Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Gifu Sangeet Mela videos and after-party

Here as promised are videos of this year's fantastic Gifu Sangeet Mela:

Following the event, musicians and volunteers had a few hours sleep, visited a local onsen (hot spring bath) and then enjoyed a little party together before heading home. I spent the following week with organiser Jimi-san and his guest from India Mata Prasad Mishra. Tokyo-based tabla player Dinesh Chandra also stayed for a couple of days and I learnt some nice things from both Mata-ji and Dinesh-ji.

Post-Mela party

The setting for the post-Mela party. Isn't Japanese nature beautiful?

Three tabla players: Dinesh Chandra, Mata Prasad Mishra, Shen Flindell

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Gifu Sangeet Mela 2008 - the best ever!!!

Every year on the full moon in September or October, santoor player Jimi Miyashita organises the Sangeet Mela in Horado Village, Gifu. This year was the 11th occasion (my 4th time in attendance, 3rd time performing), and pretty much everyone agrees that it was the best ever!!! Everyone played so well. Many congratulations to Jimi-san and all the performers and volunteers.

The Indian classical music and dance community in Japan is really very impressive. It spans several generations and now has a very broad base among younger folks. Gifu Sangeet Mela is the peak event in the community's year, bringing together musicians and dancers to perform together all night, starting 6pm and finishing 6am. The musicians are part of the audience, and most others in the audience are also knowledgeable about Indian classical music, whether as an experienced practitioner or listener or a beginning student. It was really heart warming for me to see early 20s Japanese girls sitting in the front row counting out the taals.

I really hope that some time this kind of event can get started in Australia. I really cannot rave enough about how wonderful it was to have all these great musicians, dancers and Indian music lovers gathering together in a quiet country hall and enjoying all the performances all night until the dawn. Getting praise from other musicians was so rewarding. The community vibe continued when all the musicians and volunteers went to bathe in a local onsen and then gather for drinks and lunch. Jimi-san deserves huge praise for continuing this event for 11 years and giving so much to the Indian music community here in Japan.

(I've put times that the photos were taken so you'll have an idea of how immense this event is. Some of the photos were near the beginning, some the end of a set...)

Saraswati watched over the proceedings

The green room - from left to right: Aki (tamboura), U-Zhaan (tabla), Daya Tomiko and friends (rear - Bharat Natyam), Taro Terahara (bansuri), Daikichi Yoshida (sitar), Yasuhiro Minamizawa (sitar), Mata Prasad Mishra (Kathak dance, tabla), Chie (tamboura), Yuriko Terahara (tamboura)
So wonderful to see all these Indian music folks together!!!

6:24pm Opening ceremony by local Taiko group, 美濃の國高賀山太鼓(洞戸)

6:44pm Mata Prasad Mishra (Varanasi) dancing with the Horado Taiko group

7:13pm Manami Fujiwara (Bharat Natyam dance)

This lad was dancing along with every dancer - I think his mother is a dance student.

8:10pm Opening instrumental performance - Jimi Miyashita (santoor) accompanied by U-ZHAAN (tabla) and Yukiko (tamboura)

9:04pm Atsuko Maeda (Kathak dance)
I will be accompanying Atsuko in 3 concerts in Tokyo in October

Atsuko Maeda's accompanists:
U-ZHAAN (tabla), Taro Terahara (bansuri), Daikichi Yoshida (sitar)

9:56pm Daikichi Yoshida (sitar) accompanied by Mata Prasad Mishra (tabla - Varanasi)

11:30pm Shree (aka Mariko Katsura - Dhrupad vocal) accompanied by Tetsuya Kaneko (pakhawaj), Yuki Kaneko (tamboura)

12:40am Daya Tomiko (Bharat Natyam)

1:19am Koki Yoshida (sitar) accompanied by Shen Flindell (tabla).
Thanks to Akira Io for the photo.

2:03am Sachie Tatsumi (Bharat Natyam dance)

2:14am Satoshi Tatsumi (Bharat Natyam dance)

2:27am Satoshi and Sachie Tatsumi (Bharat Natyam dance)
I am absolute fans of these two and would go so far as to say that Sachie Tatsumi is the best Bharat Natyam dancer I've ever seen. So natural, so touching.

3:11am Jai Bajrang with special guest Mata Prasad Mishra (tabla)
Jai Bajrang is Tetsuya Kaneko (pakhawaj), Takaaki Kuno (ghatam), Yuki Kaneko (violin)

3:26am "Yoshida Brothers" (Daikichi Yoshida and Koki Yoshida - not actually brothers) with U-ZHAAN and Shen.
Thanks to Akira Io for the photo.

4:07am Mata Prasad Mishra (Kathak dance)

4:51am Taro Terahara (bansuri) accompanied by Ayako Ikeda (tabla)
Krishna and his gopis?

5:45am Yasuhiro Minamizawa (sitar) accompanied by Dinesh Chandra (tabla)

6:23am Almost done - will this really be only 15 minutes? The sun is up already...

6:32am Final Bhairavi session: left to right - Dinesh Chandra (tabla), Taro Terahara (bansuri), Jimi Miyashita (santoor), Yasuhiro Minamizawa (sitar), Mata Prasad Mishra (tabla)

I have some video and a few photos of the post-event festivities, which I hope to post in the coming days. Can anyone suggest good free video editing software?
Edit: Video and post-Mela party photos now here.

World Flutes Festival (Kobe) with Taro Terahara

On Saturday Sep 14th I went to Kobe to play with Taro Terahara (bansuri) in the World Flutes Festival there. It was great to play with Taro again (after many concerts in Australia, Japan and India over the last few years). But I have to say that it was a bit "flute crazy" at the festival - people blowing flutes all over the place!

Many thanks to Akira Io for these photos.

Ayuttaya Cafe with Nobi

I've been away from the internet for a week or so - time to catch up on a few recent gigs.

Back in Osaka on September 11 I played in Ayuttaya Cafe with sitar player Nobi. Nobi works at the associated Thai massage centre and set up the 3rd floor of the building as a lush boudoir for our performance. Thanks very much to Nobi and Aya for the concerts and for taking care of me all week in Osaka!
Shen and Nobi at Ayuttaya Cafe, Fukushima, Osaka.
Notice the girl in the kimono! A very nice evening.

1. Raga Yaman, alap, vilambit teentaal, drut teentaal
2. Tabla solo, vilambit teentaal
3. Bengali Dhun

Monday, September 08, 2008

Pangea Cafe with Nobi

On Sunday I played with sitar player Nobi, an old friend from Benares, at Pangea Cafe in Sakai Port, south Osaka. Pangea is a pretty cool "community cafe", right on the water, and they were having an exhibition of Indian photos, culminating in a night of Indian food, music and dance. Following our sitar-tabla performance (sitar solo in Rag Jog, vilambit, madhya lay, drut teentaal, Tabla solo vilambit teentaal), dancer Yukiko Mayuri presented some "movie dance" to Bollywood songs. We finished up with improvised dance with live music - a Uighur folk song and a Bengali folk song.

Shen, Nobi (sitar) and his wife Aya (tamboura)

Yukiko Mayuri, Shen, Nobi, Aya

Many thanks to Nobi and Aya for inviting me, and for hosting me in their beautiful rooftop apartment in central Osaka this week!

Ei-Un-In Temple with Carlos Guerra (bansuri) and Yuji Nakagawa (sarangi)

On Saturday I had the chance to play at one of my favourite venues worldwide - the beautiful Ei-Un-In temple in Kyoto. Thanks very much to Fujisawa-san for organising the concert, and to Carlos Guerra (bansuri), Yuji Nakagawa (sarangi) and Tokko Nakamura (tamboura) for inviting me to accompany them. The concert was a big success, with 101 people coming, the biggest audience I've seen at Ei-Un-In!

Soundcheck at Ei-Un-In

Shen and Yuji Nakagawa (sarangi)
Yuji played Raag Patdeep in vilambit ektaal, madhya lay teentaal and jhala

Shen and Carlos Guerra (bansuri)
Carlos played Raga Vachaspati - Alap, Jor, Jhala, Gats in Jhap taal and Teentaal

The audience at Ei-Un-In - the biggest I've ever seen there

Bansuri-Sarangi Jugalbandi in Raga Khammaj

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Mari Komuro (santoor) in Osaka

Last weekend I was in Osaka with santoor player Mari Komuro, a very experienced musician and disciple of the leading santoor master, Pt Shiv Kumar Sharma. Mari-san started playing santoor in 1981, started with Shiv-ji in 1987 and I believe she stayed almost continuously in Mumbai from 1991 to 2004! When she plays santoor you can feel her very deep love and devotion to santoor and Indian classical music. It was a great honour for me to accompany her this weekend.

Mari Komuro and Shen at Senkoji Temple, Hirano, Osaka.
Mari-san performed Raag Maru Behag - alap, jor, jhala, gats in Jhaptaal and Teentaal.
Osaka-based sitar teacher Takayuki Hibara was in the audience and gave much appreciation!

Mari-san with Kawaguchi-san, senior monk of Senkoji Temple. Kawaguchi-san organised these concerts and studied sitar at the same music school as Mari-san 25 years ago!

Shen and Mari Komuro (santoor)

with the guests from the second Osaka concert - a cultural evening of Indian music, food and wine (yes, Indian wine from Nashik!)

We went to the Osaka Sky Garden to see the city views.

Yasuhiro Minamizawa in Ayabe

Ah, Japan! Wonderful culture, food, and so many devoted Indian classical musicians. It's hot sticky summertime in Kyoto, a welcome change from my cold house in Brisbane winter.

I've been here a couple of weeks but until now haven't had a chance to blog. I arrived August 21 and will stay until November 3, during which time I'll be playing concerts around Kansai, Gifu, Nagoya, Tokyo and hopefully Kumamoto in Kyushu!

I spent the first few days in Japan with sitar player Yasuhiro Minamizawa, a very experienced musician who I invited to play in the 2006 Ashu-Babu Memorial Concert in Varanasi.

On the first night we played a little show at Shimi Murasaki ("Purple Stain") in Kyoto city, an alternative arts cafe where we followed an analog synth player and a ukulele player. :-) Unusual setting but I love playing with Minamizawa-san anywhere. He played Raag Puriya Dhanashree.

On the second night we played in Ayabe, a town in the north of Kyoto Prefecture, thanks to my tabla friend Kousuke Matsumoto who organised the concert. The setting was beautiful and the music was very powerful. Raag Marwa was a 1 in a 100 performance - one of those rare moments where everything comes together and the mood is magical. It was followed by Raag Yaman and a Mishra Pilu Dhun.

Minamizawa-san telling the audience he thinks I look like Charlton Heston. :-)

Deep inside Raag Marwa

After the concert we stayed at Kousuke's parents house and discussed the mystical nature of music, the primacy of mood above technicalities and the "moment being the keyhole to god," until late in the night.

Kousuke's father's garden in Ayabe