Friday, February 19, 2010

Melting Pot Festival - Tibet2Timbuk2 and more

I had loads of concerts this week: After playing with Jai Uttal in Byron on Thursday, I was very busy at BEMAC's Melting Pot Festival at Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC). Melting Pot is on the afternoons of one weekend a month for the next few months, and the first two editions are focusing on Indian and Tibetan music. While I'd known I would be playing with Tibet2Timbuk2 for a while, just a few days beforehand I was surprised to be invited for 2 more performances on the same day. So except for the opening act (Bollywood dance), I was on stage all day. And it was hot! Thanks to Vijaya Visvanathan and Shrabani Choudhury for inviting me to accompany them, and also to Menaka Visvanathan for joining Tibet2Timbuk2. A wonderful afternoon of music - and I hope no one got tired of hearing my tabla!

Shen accompanying Vijaya and Menaka Visvanathan (Carnatic vocalists)

Shen accompanying Shrabani Choudhury (sitar), in Raga Madhuvanti, Teentaal Madhya Lay and Drut Lay

Tibet2Timbuk2 : Tenzin, Shen, special guest Menaka, and Marcello

On the second day, Tenzin Choegyal had a solo show, which he invited me to play in as well.

Tibet2Timbuk2 minus Marcello - would that be "Tibet 2"?

Jai Uttal concert in Byron

I came back from India a bit earlier than planned especially because I was invited to accompany kirtan singer Jai Uttal in his first ever Australian concert. The Byron Bay Community Centre was sold out as Jai Uttal and his "Shire Love Orchestra" led the audience through a couple of hours of singalong kirtans mixed up with Jai's original solo songs on devotional themes. Jai is one of the biggest names in the field of Westernised kirtans and it was a big honour and great opportunity for me to play with him and the musicians he gathered. The atmosphere on the night was thick with love and joy. Many thanks to tour organiser Amir Paiss for all his work in bringing Jai Uttal to Australia.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Delhi concert with Taro Terahara

In my last days in India I intended to go and see my good friend Taro Terahara play in Delhi at a concert organised by The Japan Foundation, who invited him and Kathak Dancer Masako Sato ("Miyabi") from Japan to perform there. Taro was to be accompanied by my guru-bhai Govinda Chakraborty, but as fortune would have it Govinda-da had to pull out and recommended me for the show. This was my first show in India outside of Varanasi. Thanks to Taro for the opportunity!

Shen and Taro performing at The Japan Foundation in New Delhi.

Kathak Miyabi at The Japan Foundation

More concerts in Varanasi

I saw a bunch more concerts by high-profile artists while in Varanasi: Hari Prasad Chaurasia, Baha-ud-din Dagar, Fazal Qureshi, Dhananjay Mishra and last but not least Gundecha Brothers.

Pt Hari Prasad Chaurasia accompanied by Rashid Mustapha Thirakwa. Hari-ji is getting old now, and was visibly shaking. Still it's always great to see a great master, and young Thirakwa's accompaniment was very sweet.

Ustad Baha-ud-din Dagar on the rudra veena - a very deep (bassy) instrument from the Dhrupad tradition. Sublime.

Baha-ud-din was accompanied on pakhawaj by our friend Tetsuya Kaneko of Nagoya. The concert was part of the annual winter series at Ganges View Hotel in Assi Ghat.

Fazal Qureshi, younger brother of Zakir Hussain. The setting was beautiful - an old haveli on Raja Ghat. Fazal-ji played very nicely, although it's hard not to compare with the greatness and beauty of his older brother's playing.

Tabla solo by Dhananjay Mishra, son of Pt Ishwar Lal Mishra.

Gundecha Brothers with Shrikant Mishra at Ganges View Hotel, Assi Ghat. A great performance, and the perfect farewell to Varanasi for me before running to pack for my 1am train trip to Delhi...

Ramakant Gundecha in expressive mood

I like this photo of Toon-ji. He has great chemistry with Gundecha Brothers.

Anwar Tabla Maker

My tabla maker Mohammed Anwar is the son of the famous old Varanasi tabla maker Shamsuddin. Anwar has been making me great tabla for several years now, and over the last year has helped me especially, in producing tabla especially made to pass Australian Quarantine's high standards, and packing and sending me numerous parcels, a big job in itself. I spent my last few days in Varanasi with him, checking tablas, bayans, puris (skins) and various accessories off of the lists of orders I had for myself and a few friends around the world, and then packing them into parcels. Sending the parcels from the post office was very frustrating: after being told by the postal clerk to wait in the queue for an hour, he then processed only 3 of my 7 parcels and asked me to join the queue again! Anyway, we gradually got the job done... Many thanks to Anwar and his sons Salman and Imran for all their help!

Anwar at his tabla shop in Aurangabad, Varanasi

Anwar and son Salman. I've been teaching Salman how to send and check email, and various other computer skills, over the last couple of years. This year we got him a Skype account and I showed him where to get wi-fi on his new laptop.

Anwar's eldest son Imran with some of the drums I'd ordered.

The master at work.

(For those interested in buying tabla or tabla skins especially in Australia, please get in touch.)

Sand sculpture island on Ganga

A sand island appears in the Ganges a little south of Varanasi in winter and there is a sand sculpture competition each year. Here are some snaps from our visit, 2 days after the competition, so slightly wind-blown.

A scene from the boat trip to the sand sculpture island.

Saraswati Puja 2010

The annual Saraswati Puja in my guru-ji's house has been running for 65 years and has featured such greats as Pt Ravi Shankar, Ud. Mushtaq Ali Khan and Pt Kanthe Maharaj. This year it was my honour to open the concert, accompanying my good friend Hiro Minamizawa who played Raga Marwa. Then followed young vocalist Priyanka Bhattacharya, and finally the highlight was Dr Sanjay Verma on mohan veena (slide guitar) with guru-ji's son Dr Debabrata Bhattacharya on tabla. Priyanka and I shared the MC duties for the day. This concert is always a very special event for me, as I fondly remember Guru-ji sitting next to Saraswati and enjoying his students' music.

Goddess Saraswati-ma and Guru-ji.

The family and students gather for the puja in the early afternoon

Guru-ji's grandson Abhishek ("Babun") in the puja. Babun and I had a lot of classes together with Guru-ji when Babun was a young 'un.

Prasad receiving blessings from Saraswati-ma. A big lunch which I always look forward to.

Yasuhiro Minamizawa (sitar) playing Raga Marwa, accompanied by Shen Flindell (tabla)

Priyanka Bhattacharya (vocal) accompanied by Jaydev Mukherjee (tabla) and Ashish (harmonium)

Dr Sanjay Verma (mohan veena) accompanied by Dr Debabrata Bhattacharya on tabla.

Newspaper clipping from Amaar Ujaala, 21 Jan 2010 about our concert.