Tuesday, September 22, 2009


After my sojourn at the Greenhouse, I headed off to Nagoya for a concert with santoor player Mari Komuro, a very experienced student of maestro Pt Shiv Kumar Sharma. It was a daytime concert at Meito Playhouse, a proper concert hall - not too many chances to play in such venues for us musicians out on the Indian Classical fringe. My time in Nagoya was strange and brief: the friend who had offered to put me up had gotten the date wrong, so after an hour on the phone trying to contact everyone I knew in Nagoya, another friend recommended the cheap but very friendly guesthouse Otohaya Bessou. Thanks Koki.

Shen and Mari Komuro at Meito Playhouse

From Nagoya to Kyoto, my old home town when I was living in Japan in 2002-03. Last year I had only 1 concert in Tokyo and a whole bunch around Kansai, but this year it's the opposite: I couldn't get any gigs in Kansai, but I still wanted to visit my friends there, especially as I was already booked to visit Nagoya. So in the end a couple of friends booked a yoga space (Mysore Kyoto) and I invited sarod player Sagar (aka Yasu Fujibayashi) to join me for an informal gathering of a few friends and friends of friends. Yasu is a very emotional and powerful musician, and the concert was captivating. Thanks so much to Andrew, Alex and Yasu for getting this together.

Shen with Sagar (sarod), plus the new Mrs Fujibayashi, Ganga on tamboura. 

Sky, the son of my Kyoto hosts Alex and Hana, playing tabla with great hands. 4 years old, my youngest student!

Friday, September 18, 2009

My students first show without me

While I was playing with sarod and sitar at the Greenhouse in Japan, my top students in Brisbane had their first tabla group performance without my supervision, at the 2nd Brisbane Music Circle concert in Garden City Library, Mt Gravatt. Brisbane Music Circle aims to foster Indian classical music at a community level by encouraging students and amateur artists to perform at their small free concerts. I really did want to play with my students there, but as I was overseas it was a great chance for them to build confidence on their own. I'm eagerly waiting to hear reports and see a video of the show when I get back home.

Jesinthan, Arka and Sanjey representing the Ashu Babu Memorial Tabla School

Arthavan gave a mridingam solo

Arka's mother Sulagna Basu performing, accompanied by Dheeraj Shrestha on tabla.
Sulagna-ji was one of the first Indian musicians in Brisbane to support me when I was just beginning tabla, and her son Arka is one of my longest-running students.

Shrabani Choudhury (sitar) with Dheeraj (tabla)

Percussion duet by Arthavan and Dheeraj

Greenhouse party 2009

Here I am in Japan once again. As usual, my tour is starting slowly but will soon pick up pace and be frenetic until I get back to Australia in mid-October.

First up I went to stay with my friend Chris Case at the Greenhouse in the peaceful hills of Chichibu. I usually stay here for a few weeks when I'm in Japan, help Chris with cleaning up the house and garden or doing some web development work, and have a party with some live musicians and DJs. (You can also check out my blogs about the Greenhouse from the last few years.)

Shen with Baku Hirakawa (sarod) and Kei (sitar) - we played about 5 hours on Saturday, a couple more on Sunday

Chris DJing

Our gracious host

Tabla Tarrango @ Krishna Fest

On Sun August 23 my top students and I gave our first public performance, at Krishna Fest, ISKCON's celebrations of Janmastami (Krishna's birthday) at Roma St Parklands. In the tradition of my first guru Debu Bhattacharya, I'm thinking of calling our tabla group Tabla Tarrango. The weather was absolutely beautiful (a slight cooling off from the freakish week of 30+ degrees August winter days) and thousands of festival goers enjoyed a range of entertainment and devotional music, heavy on the kirtans.

I was honoured to have my students invited to play, and so proud of them. We played for about 20 minutes, opening with uthaan, then Arka and I played a kaida, Sam, Sanjay and Jesinthan played a rela, peshkar all together, then some gat kaidas and tukaras one by one, culminating in a powerful tukara all together.

My old friend Soolaba on sitar

Carmela singing kirtan

Diwarkar Mothay and his young singing students

A bit more kirtan

Tabla Tarrango
- Sam Mead, Arka Basu, Shen Flindell, Sanjeyan Sivaananthan, Jesinthan Ketheeswaran

Very proud of my boys