From late January to early April 2016, Yuki, Saraswati and I had a grand old time in India, beginning in Kolkata, spending most of our time in Varanasi before having a little holiday in Rishikesh and our final few days in Delhi.
In Kolkata we stayed with our friend Supriyo Dutta, an excellent classical vocalist. He invited us to his concert while we were there and Yuki played tanpura. We're very happy that we can bring Supriyo to Australia for Woodford Folk Festival later this year!
We arrived in Varanasi shortly before Saraswati Puja, and I performed in a tabla group and then vocal accompaniment for the annual Basant Panchami concert in my old guru-ji's house.
Pt Pooran Maharaj came to perform at Sangeet Mela 2015 last September, and he reciprocated by inviting me to perform tabla solo at his house for his annual Sangeet Sabha Kashi concert. Pt Pooran Maharaj learnt a lot from his grandfather, Pt Kanthe Maharaj, also the guru of my principal guru-ji Late Pt Kaviraj Ashutosh Bhattacharya. So I was very blessed and honoured to have the opportunity to take lessons from Pooran-ji, and to perform in his historical home.
Also while in Varanasi, we attended many concerts including those of Pt Shiv Kumar Sharma, Sakhi (Kaushiki Chakraborty's all-female classical based group), and the annual Dhrupad Mela. I also participated in a couple of workshops with pakhawaj players - Tetsuya Kaneko's introductory pakhawaj workshop, and Sukhad Munde's taal workshop. We really enjoyed meeting Sukhad-ji and he was certainly one of the bright lights of the Dhrupad Mela.
I had a few more concerts while in India. The big one was joining the Kathak dance group of Smt Malti Shyam, at the annual Ashu Babu Memorial Concert on Tulsi Ghat. She had her established tabla player there of course, but I got to play along where I could and had a small solo as well. I had tabla tuned in Pancham to add to the tonal quality of the music, and mainly just tried to play Dhas in the right place rather than make a mess trying to catch difficult compositions!
I also had fun playing with bansuri player Shyan Kishore in Vegan & Raw Restaurant, a much more casual and fun gig.
From Varanasi we went to Rishikesh and enjoyed 12 days of sunshine and spare time. We spent a lot of time with Shivam Rath and Mico Sundari, who play beautiful devotional music based on Indian classical music with their own rock sensibilities infused. We played a concert on the Parmath Ashram ghat by Ganga which was quite a treat.