Wednesday, September 02, 2020

The Last Concert? Pts Sugato Nag and Abhijit Banerjee

Remember March 2020? It was a time of great change and uncertainty, as COVID-19 started spreading exponentially around Australia. At the start of the month we had heard of it on the news. By the end of the month we were in lockdown.

So, what a time for me to be organising what was intended to be the biggest Indian classical concert of the year for Brisbane: "Master Musicians of Kolkata" featuring Pt Sugato Nag (sitar) and Pt Abhijit Banerjee (tabla), two great masters who were in Australia for the inaugural Melbourne Hindustani Classical Music Festival, held on the weekend of March 7. The organisers of that festival were incredibly lucky in their timing, as it was unaffected by the virus. (Many thanks to MHCMS for their hard work!)  A week later in Brisbane, though, and audiences were too worried to buy tickets. 


In the end, March 13 saw a decent crowd at Queensland Multicultural Centre, not as big as I'd hoped, but big enough to make it work. It was the launch event for our new non-profit entity, Qld Sangeet Mela Association (QSMA), for whose support I'm very grateful. Hopefully QSMA will have the chance to undertake more activities some time next year...


It was a truly marvellous concert, and all who attended really felt blessed for the opportunity. A select few also benefited from sitar and tabla workshops the next morning. We didn't really understand at the time how golden an opportunity it was: Looking at COVID numbers in India now, I can't imagine we will be hosting artists from India for a year or two, if not much longer.


Tabla workshop with Pt Abhijit Banerjee.

Tabla solo @ The Little Big Bang

I had my last pre-COVID concert in early March 2020 - The Little Big Bang. My old friend Elliott Orr began playing African drums around the same time that I started tabla. When he moved to Brisbane in 1995, and I'd just returned from my first trip to India, we moved in together and I joined his percussion group Bubada Dubada. Since those heady days, Elliott has gone on to be the top African drumming guy around Brisbane (even having moved to Byron recently). We used to have a monthly gig called The Big Bang, but nowadays it's The Little Big Bang, held in smaller halls. There are always performances by Zormiwasa (Elliott's weekly workshop participants), and Spankinhide (the descendant of Bubada Dubada, in which I am casual shaker player).

For the 7th March 2020 edition, Elliott invited me to come and play tabla solo! It was really nice to play a relaxed teentaal tabla solo (with the great Lehra Studio app by Aman Kalyan), for a percussion audience not necessarily used to full length tabla solo. They were a really great, attentive audience, and it made me feel I would like to do more of this! Here's a snippet in a Facebook video:

Monday, August 31, 2020

Woodford 2019-20 with Sunita Tikare, and a few more shows with Sangeet Mishra

After my 2019 Japan tour in October, things were pretty quiet for me until Woodford-time, when we were graced with performances by visiting Mumbai-based artists Sunita Tikare (vocal) and Sangeet Mishra (sarangi). Sunita flew in just for her Woodford performances, which were just lovely, while Sangeet stayed on for a week afterwards for a few little home and community concerts. Little did we know at the time that these would be my last concerts accompanying international artists for some time...

Fri 27 Dec - Wed 1 Jan Shen & Yuki @ Woodford Folk Festival 2019/20
Day 1: "Bombay In Morning Light" - Shen with Sunita Tikare and Sangeet Mishra

Day 2: "The Worldly Violin" - sarangi solo by Sangeet with Shen on tabla.

Day 3: "Melodic Beauty of Indian Ragas" - Shen, Sunita and Sangeet.

Day 4: "Indian Music Under the Stars" at the Folklorica Outdoor Stage: Shen, Sunita and Sangeet.

Day 5: "Indian Sunset Concert"

Day 6: Sangeet and I joined Tenzin Choegyal's "Hilltop Sunrise Ceremony"


Day 6: "Raags: Serene to the Ecstatic" (Sangeet and I had another concert on Day 5, but no photos.)


For the 50th anniversary of John and Yoko's "Bed Peace" - Shen, Yuki and Saraswati.

Fri 3 Jan Willawong: Kirtan Sangeet - Devotional Music and Sarangi Concert feat. Sangeet Mishra - Sangeet and I joined devotional singer Atul Deshpande for a community event.

Sat 4 Jan Sunshine Coast: Sarangi master Sangeet Mishra with Shen (tabla) - Home concert hosted by the Jha family in Buderim - many thanks for hosting my last classical concert before COVID times.

Sun 5 Jan morning Brisbane: Alaap Meditation #2: Sangeet Mishra (sarangi) - The second edition of our "Alaap Meditation" series, where we have renowned artists performing just alaap for a meditative morning audience. Thanks to Sanjeev Hiremath for hosting this event.

Alaap Meditation #2 audience and artist.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Japan Tour 2019

In October 2019 I had my first trip to Japan in 3 years, and my first concerts there since 2014! Although my partner Yuki visits Japan every year for time with family and some intensive work, for the last few years I've been concentrating on work at home in Australia rather than trying to make a music trip to Japan pay (which is a lot harder nowadays than when I used to go regularly in the early 2000s). Anyway, I'd really been missing my friends over there, the yummy food and especially the onsens (hot spring baths), so I thought I'll ask my old friends if I can come and visit and play some music together. Thanks to everyone who hosted concerts for me! I had a great time! 

I started playing tabla in 1994 so I billed this as my "25th tabla anniversary" tour.


Mon Oct 14 Hayama: 森のインド古典会 - Forest and Indian Music - The opening event of my tour was a lovely outdoor event dedicated to Late Pt Nikhil Banerjee, with a lineup of some of the most senior Indian classical artists in Japan as well as special guest Pt Ritwik Sanyal (Dhrupad vocal - Varanasi). I had a great time accompanying Setsuo "Jimi" Miyashita (santoor) for the first time in 10 years, and my regular music partner Taro Terahara (bansuri), as well as joining the final all-star jam. There was a bit of rain blowing around the stage at the last item, so I innovated and threw my shawl over the mic and tabla, playing "under-cover"!


with Setsuo "Jimi" Miyashita (santoor) - playing together after 10 years gap!


with Taro Terahara (bansuri)


All-Star Jam: L to R: Tetsuya Kaneko (pakhawaj), Kenji Inoue (sitar), Pt Ritwik Sanyal (vocal), Taro Terahara (bansuri), Shen Flindell (tabla). (Shree and Jimi-san on tanpuras in background.)

Thu Oct 17 Kunitachi: Taro Terahara private booking - I kicked off my trip to Kansai with a little college concert in Tokyo with Taro-san, a kind of lecture-demonstration at a music college. From the concert I caught the shinkansen to Kyoto...

Fri Oct 18 Kyoto: Sitar&Tabla Indian Music Concert - Minamizawa Yasuhiro + Shen - Thanks to Yasuhiro Minamizawa for inviting me to play with him at Nyan-Nyan Gallery in Kyoto. Minamizawa-san and I used to practise together regularly when I lived in Kyoto in the early 2000s.


Sat Oct 19 Osaka: インドの音楽 インドのスパイス - Tadao (sitar) and Shen - Thanks also to Tadao for hosting me in Osaka. We played together easily and naturally as always. Good times!

While in Kyoto I invited a couple of other old friends to come for practice. Carlos Guerra (bansuri) and Yohei Iwashita (sitar) had never met, and we had a great time playing together.

It was so nice going for a big long walk around my old home town...

Tue Oct 22 Tokyo: アムルート・マンタン#12 - Back in Tokyo, I accompanied amazing Kathak dancer Atsuko Maeda, along with excellent sarangi player Shinsuke Nishizawa.

Fri Oct 25 Tokyo: YOGINI(ヨギーニ) マントラ&バジャン ワークショップとコンサート - Yuki and Shen - I joined Yuki for her chanting workshop, playing a couple of bhajans at the end.

Sun Oct 27 Tokyo: ヨシダダイキチ&シェン・フリンデル  - My tour closer was with experienced Japanese sitarist Yoshida Daikiti, a very sensitive and beautiful player. Thanks Yoshida-san!

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

A quick trip to Melbourne in Sep 2019

In early September 2019, I took a quick trip to Melbourne. I had been planning to attend a performance by great Kathak dancer Pt Birju Maharaj, and take lessons from his tabla accompanist, my senior guru-bhai Pt Govinda Chakraborty, but their trip was cancelled due to illness. I had non-refundable flight tickets so I thought, "why not go and see what happens?" It was nice to stay with my cousin and catch up with a few friends, while at the same time meeting and practising with various Indian classical music lovers and performers there. 

On arrival I visited my first tabla guru, Sri Debu Bhattacharya, then went for practice with my old friend, sitarist Saikat Bhattacharya who had recently moved to Melbourne. After that I headed to a little gathering of amateur music lovers who practise together weekly, before wrapping up the evening at my cousin Ed's.

Saturday was more relaxed, but on the Sunday I headed to the other side of town where I had been suddenly and unexpectedly invited to join a home concert, accompanying Saikat! The main artist was an sarangi maestro from Delhi, Pt Bharat Bhushan Goswami, accompanied on tabla by a really old friend, Abhinav Garg, who I actually share-housed with in Kyoto in 2001! I took the chance to visit Bhushan-ji early for my own little practice, which was really such a blessing.


Accompanying Saikat Bhattacharya at a home concert in Pt Cook.


L to R: Abhinav Garg, Pt Bharat Bhushan Goswami, Saikat Bhattacharya, Shen

Aug 2019: Josh Feinberg (USA), Tibet2Timbuk2 (Tibet), Kenshin Okada (Japan)

Continuing my review of past concerts... In August 2019 I was lucky to host brilliant US sitarist Josh Feinberg for a few concerts in and around Brisbane, before he headed off to Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney. It really was a pleasure to accompany Josh and to have some fun chats and games in the evenings too. Unfortunately I was a bit lax with getting photos of the concerts...

 
Tour flyer


Driving to Byron soon after Josh's arrival...

Fri 9 Aug Ocean Shores: Soul Sangeet Intimate & Unplugged SITAR Maestro - a home concert at the Temple of Melodious Sound, with local guest artist Shivam Rath (slide guitar).
Sat 10 Aug West End: Sitar Maestro Josh Feinberg (USA) - held at Haiku and very well attended!
Sun 11 Aug Tarragindi: Alaap Meditation #1 - Sitar Maestro Josh Feinberg (USA) - held at our home event space, "Space Saraswati", we launched the concept of an alaap-only morning concert for meditation, and it was very popular!

Sun 11 Aug Sunshine Coast: Sitar Maestro Josh Feinberg (USA) - held at the home of Dr Pankaj Jha and again very well attended!


The following week, Tibet2Timbuk2 had a little tour down to central NSW to promote our new CD, Apo Gaga. Thanks to Wauchope Arts Council and Dorrigo Folk and Bluegrass Festival for hosting us.
Sat 17 Aug Wauchope: Tibet2Timbuk2
Sun 18 Aug Dorrigo: Tibet2Timbuk2
Tibet2Timbuk2 @ Dorrigo


Then the following week we hosted a small event at Space Saraswati again, featuring several Indian music artists either from Japan or connected to and active in Japan, the second in our series of concerts entitled "Japan Gharana". ("Japan Gharana #1" was held in January 2018.) This edition featured sarangi player Kenshin Okada, Chhau dance by Yogeshwari Giri, mantra by Mico Sundari, slide guitar by Shivam Rath, and tabla by myself.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

12th Annual Ashu Babu Memorial Tabla School Concert

A selection of photos from the 12th Annual Ashu Babu Memorial Tabla School Concert, held on Friday 19th July at Queensland Multicultural Centre in celebration of Guru Purnima...


The concert opened with bhajan in honour of gurus by Anvi Vaidya, with Guhanesh Ganesh (tabla), Kayshinie Ganesh (bansuri), and Nikhil Deo (harmonium).


Beginners tabla group: Mahin


Beginners tabla group: Linesh

Beginners tabla group: Sreyas


Junior tabla group: Amit, Hiyan, Enan, Dev, with Nikhil Deo (harmonium).


Intermediate tabla group: Pyara, Ali, Rishab, Shainthra, Aarav.


Varun Lal performed special compositions for tabla on one hand.


Advanced group: Ashwin, Keshav, Ayush, Guhanesh, Aditya, with Nikhil Deo (harmonium).


Senior group: Arun, Jesinthan, Arka, Rhea, with Nikhil Deo (harmonium).


Presentation of certificates by chief guest Umesh Chandra and tabla guru Shen Flindell. 


Tabla solo in Ektaal (12 beats) by Shen Flindell.

Homelands Tour with Tenzin Choegyal, Kween G, Yasmin Ibrahim

June 14-22, 2019, I got the chance to go on tour with my old buddies Tenzin Choegyal and Marcello Milani, and new buddies Kween G and Yasmin Ibrahim from Sydney, performing a show called "Homelands Tour". Kween G is a Ugandan rapper, and Yasmin Ibrahim a Sudanese singer. We met on June 14 and had a couple of rehearsals before our first show. We then hit the road performing in Armidale, Coffs Harbour, western Sydney and finally at the New Beginnings Winter Festival in Sydney.

It was so much fun working with talented and diverse artists to put together a cohesive show. We included the Sydney artists in a couple of our established Tibet2Timbuk2 songs, developed accompaniment for Sudanese and rap songs of Yasmin and Kween, and pulled together a collaborative piece built on a dialog between Kween G's beatboxing and my tabla bols.

Thanks to BEMAC and SSI for arranging this tour!

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First rehearsal.



Ready for an interview on ABC local radio.
 

Bonus rehearsal at Qld Multicultural Centre.


Let's go! (I'm concentrating on my Rubik's cube, which was a new craze for me.)


On the road between Armidale and Coffs Harbour.


New Beginnings Winter Festival in Sydney


Various events Apr/May 2019

A collection of shows following Sangeet Mela 2019, prior to my 12th annual tabla school concert...

Sat 6 Apr Bris: Nrityanjali - Devotion Through Dance 2019 Annual Dance Concert - Sangeet Mishra (sarangi), Darshil Shah (bansuri) and I (tabla) accompanied a few items in the Nritya Bharati School of Kathak Dance concert, but unfortunately we don't have any photos of us with them. As always it was fantastic having Sangeet-bhai there for rock-solid and beautifully melodious naghma in Kathak accompaniment.


Sun 7 Apr Moorooka: Kirtan Samadhi - feat. Sangeet Mishra - An evening of traditional kirtan with Atul Deshpande and Menaka Thomas, along with Sangeet-bhai on sarangi and Vijen-bhai on guitar. For this concert I played pakhawaj for a few songs. The followup concert is coming soon (as I write this) on Fri 3 Jan in Willawong.



Wed 10 Apr Murwillumbah: Soul Sangeet 2019 April Tour & South Indian Buffet - Following Sangeet Mela 2019, Sangeet Mishra went on an east coast tour with slide guitar player Shivam Rath. This was the first of the tour, and I also joined the tour closer when they got back at the end of the month. For both of these concerts I enjoyed nice interplay with tabla player Massimo Bidin, a fellow disciple of the Benares Gharana.

Fri 26 Apr Mullumbimby: Soul Sangeet - Shivam Rath, Sangeet Mishra, Shen Flindell

Sat 27 Apr New Farm: 1000 Stories Karma Phuntsok and Tenzin Choegyal & Tibet2Timbuk2 - A wonderful concert with wonderful musicians in a wonderful venue with a wonderful artist. Tibet2Timbuk2 with friends Tenzing Yeshi and Tenzin Nyidon, in the Brisbane Powerhouse main auditorium. Karma Phuntsok's art was gorgeous.




Sun 5 May Mt Gravatt: Morning Ragas Classical Sitar Recital - Thanks to Swara Mohini for organising this concert and inviting me to accompany sitarist Shrabani Choudhury.


Sat 25 May BEMAC presents Menaka Thomas' debut album launch "My Eyes Can See" - I first met Menaka when accompanying her mother Vijaya Visvanathan, a renowned Carnatic vocalist and teacher in Brisbane, more than 20 years ago. Since then we have collaborated on various projects, most notably Spirit of Bhakti with singer-songwriter Rebecca Bornstein. Now she has released an album of her own original songs, into which she poured so much heart and soul and her loving attention to detail. The launch concert was an amazing production with everything planned for the various musicians playing in various songs. Thanks to Menaka for having me on her CD.