Friday, February 11, 2011

Saraswati Puja

After 3 flights from Brisbane via Kuala Lumpur and Delhi (where I managed to reach check-in 5 minutes before closing), I arrived in Varanasi the day before Saraswati Puja, in honour of the Hindu goddess of music and learning. There has been a home concert for Saraswati Puja each year for more than 50 years and it has hosted many great musicians including Pt Ravi Shankar, Pt Nikhil Banerjee, and Pt Kanthe Maharaj, who used to play 2-3 hours' tabla solo each year.

Guru-ji's students Manishankar and Gautam

Guru-ji's youngest son Debabrata

This year the puja coincidentally fell on the 7th anniversary of Guru-ji's passing.

I opened the concert with tabla solo in basant taal (9 beats). Saraswati Puja is also known as Basant Panchami (5th day of spring), so this was the perfect chance to play the material I'd learnt in basant taal last year from Sri Govinda Chakraborty, a senior student of Guru-ji.

From the day after Saraswati Puja, people take their statues of Saraswati from the previous year down to the Ganges River and throw them in with much ceremony. The most exciting processions are organised by various student groups who play loud pop music and dance crazily, feeling the spirit in a big way.

Taro in Oz 2011 (part 2)

On the second weekend of Taro's tour we performed twice in the Festival of Tibet at Brisbane Powerhouse. In the late afternoon Taro and I collaborated with Dva (Linsey Pollak and Tunji Beier) in a free concert entitled "Dva Ragaspace", as part of BEMAC's The Planet series. Linsey and Tunji are brilliant musicians and it was an honour to perform with them. Firstly Taro and I performed a 20 minute Indian classical piece, then Dva performed a couple of their pieces on reeds and South Indian percussion. We then improvised together for 20 minutes which was lots of fun! This was our first chance to play together and having really enjoyed Dva's improvised sessions at Woodford Folk Festival I'd really looked forward to this chance, hopefully the first of many.

Taro and Shen

Linsey Pollak

Tunji Beier

Dva Ragaspace jam session

In the evening we had the "Tibet: Awakened Heart concert for flood relief". In the first half we got to hear 4 Tibetan ladies singing traditional Tibetan songs. Taro was asked to play with 3 of them, and did a great job of accompanying the Tibetan melodies after hearing them only that afternoon in soundcheck.

The concert opened with chanting by this monk.

This is Pema who is 13 years old and was born and grew up in Australia but obviously loves Tibetan songs because she played excellently.

Taro with Jamyang Dolma

with special guest Taro Terahara

The following day, we were joined by sarangi master Sangeet Mishra, with whom we toured Australia in 2009. We were hosted by the wonderful folks at Sri Saileshwara Sai Baba Temple in Virginia, north Brisbane. We played Raga Puriya Dhanashri in jhaptaal and teentaal, followed by a dhun. Straight after the concert we had dinner and zipped off to the airport so I could catch a flight to India in time for Saraswati Puja two days later.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Taro in Oz 2011 (part 1)

I've been enjoying the sounds of beautiful bansuri, as brilliantly played by my friend Taro Terahara over the last couple of weeks. As you may have seen on these pages, Tenzin and I have toured with Taro in Japan the last couple of years, and they've just released a beautiful duet CD entitled "Tibet: Awakened Heart". To celebrate its launch, Tenzin invited Taro over to do a big concert along with Tibet2Timbuk2 at the Festival of Tibet which is on at Brisbane Powerhouse next weekend. In the leadup to this concert, Taro and T2T2 did a little tour down to NSW which also included a session at our good friends Elliott and Josie's celebrity wedding.

The tour opened with a small Indian classical concert hosted by Swara Mohini at Garden City Library.

Yuki opened with Sanskrit mantras

Taro played Raga Marwa in vilambit and drut teentaal, followed by Desh and Bhairavi

The following weekend we all drove 8 hours down to Wauchope, near Port Macquarie on the central NSW coast, where we were hosted by Krissa Wilkinson of the Wauchope Arts Council. Krissa had seen us play at Bellingen Global Carnival in October and invited us to come. We were happily surprised when the hall filled up to overflowing full of lovely people keen to go on a musical journey together. It was a brilliant night, one of our best shows ever. To top it off this was our first proper Tibet2Timbuk2 concert to include Taro, who recorded on our CD at a distance in Tokyo a few years back. Magic!

After enjoying our friends Elliott and Josie's massive wedding on the Saturday, where we played after the second ceremony, on the Sunday we had a nice little acoustic concert at Ganesa Gallery in Byron Bay. Many thanks to Garry and Kei who invited us to play after our show in Byron in December. Thanks also to Tahir Qawwal who came and jammed with Taro and I for a lovely Bhairavi ghazal.