Monday, April 30, 2007

Live music streaming from Earthlingz Golden Week Gathering

Here at The Greenhouse in Chichibu, a few hours from Tokyo, for the annual Golden Week Gathering. This will be my 3rd Golden Week Gathering and it's always a wonderful event, but this year the lineup of musicians is particularly diverse. Plus as always there'll be cool DJs, delicious food, nice people, visits to local onsens and walks in the forest.

Click here to listen to the Earthlingz Radio live web stream

Please visit here for general info on the event and here for info on the musicians performing. The live schedule is here. The list of performers includes:
Taro Terahara (bansuri)
Kenji Sakasegawa (tabla)
Yamaquito Family (Flamenco Dance & Vocal)
Eric Mandala (various acoustic)
Mia & Miki (Balinese Dance - Legong Kuntul)
Taka Kurihara (sitar/vocal)
Aquilah (Hula & Oriental Dance)
Tim Hoffman (Shakuhachi, Vocal, Koto)
Shen Flindell (tabla)

Friends from all around the world can enjoy the music at this event via the newly set-up Earthlingz Radio live web stream. We are sending out a stream from the mixing console, so you'll hear DJs (mostly playing downtempo and ambient chill music) and in the evenings live music and live-DJ jamming. Please drop me a line with any comments on the stream - whether you're having problems, comments on sound quality and music, etc. I'll warn you in advance that we're currently having a problem with the left-right balance and I don't expect the live sound from the PA to sound particularly hi-fi.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Earth Day + Hospitals: Bangkok vs Tokyo

So I've finally arrived in Japan for another 3 month tour...

Had an interesting conversation with the immigration officer at Narita airport: (NB I'm not supposed to play concerts on a tourist visa, so I wrote "part-time worker" as my occupation.)
"Part-time worker...? What will you do so long-time in Japan?"
"Just visiting my friends."
"Really? Nothing else?"
"Yes, really."
"..... I believe you" (in a tone which said, "I don't believe you, but what can I do?")

Got the tourist visa. And to my surprise, the customs officer didn't fully search my luggage. Usually when I arrive in Japan from India, via Thailand, with my tabla in hand, they're very suspicious... This customs officer just seemed really happy that I could speak Japanese.

I headed off to my old friend Martine's house - lovely place that - dropped my luggage and then headed to Yoyogi Park where the Earth Day festival was going on. I had a rehearsal with Masa (of Mbira Zvakanaka) and Shun for our show the next morning, and then headed to Ogikubo to see my friends Yasu (sarod), Teiju (sitar) and UKO (tabla) giving an Indian classical performance. Lovely stuff.

Playing with Mbira Zvakanaka and Shun @ Earth Day
(Thanks to Martine for the photo - original here)

The show on Sunday morning with Mbira Zvakanaka was quite fun, but unfortunately I couldn't hang around and enjoy Earth Day, as for the last 6 days I've had an almost non-stop headache, and it was just too much. What a pain! As I mentioned last week I've been a bit worried it might be malaria. I had a blood test in Bangkok which came up negative, but apparently if you're not suffering from fever at that moment it will usually be negative.

Yesterday I came to Taro's house and he took me to a hospital to get checked out again. Same result as in Bangkok - no fever, negative for malaria - but here's a brief comparison of the two hospital experiences:
: Bangkok - got pushed around in a wheelchair from arrival to departure;
Tokyo - please take your blood sample down the hall to the testing department yourself
: Bangkok - blood test took about 20 minutes and the whole visit about 1 hour;
Tokyo - blood test took over 1 hour and the whole visit 2 and a half hours
: Bangkok - final bill 1000 baht (about A$40), and I got 4 kinds of medicine for 3 days;
Tokyo - final bill 12000 yen (about A$150), and I got 10 headache tablets.

So the moral of the story is, don't get sick in Japan!

Still got a headache... I'm hoping it will either go away soon or if it is malaria that it will hurry up and make me feverish so that I can get on with fixing it!

Coming up for me this week: Thursday morning rehearsal with Dr. Chandrakant Sardeshmukh, Sunday workshop and concert with Taro Terahara in Niigata, then from Monday I'll be at the Greenhouse in Chichibu, enjoying the Golden Week Gathering with a host of DJs and musicians including sitar, tabla, Indian vocal, shakuhachi, koto, Flamenco dance and Balinese dance!!! (My Japan tour schedule is here.)

Please leave a comment if you've gotten this far. :-)

India 2007: Collected episodes

Some brief reports from my weekly event-news emails to Australia... I know it's pretty unreadable posting 3 months worth of news in one go, sorry. I'm honestly going to try to post my reports here on this blog more regularly from now on! Please at least skim through and check out the photos.

JAN 18: Kolkata news
I arrived here on Monday morning. Same as ever... crowded and polluted. The big news in India is that Aishwariya Rai and Abhishek Bacchan are getting married.

Tonight I board the train to Varanasi, where I'll be taking part in the Saraswati Puja home concert at my Guru-ji's house. I'll be performing with sarod player Shuji Yamamoto, a disciple of Ustad Amjad Ali Khan. Also performing in the programme will be Shubhshankar, grand-nephew and protege of Varanasi tabla Godfather, Pt. Kishan Maharaj (who will also be present at the concert, I'm told). It's always an electric atmosphere at this concert. Report next week...

If I wasn't taking part in that Saraswati Puja concert I'd definitely stick it out in Kolkata to attend the Dover Lane Music Conference - 4 nights of amazing Indian classical musicians. (Read about last year's conference here.) For those of you interested, click here for this year's programme.

I've also recently updated my report on Taro Terahara's tour in December, to include a link to his blog with lots of photos of our experiences.

JAN 25: Saraswati Puja
Well Saraswati Puja concert came and went... I needed to be in India longer and more into my practice. :-( Luckily Kishan Maharaj-ji didn't come. But it was nice to see and play with Shuji-san (sarod) again and the audience seemed to like what we did. Anyway, now I can get down to setting up my room (with double-side Ganga view!)
With Shuji Yamamoto playing for Saraswati Puja

FEB 20: Shivaratri
This weekend was Shivaratri ("Shiva's night"), the biggest festival in the city of Shiva. There were several concerts including the 62nd annual Dhrupad Mela and the now annual khayal event near the Durga Temple, where we heard Kaushiki Desikan (daughter of Ajoy Chakraborty). Look out for her - she's amazing! Really nice voice and very interesting rhythmic taans.
Kaushiki Desikan at the Shivaratri concert
(thanks to Nick for the photo - more of Nick's Varanasi photos here.)

FEB 27: Hibiki Party @ Munna's
Saturday night my friend Junichi organised a party at Munna House - "Hibiki" (Resonance) featuring live sitar with twin tabla by Junichi, Shen & Waka, as well as DJ Izmir from Okinawa. Izmir started with an downtempo set and following the sitar performance started up some very nice dance tunes and the Munna rooftop, under a half-moon with full Ganga view, became the world's coolest nightclub for a few hours. Around midnight things toned down into some deep ambient sounds. Lush. (I'm personally satisfied with my single-handed two-floor cleanup effort during the day. The upper levels of Munna House are now rubbish-free.)

Waka, Junichi & Shen performing in the dimness at Hibiki Party

DJ Izmir, with Varanasi sound-man checking the moves

The world's coolest nightclub, for one night only

MAR 6: Holi

Last weekend was the big "Festival of Colours" - Holi. On Sunday morning all of India became a battleground for coloured waterbombs and water-guns (pichkaris). I stayed in my room...
Taro Terahara arrived just before Holi and we're now busy practising for the big Ashu-Babu Memorial Concert on March 16. We have a warm-up concert at Munna House tonight.
Jivan, the Munna House dog - another victim of Holi festivities

Shen & Taro at the Munna House Holi Concert. I'm seriously working on keeping my head straight nowadays - hopefully this will be the last photo with my head tilted so bizarrely! (thanks to Nick for the photo - more of Nick's Varanasi photos here.)

MAR 24: Ashu-Babu Memorial Concert
Once again my weekly email is late... I didn't want to write about Taro's strange adventure on Tuesday as the news that day was not so positive. But I have now written the full story including a full concert review of the 2007 Ashu Babu Memorial Concert.
Click here to read all about it... (old news for my regular blog-readers)

APR 1: Summer arrives
In the last couple of weeks the temperature has skyrocketed and yesterday was the first day with a maximum over 40 and a minimum over 20. I'm sorry to say that since the concert, along with this heat and my inherent laziness, my practice has been atrocious. Too lazy!!! I gave up my super view from Friday to move into a cool dark basement room. Next Thursday the 5 night Sankat Mochan music festival begins, with fantastic musicians coming to play for free in the devotional atmosphere of the Hanuman temple.

APR 10: Lessons, Sankat Mochan
It's too hot!!! But apart from that... Last week I spent 4 days in Delhi taking lessons with my senior guru-bhai, Govinda Chakraborty at the Kathak Kendra (National Kathak Dance Institute). It was great. He is an excellent teacher, and for the first time in many years I was part of a group of students. He gave me some excellent advice on improving my hand position, sound and posture. Now I have to do the necessary practice.

Here in Varanasi tonight is the last night of the annual 5-night Sankat Mochan music festival. I haven't attended very much so far, preferring to go for those performances I'm specifically interested in. Unfortunately my plan backfired on the first day, when I arrived intending to watch Shiv Kumar Sharma with Kumar Bose, only to find everyone leaving! I have managed to catch Suresh Talwarkar's innovative style of tabla solo and a jugalbandi between South Indian saxophone legend Gopal Kadri Nath and North Indian bansuri-wala Ronu Majumdar. I don't particularly like Ronu Majumdar's sound or style, but at least I can say I've seen Gopal Kadri Nath. Tonight I'll try to catch most of the night, until dawn, including tabla solo by Anindo Chatterjee and sitar recital by Niladri Kumar.

APR 17: Sick, Kolkata, Bangkok
I've had an eventful yet harrowing week. A few hours after witnessing Pt. Anindo Chatterjee's fantastic tabla solo in pancham sawari (15 beats) at Sankat Mochan (Hanuman) temple on Wednesday morning, and even meeting him briefly, I started to get quite sick in the belly. Still had to pack and catch a train to Kolkata though... In Kolkata I had an OK day but for the next few days I had a fever, cough and could barely eat. All alone and still had to do some errands though... I was quite worried I had malaria or something, but on arrival in Bangkok on Sunday I got a blood test. All OK - just a combo of a cold, a stomach bug and way-too-hot weather making me feel like hell. Getting better now but I can't wait to get out of the Bangkok heat and into Japanese spring.

I'll be in Tokyo on Saturday and will stay with old buddy Martine Cotton (check her cool Tokyo photoblog) for the first couple of days, while visiting Yoyogi Park for the Earth Day festival, where I'll be performing my only Tokyo concert this trip, with Mbira Zvakanaka. If you're interested in my Japan tour schedule, please check it out here.


Ganga Views

A collection of photos from my former Ganga-side room...
You can click on any photo to see a larger version.

I love this boat. My friends Liz & Barry used a photo of this boat for their engagement party - "Sailing off on new journey together" or something like that. The sail seems to be patched together from about 20 pieces of fabric.

Wide-angle with the same sailboat.

View of Varanasi on a clear day.

Pilgrims bathing in Ganga and washing their saris.

For most of February there was a flock of seagulls on the river - something I've never seen before. They were in the habit of picking one boat to flap around, and dogging that boat all the way down the river. My friend Mai said it was like an Alfred Hitchcock movie. My theory is that a few of them would come to the boat looking for food, then others would see the small gathering and go to join it. Once it reached critical mass that unlucky group of pilgrims was condemned to a view of a cloud of seagulls for the whole boat-ride.

Some sadhus came to Varanasi after the Kumbh Mela in Allahabad and set up these tents on this island.

The same "island" two weeks later, after the pre-Holi rainstorm. They packed up their tents the day before, in strong winds.

Giving the bicycle a holy wash. "Now how do I get the Hero Honda down here...?"

A herd of water-buffalo swimming up the river. I saw them swimming near Dasaswamedh Ghat all the way to their usual bathing spot in front of my house on Narad Ghat, so they came at least 500m. They obviously knew where they were headed too.

Varanasi by night. Sorry about the blur. Note the cluster of candles floating on the river.

The Ramayana boat-procession on Ram Navmi. This is an annual event, with actors on each boat presenting a scene from the Ramayana. Sorry my camera's not good enough to show any close-ups.

Don't forget to leave a comment if you get this far... :-)