Bhopal, May 02, 2022: As part of Bonjour India, the Wall Art Festival and [In]Chorus Strings Together concert were held in Bhopal. From 22nd to 24th April, 10 am to 6 pm, Lili Totas made a wall at the Alliance Française de Bhopal her canvas. During the Wall Art Festival, the façade of a building at Alliance Française de Bhopal was transformed into a vibrant, colorful one. Onlookers watched a kaleidoscope of shimmering colors being painted on the wall and saw as they came together to tell a story about uprooting. The talented musical trio – Strings Together – performed at the Gohar Mahal at 7 pm on 30th April. The concert fused the sounds of the African Kora, the Western guitar, and the Indian tabla to produce a melody influenced by the musical traditions of three continents. The Kora was played by Chérif Soumano from Mali, while Shahnawaz Ahmed played the guitar and Shahbaaz Khan the tabla. France’s Consul General Jean-Marc Séré-Charlet was among the guests at the concert. Both events were part of the Bonjour India initiative, an artistic, cultural, educational, and social initiative by the Embassy of France and its cultural service Institut Français en Inde, the Alliance Française Network, and the Consulates of France.

The Wall Art Festival celebrates India and France’s shared passion for wall art and painting along with the colour and pigment expertise of JSW Paints. Street art and culture generate enthusiasm in both countries. In urban areas in India and France, countless walls have been painted by wall artists. These enrich the urban landscape and are outlets of expression. They often tell riveting stories. In India, wall art themes differ from region to region highlighting the infinite richness of the country’s cultures. France also has a very strong and historical urban art scene which includes graffiti, hip-hop, dance, rap, and more. The country proactively redesigns the face/shape of its cities. Hence, the Wall Art Festival in Bhopal has added to the richness of Indian wall art by introducing themes from France.

About the artist herself, Lili Totas was born in Brazil and raised in Honduras. She has lived in Lyon since 2003. She derives her creativity from the theme of “uprooting”. She expresses this theme through street art techniques using bright colors, round, and soft shapes. These are many nostalgic representations of a political and social claim. Her work also evokes the femininity of a committed citizen. In her work, the eye, the feet, the clouds, the Klein blue sky, the boats, and the daisies are recurring and constitutive elements of a complex pictorial staging. 

Strings Together’s Chérif Soumano is undoubtedly one of the most talented and promising Kora players of his generation. His music is contemporary yet deeply rooted in the traditional repertoire transmitted to him by his father in Mali. He can communicate many kinds of music and is an exceptional virtuoso capable of tremendous expressiveness. His collaborator Shahnawaz Ahmed can play various styles on the guitar effortlessly. He has perfected guitarwork and a technique that is unlike that of any other musician. Like Shahnawaz, the young and talented Shahbaaz Khan plays the tabla effortlessly producing energetic beats. 

Speaking about the Wall Art Festival Mr. Thomas Simoes, Director of Alliance Française, Bhopal and Indore said “Wall Art enriches the cityscape and comes in diverse colors and shapes, so much so that every city and every city block can be home to wall art whose tone and identity differ. Lili Totas’ mural will add an additional layer of sophistication and conviviality to Bhopal’s wall art scene. Her work bears the impressions of her diverse heritage and background. Its addition to Bhopal’s wall art scene will leave an indelible mark on the city’s landscape.” He went on to say, “For the first time in Bhopal, an audience heard the African Kora, Western Guitar, and Indian Tabla together, and that too in the hands of some of the world’s most accomplished musicians. The music heard at the concert was distinct from the sounds most had ever heard before. It entertained but also brought people together at a time of growing conflict and uncertainty.  I can confidently say that the experience everyone had at the concert will not be soon forgotten by them.”

Speaking about the concert Consul General of France in Bombay Jean-Marc Séré-Charlet said “Chérif Soumano’s music is influenced not only by the musical tradition of his native Mali but also by that of his adopted home, France. Heard together, the Kora, Guitar, and Tabla, played by artists from different cultures made this concert a celebration of diversity. At a turbulent time in the world, the concert not only entertained people but also brought them together through the only universal language in the world, music.”