source: National Geographic
Source: Real Bharat
Here is an introduction to the piece, which Roxanna and I have written for the programme. We hope you'll enjoy this extraordinary dream meeting...
ACROSS THE LINE OF DREAMS – Celebrating Harriet Tubman & Rani Lakshmibai
Words: Jessica Duchen (JD) Music: Roxanna Panufnik (RP)
JD: In Across the Line of Dreams, two choirs with two conductors tell the stories of two extraordinary women who gave everything to save their people.
Harriet Tubman and Rani Lakshmibai came from opposite sides of the world and, of course, never met - but they had more in common than you might think.
Both were born in the 1820s. Each decided to fight for her people’s freedom. Each underwent a change of name, symbolising a new, altered state of being. Each held fast to her faith. And each risked her life for a cause greater than herself. Both have passed into the realms of legend.
RP: Each heroine is represented by one conductor, one choir and half of the orchestra – Harriet has woodwinds, brass and percussion and Lakshmibai is accompanied by harp, piano and strings.
JD: Born Araminta (‘Minty’) Ross in Dorchester County, Maryland, around 1822, Harriet Tubman fled slavery in 1849 and became active in the ‘underground railroad’, a network that aided the escape of slaves from the deep south of the US, via which she helped to rescue dozens. Having taken her husband John Tubman’s surname, she adopted her mother’s first name to reinvent herself. She was nicknamed ‘Moses’ for leading her people to freedom. She died in 1913 aged about 90.
RP: Harriet was fervently Christian, so some of her music has a hymn-like quality with a drone figuration often heard in spirituals. Not much is known about her ancestry, but it is believed that her maternal grandmother, Modesty, was brought to the US on a slave ship from West Africa and was thought to be of the Asante (a.k.a. Ashanti) tribe, who came from Ghana. Therefore I’ve used Ghanaian drum patterns to drive her music. While researching Asante music, I came across Joseph S. Kaminski’s excellent book Asante Ntahera Trumpets in Ghana– in it, he has transcribed a signature motif, from Asantehene’s mmentia musicians“Atoto wore sane” which means: “We are removing the knot”. This refers to a legendry knot that could only be untied by the true ruler, yet can also describe Harriet’s brave missions.
|Manikarnika in childhood|
Source: Real Bharat
JD: Rani Lakshmibai was born Manikarnika Tambe in Varanasi, by the Ganges, in 1828. Married off to the Rani of the princely state of Jhansi, she took the crown after her husband’s death. Their only child died in infancy, after which she adopted a young boy, Damodar, intending him to inherit her throne. The controlling British East India Company refused to recognise him as heir and attempted to exile Lakshmibai. When a major rebellion took place against the British in 1857, and was horribly crushed, she led her forces into battle herself. She died of her wounds, aged only 29. A British officer paid tribute to Lakshmibai after her death, terming her “the bravest and the best”.
RP: There is a famous lament “Babul Mora” about Lakshmibai, written by the Nawab of Lucknow, after the battle in which she lost her life. It mourns her leaving her family and all she knows behind, as she is taken away to be married to Gangadhar Rao, and it now exists in many versions. It was originally written in the Bhairavi mode, with which I have created my own lament. I have also composed my own “Powada” – a popular heroic or military ballad, which was used to eulogize heroic leaders. Again there are many examples of this form, but a common musical thread is a declamatory delivery of repeated singenotes, followed by a descending scale (for which I’ve used the Bhairav, Purvi and Ãsãvan modes). We finish, at the end of Lakshmibai’s life, with a return to the Bhairavi lament.
JD: Across the Line of Dreamsis in three parts. The first section is devoted to Harriet Tubman. There follows a contrasting episode telling the story of Rani Lakshmibai. Finally we imagine a dialogue showing the two women’s similarities, differences and inspirational natures.
RP: This is where the two conductors come to the fore – Harriet’s music is in 4 and Lakshmibai’s simultaneously in 5. I was determined that while these two women retained their unique musical identities, they would merge to create a driving energy.
RP: I am deeply grateful to Joseph Kaminski for allowing me to use his transcription of “Atoto wore sane” and to the Asantehene who, through Kaminski, authorized the use of this chant for educational and artistic purposes. Also to Justin Scarimbolo for 19thcentury Indian music, Richard Williams & Richard Widdess for their introduction to Powadas and James Gardner for trying, heroically, to teach me Ghanaian drumming. Thank you, most of all, to Marin Alsop and Valentina Peleggi for commissioning the work, along with Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Jessica and I have loved every step of this process.
JD & RP, 11thDecember 2018