Tuesday, May 29, 2007

New EthnoSuperLounge Website!!!

Hi folks,

I've been hard at work over the last few weeks on the new version of the EthnoSuperLounge website. Please take a look and let me know your comments.

I know there are problems with the site on Safari (Mac) but hopefully I can get those fixed up in the next week or so.

New features on the site:
I especially encourage Brisbane-region folks to join the Meeting place forum and make a post.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Shizuoka with Dr. Chandrakant Sardeshmukh

Diamonds and Sitar
I've just returned to
The Greenhouse after spending the weekend in Shizuoka for a performance with Dr. Chandrakant Sardeshmukh. We were performing at the Century Hotel as part of an exhibition showcasing Indian jewellery, organised by the Taj Group under the auspices of 2007 Indo-Japan Friendship Year. Quite a big do - diamonds everywhere. We played two 10 minute sets, and were followed by an Indian dancer. A bit of fun, a decent wage and a good experience with some nice people - Chandrakant and his wife Pooja. Had a reasonable "Viking lunch" - the Japanese term for a buffet - think Smorgasbord and it makes sense.

Shen and Dr. Sardeshmukh perform in Shizuoka

Shen in Shizuoka

On the Chuo Line back to Takasitar's place in Hachioji, I became a pillow for both my neighbours. Omoshirokatta. 面白かった。

Following the concert in Shizuoka City, I caught a local train to Kakegawa City in western Shizuoka, to meet sitar player
Nobuo Sugimoto. He is a long-time student of Amit Roy, a major father-figure in Indian classical music in Japan. (Amit Roy is also Taro Terahara's guru-ji.) We had only previously met once, about 3 years ago at a Calcutta Night in Osaka, and I'd never heard him play although I'd heard his reputation. Very nice. I had a great time with him and his wife Shoko. 杉本さんとしょこさん、ありがとうございました!

On the way between Chichibu and Shizoka, I stopped off at my friend Taka Kurihara aka Takasitar in Hachoji. He is also a lovely sitar player and also a good singer, and not only that he's an excellent producer - in fact I like his music so much I'm selling his fantastic CD Jantar Night on my website. Lots of fun practice there, plus some great coffee at his wife Kei's shop, Khazana Coffee. (Actually I don't drink coffee but I want to give them a plug.) たかさんとけいちゃん、ありがとうございました!

This weekend we're hoping to have a party at the Greenhouse before I leave for various travels around the country. Not sure how many will come though.... Next weekend I've got the Dance of Shiva party in the onsen area of Izu, after which I'll be back at Taro's for a week in Chiba. Then Osaka, Kyoto, Kyushu, Nagasaki, Kyoto, Tokyo,

---- ANY COMMENTS??? ----

Monday, May 14, 2007

Gardening and Fascinating Podcasts

Hi folks,

I'm up here in the hills of Chichibu, Saitama in Japan, at The Greenhouse where I'm staying for most of May with my host Chris Case. I've written quite a bit about The Greenhouse and Chris - check this post from last year, for example. For whatever reason, I have only one paid gig in May (with Dr. Chandrakant Sardeshmukh in Shizuoka) so I'm fortunate to be able to stay at The Greenhouse. As well as enjoying the Japanese countryside atmosphere and Chris' fascinating company, I have the opportunity to receive free food and accommodation in exchange for some work. Rather than staying with friends in Tokyo and taking over their cramped lounge-rooms, I can stay in the spacious Greenhouse and contribute at the same time. I've given Chris some help with website design and sound-system setup, but mainly I've been doing a lot of gardening work.

While pulling weeds, cutting grass and planting basil, I've been listening to some absolutely fascinating podcasts. If you're looking for some interesting listening, allow me to make some recomendations... (Warning - some controversial topics ahead!)

BTW The links on the podcast titles below link to the XML file you use to subscribe to the podcast. Put that link into your podcast aggregator (eg iTunes).

Starting off on the world music side, I've found a few world music podcasts recently, although most of them aren't very regular:
  • SF Jazz - not regular, only 4 podcasts all posted last year, but the content is very interesting. Tabla maestro Zakir Hussain talks about his life and in particular his musical influences. I've only heard episode 1 so far - he discusses his childhood with his father, the legendary tabla-master Alla Rakha, Bollywood, The Doors, and starting to find his own style with Hariprasad Chaurasia and Shiv Kumar Sharma.

  • Gongcast - also very irregular, only 2 podcasts in the last year. But you can hear some nice Gamelan there.

  • Global Rhythm - monthly world music program. Very professional format, perhaps a little too mainstream for my liking. As usual with "world music" it's dominated by the more commercially appealing versions like Latin and African. But maybe I shouldn't judge too soon - I've only heard one episode so far.

  • IMC OnAir - Indian Classical Music podcast from Germany. I haven't downloaded any episodes yet, as I already have a lot of what they're podcasting, but it seems this could be a good source of free Indian Classical Music.
Now for the really fascinating stuff. Music is great but I get much more of a buzz out of actually playing it or at least witnessing it live, so I'm enjoying interview and speech-style podcasts a lot more. I've actually been listening to these 3 podcasts for about 6 months, all three related to the possibilities of human consciousness.
  • Psychedelic Salon - "Your source for cutting edge information about the exploration and expansion of consciousness. Featured speakers include Terence McKenna, Alex Grey, Daniel Pinchbeck, Erik Davis, Ann and Sasha Shulgin, Nick Sand and more."

    Hosted by "the podfather" Lorenzo Hagerty, I first found this podcast while searching for audio from the late great Terence McKenna, psychedelic thinker extraordinaire. Lorenzo is now up to episode 91 and it has been constantly fascinating. There are loads of talks by Terence, plus his Trialogues with Rupert Sheldrake (of the morpho-genetic field theory) and Ralph Abraham (chaos mathematician) where they discuss an enormous range of topics including the technological singularity, development of consciousness on the internet, "Chaos and Imagination", "Skepticism and the Balkanisation of Epistemiology" and so on.

    Apart from talks by Terence McKenna, there are a load of other talks and interviews featuring various urban shamans, psychedelic researchers and theorists. My favourite episodes so far have been "080-Pallamary: Adventures of an Urban Shaman" and "081-Siebert: Salvia Divinorum", both of which discuss shamanic experience. Absolutely fascinating. Favourite quote from Matt Pallamary: "The absolute best thing you can do for yourself, and for everybody, for the universe, for the cosmos, for the race, for humanity, truly the absolute best thing you can do for everybody, is to work on yourself and heal yourself. Because when you heal yourself you heal part of the collective, and you begin to realize that everybody around you is a mirror. Because we are all one"

  • C-Realm - "Discussions on topics focused on the coming Vingean Singularity, Entheogenic Exploration, alternative agriculture and Individual Conscious Autonomy."

    My favourite episode so far was Episode 28: Building a Better Monster, an interview with Ben Goertzel in which he and host KMO discuss Goertzel's work in developing an artificial general intelligence and then branch off to discuss "kinds of minds; straight-laced and psychedelic, evolved organic and autogenous 'artificial' agents" and sci-fi visualisations of the technological singularity.

  • Dopefiend - "Dopefiend.co.uk is The Web's Favourite Cannabis Podcast Network, supplying a wide variety of programming for every side of the International Cannabis Community."

    There are a number of different programs on this podcast, some of which I can take or leave but some are quite entertaining. The "core program" The Dopecast is always good for entertainment value and discussion of "our favourite sacred sacrament". However the fortnightly Psychonautica program is the really interesting program, hosted by C-Realm's KMO along with Max Freakout, it explores similar topics to C-Realm and Psychedelic Salon with a more practical approach.
As a musician, particularly in the realm of spiritual, devotional, transcendental music, I find such discussions on states of consciousness, exploration of metaphysical realms, changing the world for the better, developing creativity etc to be totally absorbing. And as Lorenzo says, "you don't need to be currently using these ancient medicines to have an interest in these topics." [Just to divert those disposed to prejudice...]

I recently had a great conversation with Chris and another musician in which we discussed some metaphysical aspects of music performance. Chris told us that the musician is in the same category as the yoga practitioner, in that we are both seeking for that connection with the Higher Mind (cosmos, God, whatever...). The difference is that the yoga practitioner takes that energy into him/herself, while the musician immediately shares it with everyone present. This makes the path of the musician much riskier, because we have to deal with the risks of ego and fame.

I really believe that this kind of path - that of the musician, the artist, the yogi, the shaman - is the most important work we can be doing for the development of human consciousness.

I'm going to repeat this quote from Matt Pallamary (from this podcast) - it's worth reading at least twice!

"The absolute best thing you can do for yourself, and for everybody, for the universe, for the cosmos, for the race, for humanity, truly the absolute best thing you can do for everybody, is to work on yourself and heal yourself. Because when you heal yourself you heal part of the collective, and you begin to realize that everybody around you is a mirror. Because we are all one"

- Please leave a comment if you got this far :-)

New paintjob for Hilary, the ultimate hippy-van

While I've been in India and Japan, my van Hilary has been in the care of my tabla student Brent. He's just sent me some photos of the new paintjob he's doing. Check it out!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

More photos from Golden Week Gathering

Mia & Miki performing Balinese welcome dance @ Greenhouse Golden Week Gathering

Mia & Miki performing Legong Dance

Chris Case plays Bach

Tim Hoffman tuning his swarmandal, used for vocal accompaniment. He also performed Indian classical music on koto (pictured) and shakuhachi.

So the Golden Week Gathering has finished up, but I'll be here for all of May. Started work in the garden yesterday. My next concert is on May 20 with Dr. Chandrakant Sardeshmukh in Shizuoka, however that's not a public event. My next public concert is at the very interesting-looking "Dance of Shiva: Indian music mind effect party" with DJs and live Indian classical music at the hot-spring resort town of Izu, in early June.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Niigata temple concert, Yamaquito Family, Squid-Choco

Hi folks,

Thanks to everyone who's expressed concern about my headache. It's all OK now. After 5 quite intense days leading me to the hospital in Funabashi, it started to subside and 5 days later was basically gone. All well.

I've been having a lovely time with musical friends here in Japan. After a few days at Taro & Yuriko's house, we took a trip to Koide, Niigata, about 300km from Tokyo for a concert in Rin-Sen-An (Forest-Spring-Temple - spring as in fresh water). We were taking part in a yearly ceremony at the temple, and played after the monks performed their rituals including lots of chanting. We were also treated to a magnicifent lunch.

The night before the concert, we stayed at Bon-Jin-san's house - a friend of the organiser who is a trained monk but also works as a chiropractor and healer. During dinner he showed us an incredible video of a 90 minute performance in New York by 1000 Japanese monks, accompanied at times by Japanese flute, taiko drums and a Japanese jazz band consisting of sax, flute, keyboards, marimba, bass and drums. Imagine the cost and logistics of rehearsing and flying that many people to New York!!!

Rin-Sen-An temple in Koide, Niigata

Snowy mountain view in Koide, Niigata

Main altar at Rin-Sen-An

Part of main hall of Rin-Sen-An

Dragon panel at Rin-Sen-An

Ika-Choco (Chocolate coated squid): Found in a service area in Saitama on the way to Niigata. Even Japanese people I mentioned this to thought it was very strange. The sales blurb on the box describes it as "a rare collaboration between two special flavours, creating a new deliciousness." Also available, Ika-Choco-Kare (Chocolate coated curry squid). {Sorry I forgot how to do close-ups at the moment I took this photo.}

After the Niigata concert, we drove to The Greenhouse in Chichibu, about halfway back to Tokyo, for the annual Earthlingz Golden Week Gathering. I talk a little about the event in general in this post, but here are some photos of Yamaquito Flamenco Family from the first night. Before the flamenco performance, Japan's seniormost tabla player Kenji Sakasegawa and I gave a tabla duet performance. I have to say it was the best ever tabla duet I've been involved in, and maybe my best ever tabla solo playing. Kenji-san gives fantastic accompaniment and mood which really got me going well, and the dialogue was fantastic. The fact that we both come from the Benares Gharana of tabla really helped our communication. Kenji Sakasegawa is great!

Likewise, Yamaquito Family were fantastic. Totally professional, and to me it sounded totally Spanish - until they politely said "Arigatou gozaimasu" after each piece. The singing was really great.

Yamaquito Family Flamenco Dance Group

DJ and live performances from the Golden Week Gathering are streaming on live web radio - click here to listen. Live performances are generally from about 10pm (Japan time) or so each night (11pm in Brisbane), maybe a bit later. Please have a listen. If you leave the broadcast running for a while you're more likely to catch us playing or at least some announcements about the schedule.

Comments appreciated...