Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Benares Gharana historical excursion

I have known Canadian tabla player Shawn Mativetsky via the Chandrakantha tabla forum, online reputation and emails for about 5 years, but this month we met in person for the first time, as he was in Benares to spend time with his guru-ji Pt Sharda Sahai, the gharanedar ("head") of the Benares Gharana of tabla. Shawn has an excellent website on the history of our style of tabla, with a family tree of gurus and students which shows us to be close cousins in the tabla family.

Shawn took me and my student Rob along for a Benares Gharana historical outing, firstly to meet his guru-ji at the family home, Pt Ram Sahai Bhavan in Kabir Chaura, and then to the home of our shared param-guru, Pt. Kanthe Maharaj.

Shen with Pt Sharda Sahai, Dr Frances Ann Shepherd and Shawn Mativetsky. As mentioned above Pt Sharda Sahai is the head of the Benares style of tabla. Dr Frances Ann Shepherd wrote a very famous thesis on the history and traditions of Benares tabla in the 70s, so I was also very excited to meet her.

Busts of the founding members of the Benares Gharana in Ram Sahai Bhavan. Left to right: Bhairov Sahai, Ram Sahai, Baldeo Sahai

The famous giant Ganesh-ji in the home of Pt Kanthe Maharaj and Pt Kishan Maharaj, with my student Rob for scale :-)

Shrine to Late Pt Kishan Maharaj, who passed away in March last year. This room features many photos, newspaper articles, sketches and all kinds of historical items.

Paying homage to my guru's guru, Pt Kanthe Maharaj

Pooran Maharaj, son of Late Pt Kishan Maharaj, sharing some stories and wisdom with Rob and the other gathered tabla devotees.

You can read Shawn's blog on this day in his blog post Benares Chronicles, Part 2.

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