Sunday, April 29, 2012

Tokyo concerts part 1

After a successful and enjoyable few days in Kansai, Yuki and I took an overnight bus to reach Tokyo in time for a special live TV appearance with Taro Terahara on NHK-BS1 program "Hotto @ Asia". Taro was being interviewed as part of a series of features on different Indian classical musicians in Japan. It was an interesting day - rehearsal, makeup, then live show including 3 minutes of music. Check it out on Youtube.

Shen, Taro and Fumie (tanpura) with the Hotto @ Asia hosts

The following weekend (April 20-22) I had a few concerts, firstly with father-and-son sitar duo Koro and Rei Ito, at regular world music venue Otoya-Kintoki. Koro-san greeted me by saying "Japan's radiation is very high!" and later asked me to give a message to "all of Japan" (although there were just 8 people listening!). What could I say? There should be more vocal political opposition to nuclear power here.

The next night I joined Taro again to accompany Kathak dancer Atsuko Maeda in a dance studio in Meiji-Jingu-Mae, near Shibuya. It's been a few years since I accompanied Kathak (last time being with Atsuko-san on Tenzin's first Japan tour in 2009), and it was very enjoyable going through those dance rhythms again. Yuki and I will be accompanying Atsuko at a concert in Tokyo on May 5 and again at Dance of Shiva in Izu on May 20.

Then on the Sunday Yuki Taniguchi gave a nada yoga workshop at Rakudoan in Kanda, Tokyo, followed by our concert. We played almost 2 hours of music, starting with Yuki's mantras, followed by Dhrupad in Raga Yaman (alap and chautaal), various bhajans and kirtans, and finally tabla solo.

This weekend I had 2 concerts, firstly back at Otoya-Kintoki, this time with Afghani music group Chalpasah. It was lovely to accompany beautiful Afghani music, as well as to play some Indian classical music with Taro as always.

Then last night I joined my old friend TC Deane at jazz/rock/blues venue Someday in Futamatagawa (near Yokohama). TC and I first met when I was living in Tokyo back in 2005 and the last time we properly played together was at that time, also at Someday. We had some really beautiful improvisations and the audience, only one of whom had ever seen tabla before, seemed quite profoundly affected. TC has uploaded some audio from the concert to his soundcloud page. Thanks TC.

Remaining concerts on my Japan tour:

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Tabla Exam Success for Forest Lake Boys

A copy of the article on my tabla students' recent PRSSV tabla exam results, to be published in May 2012 Brisbane Indian Times:

Tabla students from Forest Lake, The Gap and Bundaberg have achieved distinctions in a London-based tabla exam. Bhavik Barot (12, tabla grade 5), Neel Chandra (15, grade 4), Krishan Chandra (13, grade 3), Sivamsan Senthilvasan (9, grade 3) and Abraham Birkelund (10, grade 1) earned top results among 14 Queensland tabla students who took the exams held by Pandit Ram Sahai Sangeet Vidyalaya (PRSSV).

Of the other students of the Ashutosh Bhattacharya Memorial Tabla School who took the exams, 6 received merits and 3 passes. The exams are available in 8 grades equivalent to AMEB or Trinity music examinations. The students have to study a range of practical and theoretical material including classical tabla repertoire, Hindustani classical music theory, music writing system, biographies of famous musicians, and the history of tabla gharanas.
Bhavik, Neel and Krishan have weekly tabla classes together in Forest Lake with tabla teacher Shen Flindell, who also gives group and private lessons at other locations around Brisbane and the Gold Coast. Abraham and his father, Swedish-born Tor Birkelund travel to Brisbane all the way from Bundaberg for their tabla lessons, and have plans for Abraham to take more intensive tabla studies in an ashram in India next year.
The top Brisbane tabla students, Tito Basu (16, Springfield) and Sanjey Sivaananthan (16, Westlake) successfully completed grade 7 and will attempt grade 8 when the exams are next held in Brisbane next January. As well as completing requirements on tabla, Tito and Sanjey had to present compositions and demonstrate theoretical knowledge in two ragas. PRSSV are currently applying for recognition by the Qld Studies Authority, so that from next year exam results will be included in the students' school certificates.
For enquiries about PRSSV tabla exams, tabla lessons, repairs and instrument sales, please contact Shen Flindell on 0415106428 (after June 9) or email

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Kansai concerts with 3 sitar players and Yuki

After the 40 degree heat of Varanasi it was a relief to come to the beautiful spring weather of Japan. We arrived here at the peak of sakura (cherry blossom) season. After a stressful journey from Kuala Lumpur, via Haneda to Kamakura and then by bus to Kyoto, I was happy to wake up to the perfect spring day for some hanami (flower viewing) with friends.

I had a busy few days in Kansai, starting with a concert on the Thursday in Kobe with sitar player Shuhei Ozaki, student of current rising star Purbayan Chatterjee. Yohei Iwashita (sitar) and Bayan Fujisawa (tabla) opened the night. I have to say a big thanks to Shuhei-san for pulling this concert together so that we could have a chance to play together.

On the Friday I joined old friend Yasuhiro Minamizawa, with whom I played at my Guru-ji's memorial concert in 2006, at Uzura Gallery in Kyoto.

Then on Saturday it was off to Cafe Amanto in Osaka for Calcutta Night Vol 82 with Tadao Ishihama. Tadao has been playing sitar as long as I've been playing tabla, but started at the age of 15! I've played with Tadao at Amanto many times over the years, starting back in September 2002.

Finally on the Sunday I accompanied Yuki Taniguchi in a concert following her nada yoga workshop, held in a beautiful old Kyoto house ("machiya"). Our concert followed our usual pattern of mantras, kirtans and bhajans, finishing up with a short tabla solo. Very enjoyable :-)

After dinner we jumped on a night bus back to Tokyo, where I appeared with bansuri player Taro Terahara on NHK TV programme "Hotto @ Asia", which was a very interesting experience.  Will post links to video if anyone uploads them...

I have a few concerts in Tokyo from hereon:

Varanasi sessions

Here are a last couple of pics from my time in Varanasi this year. On weekends I visited my late Guru-ji's house, where his son Dr Debabrata "Bappa" Bhattacharya and student Manishankar Tripathi continue the tabla tradition there. Here we are playing with 14 year old Asheesh, who is going really very well. While there I received some training in the famous 15 beat taal, Pancham Sawari, from Bappa-da.

I also visited the home of renowned tabla player Pt Ishwar Lal Mishra, nephew of the legendary Pt Anokhelal Mishra, and his sons Dhananjay (tabla) and Anand (sitar). Dhananjay and Anand were to visit Australia later this year so I went a couple of times for practice in anticipation of a concert together in Brisbane. (Unfortunately their visas didn't work out so the tour has been cancelled this year.) It was a great honour to practise with Ishwar Lal-ji and get some bols and some feeling from his way of playing.