Tuesday, April 24, 2007

India 2007: Collected episodes

Some brief reports from my weekly event-news emails to Australia... I know it's pretty unreadable posting 3 months worth of news in one go, sorry. I'm honestly going to try to post my reports here on this blog more regularly from now on! Please at least skim through and check out the photos.

JAN 18: Kolkata news
I arrived here on Monday morning. Same as ever... crowded and polluted. The big news in India is that Aishwariya Rai and Abhishek Bacchan are getting married.

Tonight I board the train to Varanasi, where I'll be taking part in the Saraswati Puja home concert at my Guru-ji's house. I'll be performing with sarod player Shuji Yamamoto, a disciple of Ustad Amjad Ali Khan. Also performing in the programme will be Shubhshankar, grand-nephew and protege of Varanasi tabla Godfather, Pt. Kishan Maharaj (who will also be present at the concert, I'm told). It's always an electric atmosphere at this concert. Report next week...

If I wasn't taking part in that Saraswati Puja concert I'd definitely stick it out in Kolkata to attend the Dover Lane Music Conference - 4 nights of amazing Indian classical musicians. (Read about last year's conference here.) For those of you interested, click here for this year's programme.

I've also recently updated my report on Taro Terahara's tour in December, to include a link to his blog with lots of photos of our experiences.

JAN 25: Saraswati Puja
Well Saraswati Puja concert came and went... I needed to be in India longer and more into my practice. :-( Luckily Kishan Maharaj-ji didn't come. But it was nice to see and play with Shuji-san (sarod) again and the audience seemed to like what we did. Anyway, now I can get down to setting up my room (with double-side Ganga view!)
With Shuji Yamamoto playing for Saraswati Puja

FEB 20: Shivaratri
This weekend was Shivaratri ("Shiva's night"), the biggest festival in the city of Shiva. There were several concerts including the 62nd annual Dhrupad Mela and the now annual khayal event near the Durga Temple, where we heard Kaushiki Desikan (daughter of Ajoy Chakraborty). Look out for her - she's amazing! Really nice voice and very interesting rhythmic taans.
Kaushiki Desikan at the Shivaratri concert
(thanks to Nick for the photo - more of Nick's Varanasi photos here.)

FEB 27: Hibiki Party @ Munna's
Saturday night my friend Junichi organised a party at Munna House - "Hibiki" (Resonance) featuring live sitar with twin tabla by Junichi, Shen & Waka, as well as DJ Izmir from Okinawa. Izmir started with an downtempo set and following the sitar performance started up some very nice dance tunes and the Munna rooftop, under a half-moon with full Ganga view, became the world's coolest nightclub for a few hours. Around midnight things toned down into some deep ambient sounds. Lush. (I'm personally satisfied with my single-handed two-floor cleanup effort during the day. The upper levels of Munna House are now rubbish-free.)

Waka, Junichi & Shen performing in the dimness at Hibiki Party

DJ Izmir, with Varanasi sound-man checking the moves

The world's coolest nightclub, for one night only

MAR 6: Holi

Last weekend was the big "Festival of Colours" - Holi. On Sunday morning all of India became a battleground for coloured waterbombs and water-guns (pichkaris). I stayed in my room...
Taro Terahara arrived just before Holi and we're now busy practising for the big Ashu-Babu Memorial Concert on March 16. We have a warm-up concert at Munna House tonight.
Jivan, the Munna House dog - another victim of Holi festivities

Shen & Taro at the Munna House Holi Concert. I'm seriously working on keeping my head straight nowadays - hopefully this will be the last photo with my head tilted so bizarrely! (thanks to Nick for the photo - more of Nick's Varanasi photos here.)

MAR 24: Ashu-Babu Memorial Concert
Once again my weekly email is late... I didn't want to write about Taro's strange adventure on Tuesday as the news that day was not so positive. But I have now written the full story including a full concert review of the 2007 Ashu Babu Memorial Concert.
Click here to read all about it... (old news for my regular blog-readers)

APR 1: Summer arrives
In the last couple of weeks the temperature has skyrocketed and yesterday was the first day with a maximum over 40 and a minimum over 20. I'm sorry to say that since the concert, along with this heat and my inherent laziness, my practice has been atrocious. Too lazy!!! I gave up my super view from Friday to move into a cool dark basement room. Next Thursday the 5 night Sankat Mochan music festival begins, with fantastic musicians coming to play for free in the devotional atmosphere of the Hanuman temple.

APR 10: Lessons, Sankat Mochan
It's too hot!!! But apart from that... Last week I spent 4 days in Delhi taking lessons with my senior guru-bhai, Govinda Chakraborty at the Kathak Kendra (National Kathak Dance Institute). It was great. He is an excellent teacher, and for the first time in many years I was part of a group of students. He gave me some excellent advice on improving my hand position, sound and posture. Now I have to do the necessary practice.

Here in Varanasi tonight is the last night of the annual 5-night Sankat Mochan music festival. I haven't attended very much so far, preferring to go for those performances I'm specifically interested in. Unfortunately my plan backfired on the first day, when I arrived intending to watch Shiv Kumar Sharma with Kumar Bose, only to find everyone leaving! I have managed to catch Suresh Talwarkar's innovative style of tabla solo and a jugalbandi between South Indian saxophone legend Gopal Kadri Nath and North Indian bansuri-wala Ronu Majumdar. I don't particularly like Ronu Majumdar's sound or style, but at least I can say I've seen Gopal Kadri Nath. Tonight I'll try to catch most of the night, until dawn, including tabla solo by Anindo Chatterjee and sitar recital by Niladri Kumar.

APR 17: Sick, Kolkata, Bangkok
I've had an eventful yet harrowing week. A few hours after witnessing Pt. Anindo Chatterjee's fantastic tabla solo in pancham sawari (15 beats) at Sankat Mochan (Hanuman) temple on Wednesday morning, and even meeting him briefly, I started to get quite sick in the belly. Still had to pack and catch a train to Kolkata though... In Kolkata I had an OK day but for the next few days I had a fever, cough and could barely eat. All alone and still had to do some errands though... I was quite worried I had malaria or something, but on arrival in Bangkok on Sunday I got a blood test. All OK - just a combo of a cold, a stomach bug and way-too-hot weather making me feel like hell. Getting better now but I can't wait to get out of the Bangkok heat and into Japanese spring.

I'll be in Tokyo on Saturday and will stay with old buddy Martine Cotton (check her cool Tokyo photoblog) for the first couple of days, while visiting Yoyogi Park for the Earth Day festival, where I'll be performing my only Tokyo concert this trip, with Mbira Zvakanaka. If you're interested in my Japan tour schedule, please check it out here.


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