Thursday, July 23, 2009

Brisbane Music Circle

Last weekend I participated in the inaugural event of Brisbane Music Circle, an Indian music social group fostering amateur Indian classical music. The event was free and well attended. This first event had a primarily Carnatic vocal focus (although concluded with my tabla solo), and future events will include more Hindustani music. The stage was set facing an altar with audience behind, puja-style, as some of the singers felt that they might be intimidated by an audience, but not by God.

Leena Palekar

Divyasri Shashidhar (accompanied by myself on tabla and Joseph Nand on harmonium)

Jayadevi Venugopal

Kamalakar Guntur

Shen Flindell (tabla solo) accompanied by Joseph Nand (harmonium)
The devotional setting inspired me to perform a rhythmic Ganesh vandana for the first time and also a piece inspired by the sound of Shiva's damaru.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Great review of Tibet2Timbuk2's "Music is Life"

Tibet2Timbuk2 is a trio consisting of Tenzin Choegyal (vocals, dranyen, flute), Marcello Milani (vocals, guitar, keyboard) and Shen Flindell (tabla and percussion). On the nine track CD, “music is life”, they are assisted by Peter Hunt (trumpet), Lansana Camara (vocal, kora) and Taro Terahara (bansuri).

One of the most astonishing things about “music is life” is the fundamental simplicity of the parts played by, in particular, the guitar and dranyen. Mostly uncomplicated and repeated phrases, they nevertheless combine with the tabla to produce an extraordinarily interesting and detailed sound that is intensely hypnotic and enchanting. This is a combination of Africa, India and Tibet, that, for all its unlikeliness, has resulted in a musical masterpiece.

The CD was recorded by trio member Marcello, and reveals his mastery of the technical as well as the musical. This is a clean, spacious and tasteful recording, capturing the essence of the instruments while using the technology to elevate the drama and interest of each.

From the opening sparse and seductive notes of the first track (“Beautiful Girl/Bhumo Zhema”) this CD had me ensnared, and I’ve played it almost non-stop since. It is relaxed, yet energising; ambient yet vigorous. There is something of interest in every bar, and even after having played it many times, I keep finding something new to listen to. Included on this CD is the “Crane Song” (“Ngagpey Sungkey”) which was the 2008 Qsong BMEC Music Award winning piece. It lopes along easily in a slow seven-four, and features the highly acclaimed bansuri player, Taro Terahara.

But my personal favourite is “Lotus Born”, a ten minute tonal landscape that looms through the mist with haunting flute; in which other instruments insinuate themselves almost unnoticed until you bump into them. After about four minutes we hear Peter Hunt’s trumpet: just a long C before it fades, to reappear a little while later. I often clatter away on the keyboard while I am listening to the CD I’m reviewing, but this is a track that stills my fingers and draws me into the music; I have to pay attention, and it won’t let me be distracted, specially by something as mundane as a review.

“Little Things” follows “Lotus Born”, and is lively track that takes you straight to dusky dancers on the Serengeti, with “Dawey Wola” following in similar vein. Featuring Lansana Camara on kora and vocals, the CD is rounded off with the anthemic mantra, “Music is Life”. This track summarises everything that has gone before; there is a particularly special life breathed into this CD by these gifted musicians. Like any self-respecting mantra, it is reversible: “music is life”, but “life is music” for Tibet2Timbuk2.

Mike Raine for 2009

Cows at the Beach - Indo-Jazz with Toby Wren

I had a really nice 1 hour gig with jazz guitarist Toby Wren and harmonium player Sean Foran (of Misinterpretato) at Ric's Bar in Fortitude Valley on Sunday afternoon. For non-Brisbane people, the Valley is the main nightclub and entertainment district in Brisbane. I haven't had a gig there in years! (or it feels like that.... actually I played there twice last year.)

This Sunday afternoon Ric's thing is Toby's new weekly gig, entitled "cows at the beach", and was my first chance to play with him. We played 3 of Toby's compositions and I really really enjoyed learning and playing them. Toby has spent time in South India studying Carnatic music and incorporates a lot of those rhythms into his music. I hope we can play together many times more!

Toby can't make the show on Sunday July 26, so I'll be covering him with the band formerly known as Jaadu - Robert Welsh (piano), Ravi Welsh (guitar), Cieavash Arean (Persian instruments/vocals), Shen (tabla). As Robert wants to use that name for another project, we're looking for a new name - any suggestions most welcome, please click the comments link below.

Shen Flindell (tabla), Toby Wren (guitar), Sean Foran (harmonium)

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

2nd Annual Ashu Babu Memorial Tabla School Concert

Last Saturday I had one of my yearly highlights - the 2nd Annual Ashu Babu Memorial Tabla School Concert. Last year's inaugural concert was a wonderful event, and this year's lived up to the promise with all the students making good progress over the year, and the night being as full of love and devotion as could be. Unfortunately this year a few students had to pull out at the last minute but all the students, whether they performed at the concert or not, really put in a great effort and improved their tabla immensely. Imagine if they practised like that all year round! :-)

The concert was held a couple of days before the July full moon (this year July 7), known as "Guru Purnima" or "Guru's full moon", and was dedicated to my guru-ji of tabla, Late Pandit Kaviraj Ashutosh Bhattacharya also known as "Ashu Babu". He was a great teacher, great tabla player and great man and I was so lucky to have had the chance to learn from him for 10 years until his passing in 2004.

At this year's concert I introduced a friendly competitive element with some prizes for the top three performances. Big thanks to sitar player Saikat Bhattacharya and Kathak dancer Namita Debroy for judging the performances. First prize winner Arka Basu wins a full tabla overhaul with new skins, second prize winner Sanjeyan Sivaananthan will get one drum reskinned, and third prize winner Jesinthan Ketheeswaran gets a couple of free lessons. Thanks to Brisbane Indian Times for sponsoring the prizes.

Many thanks to all the students and families for all their support, especially to Rob, Liz, and Param for the sweets and drinks, the Middle Park mothers for all their food and decorations, Sulagna Basu and Yuki Taniguchi for wonderful mantra and bhajans to open the evening, and to my sister Jacki for coming up from Victoria to sit on the door (and to attend a medical conference over the weekend).

Finally, big thanks to Joseph Nand who gave very beautiful and patient harmonium accompaniment all night, as well as providing and setting up the sound system with Mohit whose sound engineering was brilliant. Thanks guys!

Guru-ji - Late Pandit Kaviraj Ashutosh Bhattacharya - watched over the proceedings

Yuki Taniguchi opened the evening with beautiful and meditative mantras

Sulagna Basu presented some devotional bhajans, accompanied on tabla by her son Arka and on harmonium by Joseph Nand, who accompanied all the following tabla performances as well.

Rob Sri Nath Wallis got the tabla solos going

Indveer Singh (11)

Shayne Prakash (13)

Arka Basu (13) - 1st prize winner

Tabla Lehri - "garland of tablas" - a tradition at my Guru-ji's tabla school concerts, and very well-received by the audience

Thejan Elankayer (9)

Sanjeyan Sivaananthan (13) - 2nd prize

Jesinthan Ketheeswaran (15) - 3rd prize

The students were all presented with certificates by judges Saikat Bhattacharya and Namita Debroy. Down the left-hand side of the certificates, I placed pictures of the 7 generations of guru-student tradition (guru-shishya parampara) from the progenitor of the Benares Gharana, Pt Ram Sahai (1780-1824) down to myself. (Thanks to Shawn Mativetsky for the great photos and info on his website about our great Varanasi tabla tradition.)

After presentation of certificates I gave a 40 minute tabla solo, very enjoyable. I used my G# tabla which I've just reskinned and are sounding absolutely fantastic!
I have to thank Sulagna Basu also for the lovely green kurta.

Thanks again to Joseph for beautiful lehera on harmonium, and to Mohit for great sound.