Sunday, November 23, 2008

New CD by Tibet2Timbuk2 "Music is Life" ONLINE NOW!!!

The new CD "Music is Life" by my world music group, Tibet2Timbuk2, featuring Tibetan singer Tenzin Choegyal, singer-guitarist Marcello Milani and myself on tabla is back from the printers and available online at the EthnoSuperLounge Shop.

Rollicking Tibetan folk, afro-reggae guitar grooves and intricate Indian tabla sound as if they were made for each other! Together, Tenzin Choegyal, Marcello Milani and Shen Flindell create a new joyful sound that transcends cultural boundaries.

Tibet2Timbuk2 has an eclectic repertoire resulting in an overall sound which is full and organic. All three musicians share melody, harmony, bass and percussion roles to create a solid yet easy groove.

Tibet2Timbuk2's debut CD "Music is Life" features special guests Lansana Camara (Guinea) on kora (West African harp), Taro Terahara (Japan) on bansuri (Indian bamboo flute) and Brisbane's own Peter Hunt (Kooii) on trumpet.

From the joyous to the meditative, come on a journey from Tibet to Timbuktu.

You can order copies of this fantastic CD, download the whole album or individual tracks online at, where you can also check out loads more world music from the EthnoSuperLounge network of artists.

Japan Tour 2008: Acknowledgements

Another 10 weeks travelling Japan, tabla in hand, from friend to friend and concert to concert. What a wonderful experience. Living as a free spirit, with nothing more than what I can carry, playing beautiful music with beautiful people in beautiful places, and lots of breaks for onsens!

Many thanks to all my hosts in Japan: Kousuke and Reiko, Hiro Minamizawa, Alex, Hana and Sky (Kyoto), Hotel Green Plaza in Umeda (thanks to Mari Komuro), Nobi and Aya (Osaka), the folks at the World Flutes Festival (Kobe), Jimi Miyashita (Gifu), Kenta (Nagoya), Maya Muga Moeran (Zushi), Yuki-chan and Mrs Taniguchi (Kamakura), Chris (Greenhouse), Taro and Yuriko (Chiba), Bon-jin-san (Niigata), Amigo's mother (Fukuoka), Cafe Rinya (Kumamoto), Kubota-san (Nishihara), Ryuji (Yatsuhiro), Yuki-nee (Sasayama) and last but not least Tadao Ishihama (Osaka).

Many thanks also to my co-performers: Yasuhiro Minamizawa (sitar - Ayabe), Mari Komuro (santoor - Osaka, Nagoya), Carlos Guerra (bansuri), Yuji Nakagawa (sarangi) and Tokko Nakamura (tamboura) (Kyoto, Greenhouse), Nobi (sitar - Osaka twice), Taro Terahara (bansuri - Kobe, Tokyo, Niigata), Koki Yoshida (sitar - Gifu Sangeet Mela, Nagoya), Yoshida Daikichi (sitar) and U-Zhaan (tabla) (Gifu Sangeet Mela), Nobuo Sugimoto (sitar - Nagoya), Scan Shishino (guitar), Takuya Abe (drums), Masa Mbira Zvakanaka Sakurai (mbira), Ed Durbrow (lute) and Cai (drum/piano duo) (Greenhouse), Atsuko Maeda (Kathak dance - Tokyo), Hide Iwai (sitar) and Tomomi Shinkai (Kathak dance) (Kyushu) and especially for the unexpected bonus gig on my last night in Japan, Gina Sala (healing vocals - Osaka).

Thanks also to the musicians who gave of their time and hospitality to play music with me: Kousuke Matsumoto (tabla - Kyoto), Yasu Fujibayashi (sarod - Kyoto), Hiro Okazaki (tabla - Osaka), Setsuo "Jimi" Miyashita (santoor), Mata Prasad Mishra and Dinesh Chandra (tabla, post Sangeet Mela), Michiro Kimura (sitar - Nagoya), Maya Muga Moeran (keyboards, tabla - Zushi), Tomoki Ikeda (tabla - Tokyo), Yuki Taniguchi (mantra, bhajan, harmonium - Kamakura), Yuki-nee (mbira - Sasayama, Hyogo), Tadao Ishihama (sitar - Osaka).

I'm so grateful for learning so much from playing with all these people.

Thanks also to the hard-working organisers (and venues), Kousuke Matsumoto (Ohgiya Kaikotei), Kawaguchi-san (Senkoji Temple, Osaka), Nobi (Pangea Cafe, Ayuttaya Cafe), World Flutes Festival, Setsuo "Jimi" Miyashita (Sangeet Mela), Mari Komuro (Yuasa, Space-ji), Chris and Futaba (Greenhouse), Japan Asia Fine Arts Association, Taro Terahara (Otoya-Kintoki), Yuriko Terahara, Atsuko Maeda, Funabashi City, Rie-san (Ginzan-ji, Niigata), Hide Iwai, Kubota-san, Kira-Kira, Yatsuhiro Temple and Yuki Iwata of Amrita Media.

And of course thanks to all the folks who came to listen to, enjoy and support our music!

Much gratitude to God, Guru-ji, Mum and Dad, and the spirit of tabla for giving me the opportunities to have this kind of life.

Sincere apologies if there's anyone I've missed.

I slept in 19 places, performed at 25 events with 21 musicians, and jammed with another dozen, altogether accompanying 14 different instruments, in 12 prefectures from Niigata to Kumamoto, in only 10 weeks!

皆様ありがとうございました!!!また来年よろしくお願いいたします! :-)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Gina Sala healing singing concert in Osaka

On my second last night in Japan, November 2, I had a lucky last-minute booking, accompanying healing singer Gina Sala in her Osaka concert. The concert was organised by Amrita Media, who put on a beautiful presentation in the deluxe Osaka Cleo Nishi hall.

I met Gina for (we thought) the first time at sound-check and then while chatting in the green room, we realised we had met a few years previously in Varanasi, along with our mutual friend, santoor player Jimi Miyashita.

The event was all about healing and self-empowerment, and opened with two Japanese speakers, one an author on the power of positive thought, one a doctor speaking on holistic healing. Then Gina's 90 minute set covering a range of songs, mostly mantra and kirtan, but also including chanson, hymn and Latin American songs, and inspirational stories on the healing power of singing and music.

Yuki Iwata (translation), Gina Sala and Shen

Thanks very much to Gina Sala and to Yuki Iwata of Amrita Media for inviting me to play such a special concert. Thanks also to sitar player Tadao Ishihama for recommending me, and for the long drunken night after the gig! ;-)

Mbira session in Sasayama

Following my brief Kyushu tour and a last visit to friends in Kyoto, I caught the train a few hours to Sasayama in Hyogo prefecture, where I met up with mbira buddy Masa Sakurai who had come from Tokyo to introduce me to senior Japanese mbira sister Yuki-neh (which means Yuki-sister). They have both spent lots of time in Zimbabwe learning from the famous mbira master Gariyakai (please tell me if you know the correct spelling).

Tabla and mbira are a well-matched but rare combo, a meeting across the Indian Ocean. Both instruments have a similar acoustic level and organic tonal quality, resonant tones, and trancey rhythms, and both have a strong association with spiritual music.

After a brief tabla-mbira session, we went to a really amazing multi-level onsen and had a yummy winter nabe and a few drinks. Then Yuki-neh says "Now we are good and drunk, we should play mbira. You have to be drunk to really play mbira."

Normally I don't drink and play tabla, but if trying to mix with the Zimbabwean spirit one should do as the mbira-masters do. Mbira music is used for spirit-medium work and the trancey repetitive 6 beat rhythms and offbeat melodies are very powerful consciousness transmuters, taking one's mind out of the normal mode. A bit of alcohol stops the conscious mind stepping in and inhibiting the process. I found myself in a place of no thought, playing tabla in completely new ways along with the mbira music. More of that please.

Masa and Yuki-neh seeking the spirit realms through mbira music

Monday, November 17, 2008

Kyushu with Hide Iwai (sitar)

At the end of October, I went to Kyushu where I'd been invited by sitar player Hide Iwai, who I first met in Varanasi about 5 years ago. This was my second tour with Hide and I didn't take so many photos this time around, so please take a look at the posts from last year's Kyushu tour for some beautiful scenery and onsens (natural hot spring baths), including the famous Jigoku ("Hell") onsen.

This time around we played 5 concerts in 6 days, with plenty of time set aside for soaking in hot springs and sitting in saunas. Many many thanks for inviting me Hide!

Shen and Hide in Kubota-kun's house in Nishihara, Kumamoto.
A very cool home in a quiet country town - thanks Mr Kubota!

We were joined for an impromptu Kathak session by Tomomi Shinkai, who I used to practise with every week in Varanasi.

Shen and Hide at Kira-Kira, an Asian clothing and handicrafts store in the owner's own house in Kumamoto city - another very cool home in far western Japan.

We played in a beautiful temple in Yatsuhiro, Hide's home town in Kumamoto prefecture.

We were joined by Tomomi-chan again in Yatsuhiro. Very well received. Thanks Tomomi!

The Kyushu tour party - Shen, Hide, Ryuji (driver/sound tech) and Tomomi
Thanks everyone! 皆さんありがとうございました!

Niigata with Taro Terahara

For my last concert in east Japan this year Taro took me and Yuki-chan (tamboura) up to Niigata to play in Ginzanji ("Silver Mountain Temple") in the town of Koide. Taro visits Niigata regularly to teach bansuri, vocal, sitar and tabla (unless he brings a tabla player with him), and give performances organised by the wonderful Rie Kimura.

Concert in Ginzanji. This was a new temple, and the statues of Buddha were yet to be installed. So we were blessed to have the opportunity to play there at that moment.

After the concert we went up to the actual Gin-zan ("Silver Mountain"), where a dam was built some years ago, submerging the original Ginzan-ji Temple. The temple we played in was a reconstruction of this old Ginzan-ji. Even though it was early in the autumn, at this altitude the leaves were already changing colour

Tokyo concerts with Taro Terahara and Atsuko Maeda

Following my Greenhouse sojourn, I had several concerts in the Tokyo area with my old friend, the very talented bansuri player Taro Terahara. In a couple of concerts we accompanied Kathak dancer Atsuko Maeda, who has been dancing Kathak since the age of 6! We put together a really good, and I hope next year we can tour Japan together.

Oct 10 Ginza Salon - Odissi Dance & Bansuri Concert

Ikuyo Kubota (窪田育世) - Odissi dance

Shen and Taro @ Ginza Salon, with Minami-san playing tamboura.
We met Minami in Varanasi when we played there a couple of years ago.

Oct 13 Oto-Kin - Kathak Dance and Bansuri

Atsuko Maeda at Otoya-Kintoki
Taro, super-busy as usual, was driving from Nagoya, got caught in a traffic jam, and managed to turn up only a little bit late. So Atsuko performed first with CD accompaniment.

Shen and Taro at Otoya-Kintoki
(or "Oto-kin" - Oto-kin is a regular world music venue in Nishi-Ogikubo, Tokyo)

Shen and Taro accompany Atsuko's Kathak dance - we performed slow teentaal, medium speed ashtamangal (11 beats) and medium-fast teentaal.

Oct 17 Oto-kin - U-Zhaan and Kai-kun's Tabla duet
I only played tamboura for the bansuri set in this concert, but I wanted to mention it because these two guys are definitely worth mentioning. U-Zhaan is one of the leading tabla players in Japan, remarkable because of his young age and incredible talent. Most of his initial training was taken under Pandit Anindo Chatterjee and he has taken a lot of influence from Ustad Zakir Hussain as well. Super-quick hands and mind, he'd blow every "tabla player" in Australia away for sure. His student Kai is also doing really well, and that is a testament to the breadth and depth of the Indian classical community in Japan.

U-Zhaan and Kai-kun play tabla duet, accompanied by Taro Terahara (bansuri)

Oct 18 Omoto-Sando - Kathak, Bansuri and Tapestry
Our final Tokyo concert was a really nice one, performing at the exhibition of Varanasi-born, UK-based tapestry artist Munni Srivastava. The first part of the night was a discussion of tapestry and the different techniques from around the world used by Munni. For the second part, Atsuko, Taro and I put together a really nice 1 hour show opening with a short keherva arranged dance, then slow teentaal, followed by a 15 minute raga on bansuri while Atsuko changed costumes and then emerged to close the show with ashtamangal (11 beat) and medium-fast teentaal. Very professional. :-)

Munni Srivastava discusses the techniques involved with her art

We included my regular "rabbit-deer-lion" composition in the show - Atsuko does the lion here

A talented bunch of people in the swanky part of town

Greenhouse sojourn including Lakshmi Party

Time to catch up on blogging the second part of my recent Japan tour... Casting my mind almost 2 months....

When I left off my tale I'd just played three concerts in Nagoya in late September, after which I had a brief stopover in Kamakura, a lovely beachside, temple-laden town an hour south-west of Tokyo. I was there to meet Hide Iwai, a sitar player from Kyushu organising a tour for me later in October. We stayed with Maya Muga Moeran, a pianist who also plays a bit of tabla and various other instruments, and has made some beautiful ambient music too - check out his website. While we were there I invited over my mbira buddy Masa Sakurai to have a jam. This is a snap from Hide's blog.

Off to The Greenhouse, a legendary location which I've previously described as "my Kanto-country retreat-cum-EthnoSuperLounge basecamp." I've written plenty about The Greenhouse when I stayed last year and also in 2006, but in a nutshell, it's a big farmhouse in a quiet valley a few hours into the mountains from Tokyo, owned by Chris Case, who's been living in Japan since the early 70s, who hosts ethno-ambient chill parties from time-to-time, where most of the guests are performers, DJs, artists or healers of some kind.

This year, to coincide with my stay there, we had a "Lakshmi Party" - the dates also coincided with the middle three nights (devoted to Lakshmi) of the Hindu goddess festival of Navaratri ("the nine nights of the goddess"). I reckon it was the best Greenhouse party I've been to in the 5 years I've been going there. There was a wonderful lineup including Masa Sakurai (mbira), Yuji Nakagawa (sarangi), Ed Durbrow (lute) and last but certainly not least Carlos Guerra (bansuri) and his band Zino featuring tamboura and vocals by Tokko Nakamura, sweet guitar by Scan Shishino and soft jazzy drums by Takuya Abe. We had two long, really beautiful jam sessions over the weekend!

Shen (tabla), Carlos Guerra (bansuri) and Yuji Nakagawa (sarangi)

Carlos Guerra (bansuri), Takuya Abe (drums) and Scan Shishino (guitar) make up Zino

Regular Greenhouse performer, Azzuro

Dancing moment at the Lakshmi Party, Greenhouse
Thanks to Zoi for all the photos!

Many thanks to Chris for being there and creating this great space for people to get together and do their weird things. Also thanks to all the musicians and other participants, especially to the volunteers Futaba, Shu, Nakako, Tomoki and Yuki-chan. We made the Greenhouse the cleanest it's ever been, I'm sure!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Tibet2Timbuk2's new song on C-Realm podcast

Tibet2Timbuk2's song "Jhi Chung" was played (although quite mp3ed) on C-Realm episode 126: Horticultural Consciousness. C-Realm is a great podcast, covering a wide range of topics related to consciousness and the evolution of our species. Have a listen, and get a sneak preview of T2T2's upcoming CD "Music is Life". The CD launch is on next Saturday, November 15 at the Brisbane Powerhouse.