Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Kathak dance Raj English School

Last Thursday I took part in a Kathak programme at Raj English School in Paharia, near Sarnath. I performed there a few years ago with sarod player Shuji Yamamoto. Once again it was organised by my Guru-ji's son, Dr Debabrata Bhattacharya. This time he asked me to put together a Kathak programme with some foreigners, so I gathered together dancer Kazumi Nishikawa (who I've been practising with in Varanasi for the last 5 years), sitar player Yohei and harmonium player and singer Yuki Taniguchi. We rehearsed daily for a couple of weeks and I think it went down pretty well. We even got a few articles in the local Hindi newspapers. It was an excellent learning experience; at last I started to get to grips with some of the non-composed sections of Kathak dance, like upaj and gat-bau (dance drama).

Kazumi Nishikawa (Kathak dance)

The band: Shen (tabla), Yuki Taniguchi (vocal, harmonium), Yohei (sitar)

Bust a move, Kathak style

Spinning spinning spinning

Some of the 500 or so kids who watched our performance

The artists: Yohei, Shen, Kazumi, Yuki

Monday, February 23, 2009

Concert at Munna House

A couple of weeks back I was invited to play in a home concert at Munna House, my usual abode in previous years. This was a chance for some foreign students of music here in Varanasi to take the stage. We even had a sound system, although the power went out soon after Yohei and I started and came back halfway through Shivadhyanam's tabla solo. Next Friday (27th Feb) I'll be playing with santoor player Jimi Miyashita at another Munna House concert.

We went from Assi to Narad Ghat by boat

Saraswati-Maa on the wall of Munna House

Lucy (flute) and Israel (Mexico - hang drum)

Shen (Australia - tabla) and Yohei (Japan - sitar)
Yohei played Raga Puriya Dhanashri

Shivadhyanam aka Rodrigo d'Orey (UK - tabla solo) with Om (Varanasi - harmonium lehera)

Nick Proctor (UK - surbahar) - Nick played Raga Darbari

Saigo (Spain - tabla) and Nick (UK - surbahar)

Yoga Mandir

Wow, I'm now already half-way through my two months here in Varanasi. I'm staying in Yoga Mandir, Nagwa Ghat, just south of Assi. It's the first building on the river after Assi, so we have a full view of Ganga-side Varanasi from the roof. It's a lovely place to stay - very happy here.

Yoga Mandir's garden

The rose outside our door

The temple being built in the garden at the top of the ghats

The roof-top view (with kids playing cricket)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Tibet2Timbuk2 on Radio National Mon 23 Feb

Lucky Oceans will feature Tibet2Timbuk2's "Music is Life" CD on the Daily Planet, Radio National, this Monday Feb 23 (which also happens to be Mahashivaratri - Shiva's Night). The show is on at 220pm and 1120pm. Please tell your friends.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Saraswati Puja at Guru-ji's

After the long trip via Dubai on Emirates Airlines - a long night (nice entertainment system, though) from Brisbane to Dubai via Singapore, then a short midday flight to Delhi with some amazing desert scenery over Iran and Pakistan, followed by a train trip which left 6 hours late and arrived 11 hours late - I've finally arrived in Varanasi. I'm staying in Yoga Mandir, Nagwa Ghat, which is really quite nice. Lovely garden, lawn, flowers, it's the first building on the ghats after the buffalo farms, so we have an uninterrupted view of the whole of Varanasi on the banks of the Ganga! I have managed to get mobile internet so I'm actually writing this on my laptop in my bedroom. It's very slow but at least it's comfortable.

The big event since I've been here has been Saraswati Puja, last Saturday. On the fifth day of spring (Basant Panchami), musicians often perform music in honour of the Hindu goddess of learning and music Saraswati-Maa, and there have been concerts in my Guru-ji's house on this holy day for over 50 years. It's a very special event which has seen the likes of Pt. Ravi Shankar, Pt. Kanthe Maharaj, U. Mushtaq Ali Khan and Pt. Debu Chaudhuri performing in front of Saraswati-Maa in a room packed full of music aficionados. Since Guru-ji's passing 5 years ago, the event has become smaller but is still held with full devotion by the family and his students, almost as much in memory of him as of the Goddess.

This year Guru-ji's son Debabrata Bhattacharya organised the event and was to perform last with sarangi player Santosh Mishra, but at the last minute was called away for medical duties. So there were only two items - firstly a young female vocalist (I'll put the name here as soon as I confirm it) accompanied by Guru-ji's student Gautam Chakravarty, secondly my own tabla solo. No lehera player had been organised - in fact I wasn't even sure til the day whether I was playing solo or accompanying somebody - but at the last minute Gautam's son Siddharth stepped in. Siddharth is going really well on tabla, and actually played tabla solo at Guru-ji's Memorial Concert last year.

It was a real honour for me to play tabla solo at this concert, as the final item as luck would have it, in the place where Pt. Kanthe Maharaj once played tabla solo every year. Maybe it's because I've just arrived in Varanasi and not seen any other tabla players to make me feel small, maybe it's the work I've been doing on just playing more relaxed and more enjoyably, maybe the power of the moment, but I think I played as well as I've ever played tabla solo. The tabla were great, the speakers were at full resonance, it was all very well appreciated by all present. It was a great experience, a huge blessing, something I'll never forget and which will give me power in the years to come. Jai Guru-ji! Jai Saraswati-Maa!

Goddess Saraswati and Guru-ji

Ampu-da, Guru-ji's eldest son

Opening vocalist, accompanied by Guru-ji's student, Gautam Chakavarty (tabla) and Anand Mishra (harmonium)

Shen (tabla solo) accompanied by Siddharth Chakravarty (nagma on harmonium)

Tibet2Timbuk2 and friends at Cafe Checocho

Just before I flew over to India I had a little gig with Tibet2Timbuk2 and some other EthnoSuperLounge friends at my housemate's cafe down in West End, Cafe Checocho. I haven't had any gigs in the last couple of months so I wanted to play some music and have a kind of party before going away. It was a free gig in a small friendly cafe so the show was pretty loose and jammy. Thanks to Mayuresh Sathe for the photos of me below - you can see the full set on his Facebook photos page. (But Mayuresh wrongly called it "Tibet2Timbuk2 CD Launch", which was a much slicker event at the Brisbane Powerhouse back in November.)

First act: Feridun Avar and Francis Gilfedder (with a bit of Shen at the end)

Second act: Lansana Camara (kora - right) and Tony Magambo (bass) (with a bit of Shen at the end)

Shen with Tibet2Timbuk2

Tibet2Timbuk2 - Shen, Tenzin and Marcello