Friday, October 24, 2014

Sangeet Mela 2014

This article was originally printed (with just 2 photos) in the October 2014 (Diwali) edition of Brisbane Indian Times.
For more photos please visit our Facebook album.

Sangeet Mela 2014 Report

Actually that was the first time I've been to a classical concert, and I really enjoyed it. I'm much more interested in my tabla practice and seeing more concerts now.” (18 year old tabla student”

I think the Indian community were sceptical about what kind of event it would be and didn't turn up, but now that we know just how good a classical Sangeet Mela can be I promise I will bring lots of friends next year.”

Thanks and congratulations for organizing such a beautiful event!!”

These are some quotes from attendees of the inaugural Brisbane North Indian Classical Music and Dance Festival, Sangeet Mela 2014. It was artistically a magnificent event but unfortunately the audience did not reflect the quality of the performances.

Ku Lillian Warrum (Odissi dance - Melbourne)

Ku Anjuha Ketheeswaran (sitar - Rising Star Award winner) accompanied by Sri Shen Flindell (tabla)

Sangeet Mela 2014 opened in the early afternoon with a beautiful Odissi dance performance by Lillian Warrum from Melbourne. The opening session also included performances by young artists receiving the Sangeet Premi Rising Star Awards. Anjuha Ketheeswaran presented Raga Madhuvanti on sitar; Rising Star runner-up in the vocal category Eman Rawi presented a beautiful khayal in Raga Bhimpalassi and showed that he certainly has a bright future; percussion category winner Arka Tito Basu played tabla solo in Jhaptaal and Teentaal. The first session concluded with special guest vocalist from Sydney Dr Vivek Apte, who presented a wide range of compositions in Ragas Miya Malhar and Hameer.

Sri Eman Rawi (vocal - Rising Star Award runner-up) accompanied by Sri Maharshi Raval (tabla - Sydney)
Sri Arka Tito Basu (tabla solo - Rising Star Award winner) accompanied by Sri Joseph Abhay Nand (harmonium) and his guru Sri Shen Flindell (tali)

Dr Vivek Apte (vocal - Sydney) accompanied by Pt Govinda Chakraborty (tabla - Delhi), Sri Joseph Abhay Nand (harmonium), and Sri Sangeet Mishra (sarangi - Mumbai)

The late afternoon session opened with Rising Star dance award winner, Ku. Helena Joshi, with live accompaniment by Shen Flindell (tabla) and several other notable local musicians. It was indeed a very impressive performance and the highlight of the Rising Star Award performances on the day. The final Rising Star Award performance was presented by young vocalist Senjuti Maitra who sang a Khayal on Raga Desh followed by a bhajan. One of day's highlights followed, with a tabla solo by Pt Govinda Chakraborty of Delhi, followed by duet in Rupak Taal with Shen Flindell. Rahim Zullah sang Raga Behag in sitarkhani teentaal, finishing with tarana in drut teentaal.

Ku. Helena Joshi (Kathak dance - Rising Star Award winner) accompanied by Sri Shen Flindell (tabla), Smt Menaka Visvanathan Thomas (vocal), Sri Joseph Abhay Nand (harmonium), Sri Murali Ramakrishnan (bansuri)

Ku. Senjuti Maitra (vocal - Rising Star Award winner) accompanied by Sri Arka Tito Basu (tabla) and Sri Joseph Abhay Nand (harmonium)

Tabla duet by Pt Govinda Chakraborty (Delhi) with Sri Shen Flindell (accompaniment by Sri Sangeet Mishra, sarangi - Mumbai)

Sri Rahim Zullah (vocal) accompanied by Sri Maharshi Raval (tabla - Sydney), Sri Joseph Abhay Nand (harmonium) and Sri Sangeet Mishra (sarangi - Mumbai)

The evening session was worth the ticket price alone, opening with Kathak dance by Darshana Hingu, starting from Raga Shankara in Rudra Taal, followed by Teentaal and finally a Thumri. The Kathak dance performances with live accompaniment were very popular with the audience. Nothing quite matches the excitement of dancer's movements in synchrony with live tabla and vocal.

Smt Darshana Hingu accompanied by Sri Shen Flindell (tabla), Dr Mansey Kinarivala (vocal), Sri Joseph Abhay Nand (harmonium), and Sri Murali Ramakrishnan (bansuri)

Saikat Bhattacharya performed a heavenly Raga Bageshree with tabla accompaniment by Maharshi Raval (Sydney), and finally came the genuine grande finale, sarangi solo by 8th generation master Sangeet Mishra accompanied by Pt Govinda Chakraborty on tabla, who both entranced and dazzled the music lovers in attendance with Raga Charukeshi and Mirzapur Kajri.

Sri Saikat Bhattacharya (sitar) accompanied by Sri Maharshi Raval (tabla - Sydney)

Pt Govinda Chakraborty (tabla - Delhi)

Sri Sangeet Mishra (sarangi - Mumbai)

Though the audience was smaller than expected, the passion shown by all in attendance demonstrated that there is a place for Indian classical culture in Brisbane, and the organisers have high hopes that Sangeet Mela will become a successful annual event not just attracting audiences from our local region by from all around the country.  

End of night cast photo

For more photos please visit our Facebook album.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

All the other little gigs, Jan-Sep 2014

From now on I'm going to save the blog for quite major events (like news about Sangeet Mela 2014, coming soon I promise). To satisfy my librarian side, which likes things complete, here are the all the other little gigs I had this year before September (which was huge):

Highlights? Spirit of Bhakti is going really very well - the combination of Radha and Menaka's voices is magical, and I'm proud to play music with them. Oh look, there was a trip to Japan. Yuki's Nada Yoga workshops went really well over there. I'm proud to play with her too. 

Many thanks to all the wonderful musicians who have invited me to play with them this year. I'm very lucky to have these opportunities, thank you.

Friday, September 26, 2014

7th Annual Ashu Babu Memorial Tabla School Concert

On Guru Purnima in July 2014, my tabla students and I celebrated our 7th annual tabla school concert. For the second year we held it in the beautiful QLD Multicultural Centre auditorium. All the kids did their best and as usual the main benefit I saw was all the extra practice and polishing of repertoire in the month before the concert. The concert itself is always a happy gathering of all the students and our family and friends. Many thanks to those who attended as well as Brisbane Indian Times for the little extra support necessary to make the event succeed.

All my gurus: Main guru-ji Late Pt Kaviraj Ashutosh Bhattacharya; first guru Sri Debapriya Bhattacharya; guru-ji's youngest son Dr Debabrata Bhattacharya; senior guru-bhai Sri Govinda Chakraborty; close guru-bhai Sri Manishankar Tripathi; other guru-jis I've had some lessons with Pt Nayan Ghosh and Pt Suresh Talwalkar.

Opening bhajan by Susmitha Ravi with Rhea Ravi on tabla; harmonium by Sri Joseph Abhay Nand

New beginners: Aaryan, Arun, Josh

More experienced youngsters: Mann, Rushi, Smit, Ashwin, Ayngaran, Siva

Intermediate: Avanish, Hari, Sivamsan, Nikhil, Rhea

Northside class: Bipro and Ishaaq

Gold Coast class: Thejan and Nitin

Advanced class: Sanjey, Jesinthan, Tito

My own tabla solo, in which I attempted to play at least one thing learnt from each of those tabla players who have strongly influenced me.

All the performers with certificates, featuring the Benares Gharana lineage.

Varanasi Feb 2014

Microblogging on Facebook has led me to neglect my regular old blog. Here we are in September and I'm writing about our family trip to Varanasi in February...

Yuki, baby Saraswati and I were in Varanasi for all of February, via brief stops in Kuala Lumpur and Kolkata each way. Yuki was having Dhrupad vocal lessons with her guru-ji Pt Ritwik Sanyal, and I was mostly supporting her by looking after our lovely baby Saraswati, who had a fantastic time in India. Saraswati took her first steps, spoke several words and turned one all in Varanasi. She loved all the action, animals, music and company and transformed from a very shy 11 month old into an outgoing 1 year old in just a month. We stayed in a nice apartment room with kitchen which allowed us to keep floor and food pretty clean, and she kept in very good health except for a runny nose.

Shortly after our arrival I took part in the Saraswati Puja home concert at my first Guru-ji Late Pt Ashutosh Bhattacharya's house.

Pt Kumar Bose gave a tabla solo performance on Assi Ghat for the Pt Anokhelal Mishra Memorial Concert. I'd badly sprained my ankle on the ghats a few days earlier, and been stuck in bed until I dragged myself out for this.

My personal highlight of the trip was taking a 4 day workshop with tabla master Taalyogi Pt Suresh Talwalkar. His student Praveen Uddhav is professor at BHU so there is a bunch of ready and willing students for Pandit-ji to come and teach every few months. We covered a range of kaydas, tihais and tukaras in a whole range of interesting chands, with a lot of offbeat accents developed in a systematic way. I really enjoyed and benefited from this introduction to his style of tabla and look forward to the next opportunity.

On the weekend of Shivaratri as usual there were many concerts, including the annual Dhrupad Mela, where Yuki and I became known as Saraswati's mother and father. She turned one on the first day of Dhrupad Mela.

Pt Hari Prasad Chaurasia (bansuri) with Bhavani Shankar (pakhawaj) and the awesome accompaniment of Subhanker Banerjee (tabla). Unseasonal rain played havoc with the marquees over the small audience, so everyone crammed onto the stage area. We managed to snag a deserted VIP couch.

Final item of Dhrupad Mela - U. Bahauddin Dagar (rudra veena) - sublime.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Sangeet Mishra tour 2013-14, including Woodford Folk Festival

Following the "Masters of Sarangi" tour with Pt Santosh Mishra and his son Sangeet Mishra in August 2012, Sangeet and I were invited to perform at the recent Woodford Folk Festival, following which we did a couple of small concerts in Brisbane and Byron. At Woodford I also accompanied sitarist Saikat Bhattacharya, and we also enjoyed a couple of jugalbandi concerts. (Nice that the Folklorica organisers take some of my programming suggestions.)  It's always a pleasure to host and accompany Sangeet, a wonderful musician and all-round lovely guy. We're looking forward to the next visit, hopefully in September this year for my planned Brisbane Sangeet Mela (more on that later).

Sangeet Mishra (sarangi) with Shen (tabla)

Saikat Bhattacharya (sitar) with Shen (tabla) and Bipasa (tanpura)

Sangeet also participated in improvised morning performances with Michael Askill and James Coates, reading the Ashtavakra Gita.

This year Folklorica stage had a small side-stage called the Fire Stage, featuring Kathakali-Shakespeare fusion by Arjun Raina, followed by Indian classical performances.

Sitar-sarangi jugalbandi on Fire Stage

New Year's Eve sunset concert on the hilltop. Unfortunately this performance was aborted due to rain.

Impromptu jam session in the Green Room with amazing kora player Mamadou Suso from the band Jaaleekaay

New Year's midnight jugalbandi concert

Tashi Lhunpo Monks were present at the festival, making a beautiful sand mandala.

Upon completing the mandala it was ceremonially dissolved and disposed in the festival dam.

Final concert for us at the festival, New Year's Day.

Street performer at Woodford Folk Festival

Post-Woodford Tour

Family photo at Sudha Manian's residence

Sarangi recital at Sudha Manian's residence, Mt Ommaney, Brisbane

"Sufi Soul Sangeet" concert with Tahir Qawwal at Red Tent Yoga, Byron Bay

New musical partners: Radha Bornstein, Bart Stenhouse

Late last year I started performing separately with two different soloists: original kirtan singer Radha Bornstein and jazz guitarist Bart Stenhouse.

"Radha Bornstein has been writing, singing and performing devotional songs from early childhood. She skillfully weaves together the strands of poetic words from saints like Rumi, Mirabai and the Buddha, with traditional sanskrit mantra, soul-stirring vocals and rhythmic guitar. "

Radha and I met at Yogafest in June and have now done 4 concerts together in Brisbane, Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast. I'm really enjoying her musicianship and original songs, and finding new ways to accompany on tabla in Western chord-based music. I have experience with traditional bhajans within the Indian community but funnily enough these have been my first outings into the Western yoga-kirtan community.

Radha and I have upcoming concerts on April 12 (Brisbane), 26 and 27 (NNSW).

Radha Bornstein and Shen Flindell at The Yoga Den, West End, 20th Oct 2013.

Video of  "Bolo Ram" by Radha Bornstein, ending with tabla solo by Shen

"Bart Stenhouse has been an active player on the jazz and world music scenes for many years. His love of world music styles, classical indian, flamenco, folk/roots and western classical music has influenced his various compositions. He performs on a myriad of instruments, including mohan vina, electric mandolin, electric/double bass and guitars. A musical explorer, he seeks the common ground between the different worlds of music and actively pursues them around the world. Currently he lectures at the Qld Conservatorium and works actively as a film score composer, live sound engineer and music producer."

Bart is an experienced jazz and flamenco guitarist who has recently started playing mohan vina (Indian slide guitar) and is currently here in Varanasi recording a CD with some local musicians. I'm really looking forward to seeing his development in both Indian classical music and its influence on his jazz playing. We kicked off with a couple of concerts and a workshop in November and December. 

The first concert was an Indian classical evening held in Mullumbimby on November 16th, also featuring Yuki Taniguchi Flindell's beautiful Dhrupad vocal. (She managed to get baby Saraswati to sleep for the duration of her set!)  

Bart Stenhouse (mohan vina) with Shen Flindell: Raga Kirwani, vilambit and drut teentaal

Yuki Taniguchi Flindell (Dhrupad vocal) with Shen (tabla): Raga Yaman, chartaal, Raga Adana, sooltaal

The second event with Bart was in the magnificent Langri Tangpa Centre in Camp Hill, Brisbane on December 14th. We opened with an Indian classical set on mohan vina and followed up with some of Bart's original jazz compositions, plus an attempted cover of Remember Shakti's "Lotus Feet". What a blast!

Bart Stenhouse (mohan vina) and Shen Flindell (tabla) at Langri Tangpa Centre