Friday, September 19, 2008
"Nat Pwe - Burma's Carnival Of Spirit Soul" DVD
I don't pretend to understand Burmese culture, but this audio-visual travelogue, filmed and created by Richard and Alan Bishop (of Sun City Girls, and past collaborators with Arizona experimental groups Maybe Mental and Life Garden) is a surreal and respectful look at a society that holds its' ideals and traditions alive, despite growing influence from Westernism. There's no commentary here, no judging, no supposition. Just raw, fly-on-the-wall sights and sounds.
Recorded in Burma in 2002, the brothers captured a wild festival celebrating ghost spirits (NATs) that have the power to assist or destroy mortal lives. This huge celebration (a PWE) plays out like a wild Mardi Gras, with festive street performers, ecstatic dancing, singing, improvised ritual musics, and Kadaws, or spirit mediums (often cross dressers) who invoke the spirits and appease them with their garb and graceful movements.
The revelry is frantic, with some people becoming religiously possessed. Others simply observe passively, drinking and smoking and sometimes dancing along or placing money on the performers' costumes (for good luck?). It must be a (literally and figuratively) intoxicating place to be, and kudos to Sublime Frequencies for bringing this slice of distant culture to our sheltered world. Their work is an essential documentation and celebration of our world's distinctive and often-forgotten music, culture, and history, and wholeheartedly deserves your attention.
Check their site for more info: