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!!!

Tenzin in Japan: part 3

The second round of Tenzin's concerts were also largely in Tokyo. We did finish up at the Gifu Sangeet Mela, but that's another story...

I'll be posting a selection of photos here but you can see a whole lot more on our Facebook album, "Tenzin in Japan".

Tue Sep 29: Jouenji Temple, Shinjuku, hosted by Tibet House Japan: This is one concert Tenzin managed to get happening himself, thanks to his initiative in contacting the Dalai Lama's representatives in Japan. Tenzin did some solo songs, followed by a presentation by Tashi Kunga, a Japanese performer of Tibetan classical music. After our group performance of some Tibet2Timbuk2 songs, Tenzin and Tashi had a little jam. Then we all went off to a big dinner with the Dalai Lama's representative. Many thanks to Tibet House.

Shen, Tenzin and Taro playing for the Dalai Lama's representative at Jouenji Temple, Shinjuku.

Tashi Kunga and Tenzin improvising on some Tibetan classical music

Thu Oct 1: Tokyo Salon, Aoyama: "Tokyo Gharana #1": A very special event, organised by Kathak dancer Atsuko Maeda. At this event, Tenzin was reunited with an old friend Nanaco, who helped pay for his first ever recording, years before he even left Dharamsala for Australia. It was also our final full concert with bansuri player Taro Terahara, with whom we had created a really tight trio with some beautiful arrangements. We were up quite late in the night drinking and chatting after this...

Atsuko dancing while Tenzin, Shen and Taro play Tibet2Timbuk2 song, "Tso Marpo"

Fri Oct 2: Dalia, Nihonbashi: Sitar player Kourou Itou kindly arranged this concert for us at handicrafts store Dalia. Kourou-san and I opened with an Indian classical set during which he played a beautiful raga mala around Raga Khammaj. Then Tenzin and I played a duo set, which after all those shows with Taro (and before that with guitar player Marcello when in Australia) seemed quite "bare". (I've had to do a lot more singing on this tour than I'm used to! But it's good for me.) We closed the night with a couple of improvised collaborations with Kourou-san, including a new song Tenzin made up especially that afternoon. Thanks to Kourou-san and Hisae-san of Dalia.

Shen, Tenzin and Kourou Itou jamming it up at Dalia on the final Tokyo concert of Tenzin's tour

Tenzin in Japan part 2: Sightseeing in Kamakura

After our first round of gigs in Tokyo and Kamakura, it was time for a bit of sightseeing. Kamakura is also known as "Beach Kyoto", for its large number of temples and abundance of traditional architecture. Tenzin also did a bit of sightseeing around Tokyo, but I stayed in Kamakura for the next few days as I had another event down there, so I'll leave that for Tenzin to blog on.

I'll be posting a selection of photos here but you can see a whole lot more on our Facebook album, "Tenzin in Japan".

Taro, Tenzin and Shen at Daibutsu ("Big Buddha")

Tenzin offers prayers at Hase Dera, Kamakura

Tenzin, sitar player Hide Iwai and Taro at Hase Dera

The Benzaiten cave at Hase Dera. Benzaiten is the Japanese version of Hindu goddess of music, Saraswati. This cave is a very powerful place.

An army of small Benzaitens (Saraswatis) in the Benzaiten Cave

Tenzin in Japan: part 1

After all these years coming to Japan, at long last I've managed to get my old friend, amazing Tibetan singer Tenzin Choegyal over here, and it was exactly the success I thought it would be! We had 8 shows in the 12 days he was here. They weren't all big, but for a first visit definitely successful. He made a huge impression and everyone wants him to come back again.

I'll be posting a selection of photos here but you can see a whole lot more on our Facebook album, "Tenzin in Japan".

Fri Sep 25: Kie, Nishi-Azabu: A small opening concert, more of a paid rehearsal really. The owner of the bar has won awards for her paintings of McLeod Ganj (home of the Tibetan government-in-exile) and Varanasi.

Taro, Tenzin and Shen get warmed up in Kie, Nishi-Azabu

Tenzin playing sanshin (the Okinawan equivalent of his usual instrument, the dranyen), with some girls we came across in Yoyogi Park.

Sat Sep 26: Cafe Slow, Kokubunji: A beautiful candle-lit, acoustic (no electricity was the concept) show in a slow-food organic cafe in Tokyo's west. Tenzin, Taro and I really clicked from here on. Unfortunately due to the dark, there's no photos.... Thanks to Dolma Tsering, Tenzin's long-lost cousin, for being the interpreter.

Sun Sep 27: Namaste India Festival, Yoyogi Park, with special guest Kathak dancer Atsuko Maeda: Wow. We started the show with about 1000 people waiting to hear us play, but with 's voice filling the park, by the second song we reckon there were about 3000 people clustered around the stage. Tibetan flags flying everywhere. Atsuko's beautiful dance complementing our happy festive sounds. Kya baat hai!

Tenzin dancing with the Ainu people (indigenous people of Japan)

Shen, Taro, Tenzin and Atsuko win everybody's hearts at Namaste India. Atsuko added some Kathak interludes to Tibet2Timbuk2 song "Tso Marpo", and some interpretive dance on "Daway Wola"

Sun Sep 27: Magokoro, Kamakura: After allowing 15 minutes to sell some CDs at Namaste India, we had to rush off to beachside town Kamakura, southwest of Tokyo, for this intimate acoustic gig at Magokoro ("Hemp Heart"). Many thanks to Yuki for arranging this concert.

Shen, Tenzin and Taro at Magokoro

Tenzin and Taro's flute duet become a highlight of every concert, leading in to the emotional Tibet2Timbuk2 song "Lotus Born". These songs kept getting better and better.