Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Various concerts in Benares

A few snaps of some concerts I've attended in Varanasi over the last few weeks...

Pt Pushpraj Koshti (surbahar) from Mumbai, opened the concert series at the Ganges View Hotel, a very stylish setting for Indian Classical Music.

Pt Pushpraj Koshti (surbahar) accompanied by Shrikant "Toon-ji" Mishra (pakhawaj - Varanasi).

Toon-ji brought a pakhawaj in the wrong key, which broke when he tried to tune it up, resulting in him having to leave for another instrument during the first composition by Pushpraj-ji. Very unfortunate.

Pundlik Bhagwat giving tabla solo in Rudra Taal (11 beats), accompanied by Vallabh "Bhaiyan-ji" Gujrati on harmonium. The tabla solo was very strong and confident - Pundlik Bhagwat is playing very well and is one of the top players in the city nowadays. Bhaiyan-ji invited me to his house to practise tabla solo together. He is a very fine lehera accompanist.

Ram Kumar Mishra performing tabla solo accompanied by Santosh Mishra on sarangi. Very glamorous. Ram Kumar is a relative of Pt Anokhelal Mishra and very much follows his style of tabla solo presentation.

Devashish Dey performing at Ganges View Hotel with Soumya Kant Mukherjee on tabla and Bhaiyan-ji (not in shot) on harmonium

Pt Amarnath Mishra (sitar) accompanied by Kuber Nath Mishra (tabla) at Ganges View Hotel - a very sweet concert.

You can also read reports of some of these concerts by Canadian tabla player Shawn Mativetsky at his blog, Benares Chronicles, Part 1. 日本語で、ユキちゃんのブログポスト、「音の世界への導き 」。

Benares Gharana historical excursion

I have known Canadian tabla player Shawn Mativetsky via the Chandrakantha tabla forum, online reputation and emails for about 5 years, but this month we met in person for the first time, as he was in Benares to spend time with his guru-ji Pt Sharda Sahai, the gharanedar ("head") of the Benares Gharana of tabla. Shawn has an excellent website on the history of our style of tabla, with a family tree of gurus and students which shows us to be close cousins in the tabla family.

Shawn took me and my student Rob along for a Benares Gharana historical outing, firstly to meet his guru-ji at the family home, Pt Ram Sahai Bhavan in Kabir Chaura, and then to the home of our shared param-guru, Pt. Kanthe Maharaj.

Shen with Pt Sharda Sahai, Dr Frances Ann Shepherd and Shawn Mativetsky. As mentioned above Pt Sharda Sahai is the head of the Benares style of tabla. Dr Frances Ann Shepherd wrote a very famous thesis on the history and traditions of Benares tabla in the 70s, so I was also very excited to meet her.

Busts of the founding members of the Benares Gharana in Ram Sahai Bhavan. Left to right: Bhairov Sahai, Ram Sahai, Baldeo Sahai

The famous giant Ganesh-ji in the home of Pt Kanthe Maharaj and Pt Kishan Maharaj, with my student Rob for scale :-)

Shrine to Late Pt Kishan Maharaj, who passed away in March last year. This room features many photos, newspaper articles, sketches and all kinds of historical items.

Paying homage to my guru's guru, Pt Kanthe Maharaj

Pooran Maharaj, son of Late Pt Kishan Maharaj, sharing some stories and wisdom with Rob and the other gathered tabla devotees.

You can read Shawn's blog on this day in his blog post Benares Chronicles, Part 2.


After a few days in Bangkok I flew in to Delhi on Dec 1 and had a few days' lessons at Kathak Kendra with my senior guru-bhai, Govinda Chakraborty. Actually Govinda-da was quite busy that week so I mostly took some rhythms from his students in Basant Taal (9 beats), Ashtamangal (11 beats) and Dhamar (14 beats). It was great as always to be a part of a group of students, and I got a lot of great material to practise over the next while in Varanasi - and some renewed enthusiasm too!

I was lucky enough to get a right-side window seat on the flight from Bangkok to Delhi, and had magnificent Himalayan views most of the way.

Kathak Kendra in Delhi, the National Kathak Dance School, where I had tabla lessons from Dec 1-4

My fellow students at Kathak Kendra

The hardest working guy in the room, Shri Saeed-Ur-Rehman providing nagma on sarangi.

My senior guru-bhai and teacher in the last few years, Govinda Chakraborty and myself.

The platform at Rajiv Chowk on the Delhi Metro. For you old-timers who haven't been to Delhi for a few years, Rajiv Chowk is the new name for Connaught Circus. You can get around the city very quickly and cheaply on the Metro.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Test posting using Zoundry Raven

This is a test posting using Zoundry Raven, an offline blogging application.

If it works, it'll be much easier for me to get up to date in blogging my recent activities in India. I usually only have time to get to an internet cafe for an hour or so every couple of days...

 {Edit 02/08/2014: I've just found that, the website which Zoundry Raven arranged for my images to be hosted on, is no longer hosting them. Hence all the posts I made with this software have lost their pics! I'll try to fix it... Not happy with Zoundry Raven, nor imageshack.}

Here's a snap of myself, Bappa-da and Shawn Mativetsky playing tabla in my Guru-ji's house a couple of weeks back:

Thursday, October 29, 2009


For the last week I've had the pleasure of accompanying outstanding Indian classical vocal/sitar duo Debapriya-Samanwaya for a few concerts around Brisbane. Their performances open with a Dhrupad-style full-length alap-jor, followed by one or two khayal bandishes. Then in the second set some shorter pieces in varied styles such as bandish ki thumri, chaiti, tappa, bhajan, etc. It's always an excellent learning experience for me to accompany touring artists. Deba-Saman are very pure classical artists, inspirational to work with. Thanks guys!

Debapriya Adhikary and Samanwaya Sarkar at Byron Headland

We saw a mother whale and calf swimming in Byron Bay

On Saturday afternoon we gave an Indian classical music workshop at our friend Paul's house, aka Temple of Melodious Sound

Home concert in St Lucia
Thanks to Rubina and Mervyn for having us!

Concert in Mudjimba, Sunshine Coast
This event was also a fundraiser for FFL Vrindavan schools for poor children in U.P., India.
Many thanks to Craig McInnes for organising this concert at short notice!

Qld Multicultural Festival 2009

I flew back from Japan in time for the Queensland Multicultural Festival, held annually in Roma St Parklands, central Brisbane. For most of the day I hung around the BEMAC Ceremonial Stage - the more traditional, quieter music - although I did venture over to the Lake Stage to see Josh Bennett and Jay Dabgar, and also for my own set with Tibet2Timbuk2, who rocked as usual! :-)

Yasodara Sri Lankan Drummers

Shruti Abhiram (vocal), Joseph Abhay Nand (harmonium), Arthavan (mridangam)

Asim Gorashi and family (Sudan)

Indian Turkish Fusion: Vijaya and Menaka Visvanathan collaborating with Feridun Avar; Arthavan on mridangam

Saikat Bhattacharya (sitar) with Shen Flindell (tabla)
Unfortunately this set was very short - only 25 minutes with very little sound check - and I had to rush away at the end to get to...

Tibet2Timbuk2 - Shen, Tenzin, Marcello
This was our first show with Marcello since Tenzin and I got back from Japan. We have a great sound together. I've started singing a lot more harmonies after that Japan tour (or trying to sing harmonies, anyway).

Jay Dabgar (tabla) and Josh Bennett (dilruba and sitar)
Josh and Jay are based in Adelaide and had two sets at the festival: this photo is from their afternoon set on the Lake Stage. They did an excellent longer set in the evening on the Ceremonial Stage with Jay giving a solid Benares Gharana tabla solo, followed by an adept sitar performance by Jay, who has certainly been doing excellent practice.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Japan Tour Finale: Gen-Shin-An

Another wonderful musical tour of Japan comes to a close, and perhaps I saved the best for last. (Or someone saved it for me.) Taro Terahara organises a beautiful concert at Japanese tea gardens Gen-Shin-An every October, and I actually played there in 2005. So I was very eagerly awaiting this year's concert, whose main artist was to be Steve Oda, a wonderful sarod player and old student of Ustad Ali Akbar Khan. It is a rare afternoon concert featuring wonderful musicians in a wonderful setting with a wonderful audience (including many musicians and music students), and such an honour to be part of.

Gen-Shin-An - tea-house and gardens in Nishi-Kasai, Tokyo

Yuki opened the concert with two mantras, dedicated to Guru, Lakshmi and Saraswati.

Shen with Taro Terahara (bansuri) playing Raga Madhuvanti

Steve Oda performs autumn raga Hindol-Hem as the sky darkens. Many many people were weeping listening to his music. Such a sublime artist in an inspiring setting!

Closing out with a jugalbandi in Raga Kirwani

Various Tokyo concerts

Before and after all my concerts with Tenzin Choegyal (including Sangeet Mela), I also had a few small Indian classical concerts of my own... Just for the record...

Wed 23 Sep Komae: Concert with Hide Iwai (sitar)
In previous years I've had some fantastic tours of Kyushu with Hide, an old friend from Varanasi. This year he was on his way to India but managed to arrange this little chance to play together. Thanks Hide! (I've got a new camera coming my way soon so hopefully no more blurry photos!)

Wed 30 Sep Kamakura: Kirtan with Yuki Taniguchi
Yuki has been having weekly nada yoga classes near her place in Kamakura, and she finished this series of classes with a special kirtan session, with guest tabla player Shen. Thanks Yuki-chan!

Wed 7 Oct Shibuya: Live with Yoshida Daikiti (sitar)
Daikiti-san invited me to play a couple of small shows in the spaces in our schedules, firstly in Okinawan bar Shimabukuro, then the next night in Krishuna, Shinjuku. This year was our first chance to really play together and we hit it off musically so hopefully next year we'll have some more shows together.

Sat 10 Oct Hiro-o: "Indo-Sai" with Steve Oda (sarod)
It was an honour to participate in this mini-festival, organised by sitar player and old friend from early Varanasi days, Aki Ueda and also featuring tabla player Amit Mishra and Kathak dancer Atsuko Maeda. It was an even greater honour for me to have the chance to accompany sarod master Steve Oda in the final act of the night. It was our first concert together.

Sun Oct 11 Kanda: Mantra workshop and Kirtan with Yuki Taniguchi
Yuki gave a 2 hour mantra workshop and followed it up with a short concert, primarily of Sanskrit mantras but finishing up with a little kirtan with tabla. After the event, Rakudoan (ostensibly a butoh dance event space) owner Hideo Sekino announced "from now this will be a politically incorrect party", and proceeded to treat us to a pleasant evening of interesting conversation, music and lots of wine.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Gifu Sangeet Mela 2009

Gifu Sangeet Mela is a yearly all-night Indian classical music and dance event held in Horado village, Gifu prefecture, Japan. Last year's Mela was a big success and this year's event had an even more illustrious lineup, with a whole bunch of international artists. Unfortunately I think the promotions for this year's event were a bit late, because numbers were way down on previous years, but that did little to dispel the feelings of camaraderie amongst the artists. This is very much a music conference, like India's Dover Lane, All India, and other gatherings of musicians from around the country. The artists gather together to hear and get inspired by each other, and just to have some fun together. The event is dedicated to the goddess of music, Saraswati, and I really felt this time that it's like a puja, and that staying up from start to end is an act of devotion bringing many blessings.

Congratulations once again Jimi-san! (Thanks to Yuki Taniguchi for all the photos.)

Goddess Saraswati-ma watched over the proceedings

7.15pm: Opening ceremony by local Taiko group, 美濃の國高賀山太鼓(洞戸)

7:52pm: Opening Indian classical item, Kathak dance by Atsuko Maeda, accompanied by Takaaki "Maha" Kuno (ghatam), Yasuhiro Minamizawa (sitar), Shree (vocal)

8:41pm: Sangeet Mishra (sarangi - Mumbai/Varanasi) with Ashwini Kumar Mishra (tabla - resident in Kobe) performing Raga Vachaspati

10:03pm: Satoshi and Sachie Tatsumi (Bharat Natyam dance)

11:19pm: Mata Prasad Mishra with son Rudra Shankar Mishra (Kathak dance)

1:32am: Baul singer Satyananda Das with Hori Dasi and Mabo-san

1:59am: Daya Tomiko (Bharat Natyam) doing a Saraswati pose

3:50am: Yoshida Daikiti (sitar) accompanied by Shen Flindell (tabla)
This was our first ever duo performance (our first performance was in a jugalbandi last year), and was very very enjoyable!

4:31am: Jai Bajrang percussion ensemble - Tetsuya Kaneko (pakhawaj), Mata Prasad Mishra (tabla), Takaaki "Maha" Kuno (ghatam), accompanied by Keisuke Muto (sitar)

5:21am: Carlos Guerra (bansuri) accompanied by Shen Flindell (tabla)
Such a sweet Chandrakauns, perhaps my best ever accompaniment for Carlos-ji.

6:12am: Yasuhiro Minamizawa (sitar) accompanied by Mata Prasad Mishra (tabla)

7:24am: Steve Oda (sarod) accompanied by U-Zhaan (tabla)
Wow. So beautiful. Ahir Bhairav followed by Bhairavi, in memory of Steve's late guru-ji, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan. The best accompaniment I've ever seen from U-Zhaan. So many tears were shed on listening to this Bhairavi. Taro (on tamboura) was just about blubbering.

4pm: After-party in a nearby hall. 皆様、おつかれさまでした!
In this photo, everyone is listening to 1 year old Suisho banging on taiko and chanting oo-ba-ba! Ba-ba TOM, Ba-ba TOM! Kya baat hai!!!