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About the work:
The composer writes: ‘The Naga Baba are one of the more extreme sects of the Hindu religion in India. Worshippers of Shiva, they wander from village to village, naked but for a covering of ash. They have no possessions, and depend on the alms of the villagers who lay food out for them, motivated partly by respect, partly by fear. Naga Baba is inspired by the silent austerity of these holy men.'
‘In the piece, I have made musical analogies to the process of transformation whereby the identity of an individual is subsumed into a larger group mentality. This is most obviously represented in the way the assertions of independence made by the solo violin are gradually overcome by the rest of the orchestra. For the Naga Baba, the transformation is a seven-year initiation and learning process, culminating in a ritual period of meditation and jungle retreat. This concludes in a ceremony whereby the candidate must prove his total devotion to Shiva. Whilst he is meditating and focusing on a mantra, a red-hot piece of iron is plunged through his ear. Flinching or uttering a sound is an indication that he is not yet ready, and death or madness is the ultimate sign that the candidate was unfit to serve the Lord Shiva.’