Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Tabla lessons at Kathak Kendra

During my few days in Delhi I had a couple of lessons with my senior guru-bhai Govinda Chakraborty at Kathak Kendra, the national Kathak dance institute. For this trip to India, unlike previous trips, my priority was not lessons and practice but arranging tabla which should consistently pass Australian Quarantine, so this was my main tabla learning fix for this trip. Govinda-da is a great teacher, so I definitely have to spend more time in Delhi in future.

Kuchipudi and Odissi at Kamani Auditorium, Delhi

I had 4 days in Delhi on the way home from Varanasi, and attended a beautiful - and free! - dance program at one of Delhi's premier venues, the Kamani Auditorium, with Kuchipudi dancer Yamini Reddy and Odissi dancer Madhavi Mudgal. I had never seen Kuchipudi before. It's quite similar to Bharat Natyam although seems a little more flexible and wide-ranging. I was quite impressed.

Reaching divine realisation through erotic love for Krishna

I really liked this way of having the ceremonial lamp as a scenic prop

This is one of the biggest tour groups I've seen for one dancer!

Ghat cricket

You may or may not know that I quite enjoy watching and occasionally playing cricket, and I really enjoyed seeing the games all along the ghats in Varanasi. My camera is not so great, so I hope someone better equipped and skilled than me will someday take this idea and publish some really nice photos on this theme - please leave a comment if you find something.

In the buffalo field next to my guest house

There are actually 3 games of cricket going on here: one front left, one front right, and one on the right a bit further back. Harishchandra Ghat (second cremation ghat) is a bit further back on the left. Most of the kids playing here were all dressed in the brahmin gear. I guess they must have just had a class or initiation or something.

Lot of chuckers on the ghats... This action wouldn't last long in Australia.

I think this ball clean bowled him. Not much defensive play on the ghats.

Various concerts I saw in Varanasi

My time in Varanasi for the year has come to a close again - I'm writing all of todays blogs from back home in Brisbane. Here are a few photos of some concerts I attended while there..

Feb 1: Home concert with Ritwik Sanyal, Ganga-ji and Toon-ji
Dr Ritwik Sanyal is a very prominent teacher of Dhrupad vocal in Varanasi. As well as teaching at Benares Hindu University (BHU), he has many foreign students who spend several months a year there. We attended this home concert which he gave with 30 veteran vichitra veena player Ganga-ji from Italy (he lives in Assisi, Italy and Assi, Varanasi) and pakhawaj accompanist Shrikant Toon-ji Maharaj. Very nice.

Feb 22 (Shivaratri): Latchu Maharaj tabla solo
The family of Late Pt Kishan Maharaj organise this 3 night concert opposite the Durga Temple around Shivaratri every year. Kishan-ji passed away last year so this year was the first Shivaratri since his passing, so the concert was dedicated to him - that's his picture on the stage backdrop. Latchu Maharaj rarely performs so his tabla solo was eagerly awaited. He's an odd character... Other highlights of the weekend were Niladri Kumar (death metal classical sitar?) and then the Dhrupad Mela down the road at Tulsi Ghat, with finale by Ustad Sayeedudin Dagar.

Mar 14: Gulab Bari with Rajan-Sajan Mishra
This is another annual concert, held just after Holi (Festival of Colours), in the opulent home of a local businessman. It's a very special event. Gents are requested to wear white, ladies pink. Gents are presented with a special hat and dupatta (mini-shawl), and ladies with a floral hairband. Attendants roam the venue throwing rose petals and spraying rose water. Rajan and Sajan Mishra are very senior members of the classical community and the concert was packed.

5th Annual Ashu Babu Memorial Concert

On Tuesday 17 March, I participated (as an assistant) in the 5th Annual Ashu Babu Memorial Concert, in memory of my dear departed guru of tabla, Late Pt Kaviraj Ashutosh Bhattacharya. I performed in the first three of these events, accompanying a range of talented Indian Classical musicians I invited from Japan. Unfortunately I missed last year's event, reputedly a huge one featuring Kathak dance legend Pt Birju Maharaj, but I was very happy to take part in this year's event and to be able to relax a bit this time, as I wasn't performing. In the end, though, I did take to the stage, assisting my guru-ji's son Dr Debabrata Bhattacharya who accompanied Prateek Chaudhuri (sitar).

Once again it was a successful event, well attended and featuring sincere, devoted and talented artists. My senior guru-bhai Parimal Bhattacharaya gave a very nice tabla solo, which I would have liked to have heard more of but I was in the green room with the next act, Prateek Chaudhuri (sitar) and Dr Debabrata "Bappa" Bhattacharya. I was helping Bappa-da tune his tabla etc. Prateek and Bappa-da gave a very enjoyable, even playful rendition of Raga Marwa. (Not sure whether "playful" and "Marwa" go together though...) Finally, Sanswati Sen, a senior disciple of Pt Birju Maharaj, gave a wonderful Kathak dance program. I really appreciated her ease of dancing, beautiful smile and playful mood while being in full control of the rhythm.

Parimal Bhattacharya (tabla solo) with Santosh Mishra (sarangi)

Prateek Chaudhuri (sitar), accompanied on by Dr Debabrata Bhattacharya (tabla).
I'm also on the stage, as tabla tech.

Sanswati Sen (Kathak dance)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

T2T2's "Little Things" on C-Realm 145

The latest C-Realm episode, "145: Pushing Chaos into the Future" (show notes here), features Tibet2Timbuk2’s "Little Things" for the musical interlude. Here's the blurb on the main show:
KMO concludes his C-Realm conference call with Charles Eisenstein, author of The Ascent of Humanity: Civilization and the Human Sense of Self. Are exponential advances in technology providing diminishing returns? What new economic system might follow the demise of our currently over-built and tottering ediface? Charles Eisenstein explains what he means when he says that we are facing "a revolution in human beingness."

Music by Tibet2Timbuk2

Friday, March 06, 2009

Alice Boner's art at Bharat Kala Bhavan

I visited Bharat Kala Bhavan ("Indian Arts House") here in Varanasi the other day, and was really taken by the art of Alice Boner, a Swiss artist who lived in Varanasi from 1936 to 1978. Her 1945 triptych Sristi-Sthiti-Samhara is really psychedelic! Here's part of her story from her page on the Bharat Kala Bhavan site.
Alice Boner (1889-1981) was a Swiss artist and scholar of Indian art who had made Varanasi her home from 1936 to 1978. Trained as a sculptor and with an early interest in Indian art, she came in contact with the dancer Uday Shankar in 1927. In 1930 she traveled with him to India for the first time to organise his dance troupe. This was also the occasion for her discovery of Kathakali. She was instrumental in making these art forms known. When Uday Shankar and his troupe settled in Paris she managed and supported them for five years. She recalls that "this was indeed a direct, vital and effective introduction to India and her colorful life."

In 1935 she moved to India and chose to live in an old house on the Assi Ghat in Varanasi, where instead of sculpture she took to painting. Her themes were the scenes and the people she observed around her and also mythological subjects. She devoted many years to complete her masterpiece, the triptych Sristi-Sthiti-Samhara, also called Prakriti- Visvarupa-Kali. A number of sketches preceded the final form of these three paintings.

About the origin of the Tryptych she writes in her diary:

'It was as if out of my own subconscious the entire creation wanted to break forth. All what I ever had seen or heard, or felt, or thought, all perceptions and feelings were assuming now definite visible and plastic shapes, thus freeing themselves from the dump prison of the Unconscious. It was the whole of Prakrti which I felt flowing from myself.

At the time when these visions occurred to me I still felt my means of expression utterly inadequate to translate them into painting. Yet these visions had left a deep impression. There was no getting away from them.

During this period the conception of Krishna- Visvarupa from the Bhagavad Gita started emerging in my mind. Eventually, the figure of Krishna supporting the whole universe appeared to me as a possible link between the two other subjects of Creation and Destruction. Finally,I began working out the compositions of both Visvarupa and Prakrti.'

Jimi-san in Varanasi

Santoor player and old friend Jimi Miyashita was in Varanasi for a few days recently. We played a small concert at Munna House, and the following day he played at a concert at sarangi player Kanhaiya Lal Mishra's house in Kabir Chaura, the musician's district of Varanasi. It was nice to see Jimi-san again - hopefully next time will be in Japan later this year. Jimi-san is the organiser of the annual Gifu Sangeet Mela and a great contributor to Indian classical music in Japan. (Check out our CD "Rei-Mei".)

Shen and Jimi-san playing at Munna House

Tetsuya Kaneko performing pakhawaj solo, accompanied by Kanhaiya Lal Mishra (sarangi) at Kanhaiya Lal's house

Jimi-san accompanied by tabla player and Kathak dancer Mata Prasad Mishra

Mata-ji's son performing Kathak dance - accompaniment included his younger son on tabla, who I was very impressed with!