis from Gujarat

Sidi Goma
Photo by Lois Greenfield
Sidi Goma is a group of African Indian Sidis from the Bharuch district of Gujarat. This tribal Sufi community of East African origin came to India eight centuries ago, and preserved and carried on the tradition of Sidi music and dance adapted from African rituals (which includes a dance known as goma). Their exuberant energy is bound to captivate festival goers at the Førde Traditional and World Music Festival, July 5-8 in Norway. In this exclusive interview, they describe the roots of their music, the instruments they play, and the divine nature of music.

Who would you say are the leading influences in your musical career?

The Sidi community has been given the divine duty by their Sufi saint Bhava Gor to celebrate and share his message of life-affirming joy. Both the vision and the message of the performances are to carry this gift to the world.

Tell us about the musical instruments you have in your ensemble.

Most strikingly, Sidi music features the malunga, a musical bow (similar to the Afro-Brazilian berimbau) which is found in several African cultures, but totally unique to India.

How do you blend different musical influences and genres?

Sidi Goma
Photo by Lois Greenfield
We actually do not blend anything into our music – we perform it as it has been performed for centuries in the shrines near our villages, only slightly adapted to the Western stage context.

The entire community in the village takes part in the music and dance in honor of our Sufi saints – men, women and children. Children grow up with the music; singing and dancing just comes naturally – it is not something that one learns specifically.

What have been your previous highlights in playing across Europe and overseas?

Since 2003 Sidi Goma has performed at many big world music festivals and venues around the World, including Rosklide Festival, WOMEX Sevilla, Barbican London, Cite de la Musique in Paris, the Chicago World Music Festival, and the ZIFF Festival in Zanzibar.

What is your vision of what music can do in this day and age?

Discovering and nurturing the joy that is always present in life, whatever the circumstances, the joy that brings us closer to the divine, is an enduring truth and aspiration for all times and cultures.

Do you also teach workshops for students or musicians?

We do sometimes present our music in a workshop format, offering added background information, for a better understanding of Sidi culture and music. We will do a workshop session at the Forde Festival too.

Author: Madanmohan Rao

Madanmohan Rao is an author and media consultant from Bangalore, and global correspondent for world music and jazz for World Music Central and Jazzuality. He has written over 15 books on media, management and culture, and is research director for YourStory Media. Madan was formerly World Music Editor at Rave magazine and RJ at WorldSpace, and can be followed on Twitter at @MadanRao.

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